Crow-dipper rhizomes (Ban Xia) Tangerine peel (Chen Pi) Poria-cocos mushrooms (Fu Ling) Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Er Chen Tang

Chinese: 二陈汤

Pinyin: Èr Chén Tāng

Other names: Citrus and Pinellia Combination, Two Cured Decoction, Decoction of Two Old (Cured) Drugs

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that dry Dampness and transform Phlegm

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: GoiterEmphysemaPeptic ulcers and five other conditions

  1. Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm
  2. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen)

Contraindications: Contraindicated when the cough is associated with Lungs Yin Deficiency

Source date: 1148 AD

Source book: Formulary of the Pharmacy Service for Benefiting the People in the Taiping Era

Er Chen Tang is a 5-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) and Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 1148 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that dry Dampness and transform Phlegm. Its main actions are: 1) dries Damp and dispels Phlegm and 2) regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

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 Er Chen Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs, Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs or Damp-Phlegm. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as morning sickness, upper respiratory tract infections or chronic bronchitis for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the five ingredients in Er Chen Tang, we review the patterns and conditions that Er Chen Tang helps treat.

The five ingredients in Er Chen Tang

Ban Xia is a king ingredient in Er Chen Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia)

Part used: Dried rhizome and tuber

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

Ban Xia dries Dampness, expels Phlegm, and causes rebellious Qi in the Stomach to descend. As a single ingredient, it provides most of the actions required in treating a Phlegm-Dampness pattern.

Learn more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia)

Chen Pi is a king ingredient in Er Chen Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)

Part used: Dried pericarp of the ripe fruit

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenLung

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

Chen Pi disperses stagnant Qi and Cold as well as dries Dampness. It assists the Spleen and Stomach in removing Phlegm by promoting flow of Qi in these two Organs.

Learn more about Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)

Fu Ling is a deputy ingredient in Er Chen Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Part used: Dried sclerotium

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

Fu Ling leaches out Dampness from the Middle-Burner and strengthens the Spleen. It also resolves the palpitations and dizziness often caused by the upward-rising Phlegm-Dampness. A key Chinese medical text explains its role as such: "Fu Ling is an herb that focuses on treating Phlegm. The root of Phlegm is water. Fu Ling is able to move water and is also able to move Dampness".

Learn more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Er Chen Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

4. Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachHeartLung

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

In general Gan Cao's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs."

In the context of Er Chen Tang, it is used because it tonifies the Spleen.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Er Chen Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

5. Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang)

Part used: Fresh root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

Sheng Jiang reinforces the actions of the key herbs in moving the Qi and eliminating the Phlegm, harmonizing the Stomach, and controlling the nausea.

Learn more about Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang)

Conditions and patterns for which Er Chen Tang may be prescribed

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 Er Chen Tang is used by TCM practitioners to treat six different patterns which we describe below.

But before we delve into these patterns here is an overview of the Western conditions they're commonly associated with:

Morning sickness Upper respiratory tract infections Chronic bronchitis Emphysema Goiter Chronic gastritis Peptic ulcers Meniere's disease

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Er Chen Tang treats morning sickness" for instance. Rather, Er Chen Tang is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind morning sickness.

Now let's look at the six patterns commonly treated with Er Chen Tang.

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

Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs

Er Chen Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs. This pattern leads to symptoms such as sputum in the lungs and throat, coughing, pale face and phlegm in throat. Patients with Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or soggy (Ru) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, thick coating.

Phlegm in the Lungs is synonymous with Substantial Phlegm. It is Phlegm that is located in the Lungs and that can be seen. It is manifested by the swollen tongue. The main symptoms, on top of general Phlegm symptoms, are the heavy sputum that develops in the Lungs and throat as well as, in some... read more about Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs

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

Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs

Er Chen Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs. This pattern leads to symptoms such as asthma, chest fullness, chest pain and fever. Patients with Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses.

This pattern is similar to Damp-Phlegm in the Lungs, but with additional Heat features, such as feeling of heat, thirst and profuse sticky yellow or green sputum. The typical manifestations of Phlegm are the coughing, short of breath, Phlegm in the throat and chest oppression. The Phlegm can also... read more about Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs

Body Fluids (Jin Ye) is one of Chinese Medicine's vital subtances. Learn more about Body Fluids in Chinese Medicine

Damp-Phlegm

Er Chen Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Damp-Phlegm. This pattern leads to symptoms such as oily skin, yellow dark skin, fatigue and profuse white sputum. Patients with Damp-Phlegm typically exhibit slippery (Hua) pulses.

This Phlegm is associated with or deriving from Dampness. The typical manifestation is profuse amount of white sticky sputum which is easy to spit as well as overweight. For these middle age men who develop big, fat and soft bellies, there are often some degree of Damp-Phlegm. 

The pattern can be... read more about Damp-Phlegm

Body Fluids (Jin Ye) is one of Chinese Medicine's vital subtances. Learn more about Body Fluids in Chinese Medicine

Phlegm

Er Chen Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm. This pattern leads to symptoms such as chest pressure, nausea, dizziness and feeling of heaviness. Patients with Phlegm typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, thick coating.

Phlegm has a great importance in Chinese Medicine as it is both a condition in and of itself as well as a cause for other diseases.

The main cause for the formation of Phlegm is Spleen Deficiency since the Spleen rules the transformation and transportation of Body Fluids. If this function is... read more about Phlegm

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

Stomach Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Symptoms: Tiredness Dry mouth Depression Poor appetite Feeling of cold Nausea or vomiting

Er Chen Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Stomach Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, tiredness, feeling of cold and poor appetite. Patients with Stomach Deficiency typically exhibit weak (Ruo) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Learn more about Stomach Deficiency

Body Fluids (Jin Ye) is one of Chinese Medicine's vital subtances. Learn more about Body Fluids in Chinese Medicine

Damp-Cold Phlegm

Er Chen Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Damp-Cold Phlegm. This pattern leads to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stifling sensation in the chest and epigastrium and palpitations. Patients with Damp-Cold Phlegm typically exhibit slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Learn more about Damp-Cold Phlegm

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