Kudzu roots (Ge Gen) Ephedra (Ma Huang) Cinnamon twigs (Gui Zhi) White peony roots (Bai Shao)

Ge Gen Tang

Chinese: 葛根汤

Pinyin: Gé Gēn Tāng

Other names: Kudzu Decoction, Pueraria Combination,

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that clear Wind-Cold

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: IritisSinusitisGingivitis and fourteen other conditions

  1. Releases the Exterior and muscle layer
  2. Forms Body Fluids

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Discussion of Cold Damage

Ge Gen Tang is a 7-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Kudzu Roots (Ge Gen) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Wind-Cold. Its main actions are: 1) releases the Exterior and muscle layer and 2) forms Body Fluids.

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 Ge Gen Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Wind-Cold invading the Lungs. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as common cold, cervical spine disease or torticollis for instance.

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

The seven ingredients in Ge Gen Tang

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

1. Kudzu Roots (Ge Gen)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Category: Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

Ge Gen releases the the Exterior and muscle layer, especially of the upper back and neck. It also directs Body Fluids to the affected areas.

Learn more about Kudzu Roots (Ge Gen)

Ma Huang is a deputy ingredient in Ge Gen Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

2. Ephedra (Ma Huang)

Part used: Dried herbaceous stems

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: BladderLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

In general Ma Huang's main actions are as follows: "Releases the surface through sweating. Promotes the circulation of Lung Qi and stop wheezing. Promotes urination."

In the context of Ge Gen Tang, it is used because it encourages sweating. It is very powerful in releasing excessive Cold from the Exterior.

Learn more about Ephedra (Ma Huang)

Gui Zhi is a deputy ingredient in Ge Gen Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi)

Part used: Dried young branches

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLung

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 Ge Gen Tang, it is used because it supports the chief herb Kudzu root in releasing the Exterior and muscle layer.

Learn more about Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi)

Bai Shao is an assistant ingredient in Ge Gen Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

4. White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): BitterSour

Meridian affinity: SpleenLiver

Category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

Bai Shao prevents the Exterior releasing herbs from creating too much sweating so as to protect Yin. Together with Cinnamon twigs, it invigorates the Protective (Wei Qi) and Nutritive Qi (Rong Qi) and helps expelling any Pernicious Influences.

Learn more about White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Ge Gen Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

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

In general Sheng Jiang's main actions are as follows: "Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning."

In the context of Ge Gen Tang, it is used because it regulates the Protective (Wei Qi) and Nutritive Qi (Rong Qi) and protects the Stomach from injury.

Learn more about Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang)

Da Zao is an assistant ingredient in Ge Gen Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

6. Jujube Dates (Da Zao)

Part used: Dried ripe fruit

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

In general Da Zao's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach Qi. Tonifies the Blood. Calms the Shen (spirit). Moderates the actions of other herbs in formula."

In the context of Ge Gen Tang, it is used because it regulates the Protective (Wei Qi) and Nutritive Qi (Rong Qi) and protects the Stomach from injury.

Learn more about Jujube Dates (Da Zao)

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Ge Gen 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: SpleenStomachHeartLung

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Gan Cao harmonizes the actions of the other herbs. Together with White peony root, it treats neck and back stiffness by relieving muscle spasms.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Ge Gen Tang is used to treat Wind-Cold invading 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 Ge Gen Tang is mostly used to treat the pattern "Wind-Cold invading the Lungs" which we describe below.

But before we delve into Wind-Cold invading the Lungs here is an overview of the Western conditions it is commonly associated with:

Common cold Cervical spine disease Torticollis Periarthritis of the shoulder Lumbar disc Trigeminal neuralgia Cerebral vascular insufficiency Hypertension Cerebrovascular disease Otitis media Gingivitis Sinusitis Allergic rhinitis Tonsillitis Iritis Acute enteritis Bacillary dysentery

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Ge Gen Tang treats common cold" for instance. Rather, Ge Gen Tang is used to treat Wind-Cold invading the Lungs, which is sometimes the root cause behind common cold.

Now let's look at Wind-Cold invading the Lungs, a pattern that TCM practitioners commonly treat with Ge Gen Tang.

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

Wind-Cold invading the Lungs

Ge Gen Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Wind-Cold invading the Lungs. This pattern leads to symptoms such as chills, lack of sweating, aversion to cold and fever. Patients with Wind-Cold invading the Lungs typically exhibit tight (Jin) or floating (Fu) pulses.

The Defensive Qi layer of the Lungs is invaded by the external Wind-Cold. The battel between these two takes place and gives rise to fever. This is similar to how the immune system reacts to the external bacterial or virus according to the Western Medicine. Please be aware that there aren't always... read more about Wind-Cold invading the Lungs

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