English: Saposhnikovia roots

Chinese: 防风

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): PungentSweet

Organ affinity: Bladder Liver Spleen

Scientific name: Saposhnikovia divaricata

Other names: Ledebouriella, Bangpung

Use of Fang Feng (saposhnikovia roots) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove residual stems, soak in water, cut in slices and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Relieves Wind-Damp-Cold painful obstruction. Disperses Wind.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Fang Feng may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Headache Hives Arthralgia Rubella Common cold Rheumatoid arthritis

Contraindications*: Should not be used by those who are Yin Deficient or those with Blood Deficiency or by those with Heat signs associated with Yin Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which Fang Feng is used*

Juan Bi Tang

Source date: 1178 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and harmonizes the Protective and Nutritive Qi. Dispels Wind. Eliminates Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Periarthritis of the shoulderRheumatoid arthritis and others

Fang Feng is a king ingredient in Juan Bi Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Juan Bi Tang, Fang Feng opens the Yang and dispels Dampness without being too drying.

Read more about Juan Bi Tang

Jing Fang Bai Du San

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 13 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Dispels Wind and Dampness. Augments Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldInfluenza and others

Fang Feng is a king ingredient in Jing Fang Bai Du San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Jing Fang Bai Du San, Fang Feng relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. It is especially effective in pronounced Cold invasion patterns. 

Read more about Jing Fang Bai Du San

Da Fang Feng Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Expel Wind Damp. Relieve pain. Tonify the Liver and the Kidneys. Tonify the Blood and Qi.

Conditions targeted*: ArthralgiaCommon cold and others

Fang Feng is a king ingredient in Da Fang Feng Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Da Fang Feng Tang, Fang Feng warm and moistening.  It expels the Wind, Dampness and Cold and stop joints pain due to external Pernicious Influence invading the Channels and Joints

Read more about Da Fang Feng Tang

Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Anti-rheumatic, clears Wind, Cold and Damp Stagnation. Strengthens the function of the Liver and Kidney. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic lower back painSciatica and others

Fang Feng is a deputy ingredient in Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang, Fang Feng expels the Wind and overcomes Dampness.

Read more about Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang

Source date: 1247 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Expels wind and dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatic feverUpper respiratory tract infections and others

Fang Feng is a deputy ingredient in Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang, Fang Feng expel Wind Damp from the Exterior aspects of the Greater Yang Channel. It also assist one of the key herbs Notopterygium root in treating headache. 

Read more about Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang

Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and inflammations. Unblocks the flow of Yang Qi and promotes movement (in areas with painful obstruction). Clears Wind and Damp. Relieves pain.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatoid arthritisConnective tissue disorders and others

Fang Feng is an assistant ingredient in Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang, Fang Feng strengthens the formula's function of expelling Wind and Dampness.

Read more about Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Huai Jiao Wan

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears heat from the Intestines. Stops bleeding. Disperses wind. Regulates Qi.

Conditions targeted*: HemorrhoidsBleeding hemorrhoids and others

Fang Feng is an assistant ingredient in Huai Jiao Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Huai Jiao Wan, Fang Feng promotes the Qi movement and thus calms the Intestines. It focuses on the Intestines and enters the Blood level to move Qi. 

Read more about Huai Jiao Wan

Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang

Source date: 1587 AD

Number of ingredients: 16 herbs

Formula key actions: Expels Wind Damp from the Channels. Invigorates Blood. Unblocks the channels.

Conditions targeted*: ArthralgiaBell's palsy and others

Fang Feng is an assistant ingredient in Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang, Fang Feng disperses Cold or Wind from the Exterior and relieves obstruction pain. 

Read more about Shu Jing Huo Xue Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Fang Feng's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Fang Feng belongs to the 'Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Warm/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by increasing the flow of sweat to our capillary pores. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category Fang Feng is Warm in nature. This means that Fang Feng tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Fang Feng can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Fang Feng also tastes Pungent and Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like Fang Feng tends to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Fang Feng is thought to target the Bladder, the Liver and the Spleen. In TCM the impure water collected by the Kidneys that cannot be used by the body is sent to the Bladder for storage and excretion as urine. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions. The Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body.

Research on Fang Feng

Shufeng Liangxue Decoction (consisting of divaricate saposhnikovia root) is effective and safe in treating hormone dependence dermatitis, with the efficacy better and relapse rate lower than those of treatment with Western medicine alone.1

Sources:

1. Bai YS, Zhou CY, Wang JQ. (2008). Clinical observation on auxiliary treatment of hormone dependence dermatitis by shufeng liangxue decoction. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 28(12):1121-3.