Bupleurum roots (Chai Hu) Cinnamon twigs (Gui Zhi) Baikal skullcap roots (Huang Qin) Oyster shells (Mu Li Ke)

Chinese: 柴胡桂姜汤

Pinyin: Chái Hú Guì Jiāng Tāng

Other names: Bupleurum, Cinnamon Twig, and Ginger Decoction

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that vent membrane source

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: MalariaScrofulaInsomnia and twenty three other conditions

  1. Harmonizes and releases the Lesser Yang
  2. Removes Stagnation
  3. Warms the Interior
  4. Dispels Cold

Contraindications: This formula treats a pattern of mixed Excess and Eeficiency. It should not be... This formula treats a pattern of mixed Excess and Eeficiency. It should not be prescribed for patterns of pure Excess or Eeficiency. see more

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Essentials from the Golden Cabinet

Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang is a 7-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) and Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that vent membrane source. Its main actions are: 1) harmonizes and releases the Lesser Yang and 2) removes Stagnation .

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.

From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as common cold, malaria or hepatitis for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the seven ingredients in Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang, we review the patterns and conditions that Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang helps treat.

The seven ingredients in Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang

Chai Hu is a king ingredient in Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderLiver

Category: Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

In general Chai Hu's main actions are as follows: "Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang."

In the context of Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang, it is used because it removes Qi Stagnation in the Exterior. Bupleurum root vents the Lesser Yang.

Learn more about Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu)

Gui Zhi is a king ingredient in Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi)

Part used: Dried young branches

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLungSpleen

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

In general Gui Zhi's main actions are as follows: "Adjusts the nutritive Ying and defensive Wei Qi. Relieves the Exterior through sweating. Warms and disperses Cold. Removes obstruction of Yang. Promotes the circulation of Yang Qi in the chest. Regulates and moves blood."

In the context of Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang, it is used because it removes Qi Stagnation in the Exterior.  Cinnamon twigs disperse newly-contracted Wind-Cold.

Learn more about Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi)

Huang Qin is a deputy ingredient in Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Baikal Skullcap Roots (Huang Qin)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderHeartLarge intestineLungSmall intestineSpleen

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

Huang Qin assists the action of the key herbs by focusing on the lurking Heat in the Interior. It also drains Heat from the Lesser Yang. 

Learn more about Baikal Skullcap Roots (Huang Qin)

Mu Li ke is a deputy ingredient in Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

4. Oyster Shells (Mu Li ke)

Mu Li ke assists the action of the key herbs by focusing on the lurking Heat in the Interior. It has a long history in the treatment of malarial disorders. Its cooling action is of undoubted importance, its ability to soften and thereby remove constraint is equally useful. It is also recommended for expelling pathogens from the Greater Yang, Lesser Yang, and Terminal Yin Channels.

Learn more about Oyster Shells (Mu Li ke)

Gan Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

5. Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Hot

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: HeartKidneyLungStomach

Category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

Gan Jiang promotes Qi circulation in the Middle Burner. It also warms the Yang Qi of the Spleen, and enables it to transform accumulated Body Fluids.

Learn more about Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang)

Tian Hua Fen is an assistant ingredient in Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

6. 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 promotes Qi circulation in the Middle Burner.  Snake gourd root enriches the Fluids of the Stomach, which have been damaged by Heat constraint.

Learn more about Snake Gourd Roots (Tian Hua Fen)

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Chai Hu Gui Jiang Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

7. Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLungSpleenStomach

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Gan Cao harmonizes the opposing flavors and qualities of the herbs in the formula, enabling them to disperse the pathogens that are at the root of this disorder while replenishing the body's own true Qi.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

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