The information provided here is not a replacement for a doctor. You shouldn't use it for the purpose of self-diagnosing or self-medicating but rather so you can have a more informed discussion with a professional TCM practitioner.
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.
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.
Part used: Dried root
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.
Part used: Dried herbaceous stems
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.
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.
Part used: Dried young branches
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.
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.
Part used: Dried root
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.
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.
Part used: Fresh root
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."
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.
Part used: Dried ripe fruit
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."
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.
Part used: Dried root and rhizome
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.
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
Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)
Tongue shape: Partially swollen
Ge Gen Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Wind-Cold invading the Lungs. This pattern leads to symptoms such as aversion to cold, fever, itchy throat and shortness of breath. 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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