Fritillary bulbs (Chuan Bei Mu) Snake gourds (Gua Lou) Snake gourd roots (Tian Hua Fen) Poria-cocos mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Bei Mu Gua Lou San

Chinese: 贝母瓜蒌散

Pinyin: Bèi Mǔ Guā Lóu Sàn

Other names: Fritillary bulbs and Snake gourds Powder, Fritillaria and Trichosanthes Fruit Powder,

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that dispel Phlegm

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: PneumoniaPulmonary tuberculosis

  1. Moistens the Lungs
  2. Clears Heat
  3. Regulates Qi
  4. Resolve Phlegm

Contraindications: Contraindicated for cough due to Yin Deficiency.

Source date: 1732 AD

Source book: Awakening of the Mind in Medical Studies

Bei Mu Gua Lou San is a 6-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Fritillary Bulbs (Chuan Bei Mu) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 1732 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that dispel Phlegm. Its main actions are: 1) moistens the Lungs and 2) clears Heat.

In Chinese Medicine health conditions are thought to arise due to "disharmonies" in the body as a system. These disharmonies are called "patterns" and the very purpose of herbal formulas is to fight them in order to restore the body's harmony.

In this case Bei Mu Gua Lou San is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as pneumonia or pulmonary tuberculosis for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the six ingredients in Bei Mu Gua Lou San, we review the patterns and conditions that Bei Mu Gua Lou San helps treat.

The six ingredients in Bei Mu Gua Lou San

Chuan Bei Mu is a king ingredient in Bei Mu Gua Lou San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Fritillary Bulbs (Chuan Bei Mu)

Part used: Dried bulb

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLung

Category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

Chuan Bei Mu moistens the Lungs, transforms Phlegm, stops coughing and clears Heat by directing Heart fire downward. It treats the pattern of Dry Phlegm in the Lungs.

Learn more about Fritillary Bulbs (Chuan Bei Mu)

Gua Lou is a deputy ingredient in Bei Mu Gua Lou San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

2. Snake Gourds (Gua Lou)

Part used: Dried fruit

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: StomachLarge intestineLung

Category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

Gua Lou clears Heat, moistens Dryness, invigorates Qi and leads turbid Phlegm downward so as to remove the chest and diaphragm obstruction.

Learn more about Snake Gourds (Gua Lou)

Tian Hua Fen is an assistant ingredient in Bei Mu Gua Lou San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

3. Snake Gourd Roots (Tian Hua Fen)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): BitterSourSweet

Meridian affinity: StomachLung

Category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

Tian Hua Fen clears Heat, creates Body Fluids, and transforms Phlegm. It
tonifies the physiological Body Fluids formation without creating more Phlegm.

Learn more about Snake Gourd Roots (Tian Hua Fen)

Fu Ling is an assistant ingredient in Bei Mu Gua Lou San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

4. Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Part used: Dried sclerotium

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

Fu Ling strengthens the Spleen. Together with the other assistant herb Red Tangerine Peel, it strengthens the Spleen's Body Fluids transportation and transformation functions, which is critical for treating the pattern with Dryness and Phlegm.  A well functioning Spleen is essential in Body Fluids formation and then transportation to the Lungs. The Spleen also helps resolve Dampness and Phlegm.

Learn more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Ju Hong is an assistant ingredient in Bei Mu Gua Lou San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

5. Red Tangerine Peel (Ju Hong)

Part used: Dried exocarp

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenLung

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

Ju Hong regulates Qi. Together with the other assistant herb Poria-cocos mushroom, it strengthens the Spleen's Body Fluids transportation and transformation functions, which is critical for treating the pattern with Dryness and Phlegm.  A well functioning Spleen is essential in Body Fluids formation and then transportation to the Lungs. The Spleen also helps resolve Dampness and Phlegm.

Learn more about Red Tangerine Peel (Ju Hong)

Jie Geng is an assistant ingredient in Bei Mu Gua Lou San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

6. Platycodon Roots (Jie Geng)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: Lung

Category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

In general Jie Geng's main actions are as follows: "Opens the Lungs and smoothes the flow of Lung Qi. Expels Phlegm and pus from the Lungs and throat, can be used for either Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat according to the other herbs in the formula. Directs the actions of other herbs to the Upper Warmer."

In the context of Bei Mu Gua Lou San, it is used because it invigorates Lung Qi and treats throat problems.

Learn more about Platycodon Roots (Jie Geng)

Bei Mu Gua Lou San is used to treat Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs

It's important to remember that herbal formulas are meant to treat patterns, not "diseases" as understood in Western Medicine. According to Chinese Medicine patterns, which are disruptions to the body as a system, are the underlying root cause for diseases and conditions.

As such Bei Mu Gua Lou San is mostly used to treat the pattern "Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs" which we describe below.

But before we delve into Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs here is an overview of the Western conditions it is commonly associated with:

Pneumonia Pulmonary tuberculosis

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Bei Mu Gua Lou San treats pneumonia" for instance. Rather, Bei Mu Gua Lou San is used to treat Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs, which is sometimes the root cause behind pneumonia.

Now let's look at Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs, a pattern that TCM practitioners commonly treat with Bei Mu Gua Lou San.

The Lungs is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs

Bei Mu Gua Lou San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs. This pattern leads to symptoms such as dry cough, scanty sputum, shortness of breath and stifling sensation in the chest. Patients with Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or fine (Xi) pulses.

It might seem contradictory to have both Dryness and Phlegm at the same time, but they refer to different type of Body Fluids issues. Dryness is due to physiological Body Fluids Deficiency, while Phlegm is the formation of pathological Body Fluids. 

This pattern's key diagnose manifestations are... read more about Dry-Phlegm in the Lungs

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