Snake gourds (Gua Lou) Honeysuckle flowers (Jin Yin Hua) Dong quai (Dang Gui) Frankincense (Ru Xiang) Myrrh (Mo Yao) Angelica roots (Bai Zhi) Green tangerine peel (Qing Pi) Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Gua Lou San

Chinese: 瓜蒌散

Pinyin: Guā Lóu Sàn

Other names: Trichosanthes Powder

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that clear Heat and resolve toxicity

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: MastitisBreast engorgement

Main actions: Remove breast carbuncle (mastitis) after birth giving

Source date: 1826 AD

Source book: Fu Qing Zhu's Gynecology

Gua Lou San is a 8-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Snake Gourds (Gua Lou) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 1826 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Heat and resolve toxicity. Its main action is that it remove breast carbuncle (mastitis) after birth giving.

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 Gua Lou San is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Liver Qi Stagnation or Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as mastitis or breast engorgement for instance.

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

The eight ingredients in Gua Lou San

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

1. 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

In general Gua Lou's main actions are as follows: "Clears Phlegm-Heat conditions with thick difficult to expectorate sputum. Regulates the Qi of the chest and relieves constriction and swellings of the chest and Lungs. Lubricates the Intestines."

In the context of Gua Lou San, it is used because it resolves Phlegm and affects the breast.

Learn more about Snake Gourds (Gua Lou)

2. Honeysuckle Flowers (Jin Yin Hua)

Part used: Dried flower bud

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: StomachHeartLung

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity

In general Jin Yin Hua's main actions are as follows: "Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Dispels Wind-Heat derived from an External pathogen. Expels Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner. Relieves Carbuncles."

In the context of Gua Lou San, it is used because it resolves Toxic Heat.

Learn more about Honeysuckle Flowers (Jin Yin Hua)

3. Dong Quai (Dang Gui)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiver

Category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

In general Dang Gui's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation."

In the context of Gua Lou San, it is used because it nourishes and moves Blood.

Learn more about Dong Quai (Dang Gui)

4. Frankincense (Ru Xiang)

Part used: An aromatic resin obtained from boswellia trees

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiver

Category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

In general Ru Xiang's main actions are as follows: "Moves Blood and Qi and relieves pain. Disperses Wind-Damp from the Meridians and relaxes the sinews. Reduces swelling and aids in wound healing."

In the context of Gua Lou San, it is used because it invigorates Blood and eliminates Stagnation.

Learn more about Frankincense (Ru Xiang)

5. Myrrh (Mo Yao)

Part used: Dried resin of the tree

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiver

Category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

In general Mo Yao's main actions are as follows: "Moves Blood and relieves Stagnation and pain caused by Blood Stagnation. Assists in wound healing."

In the context of Gua Lou San, it is used because it invigorates Blood and eliminates Stagnation.

Learn more about Myrrh (Mo Yao)

6. Angelica Roots (Bai Zhi)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

In general Bai Zhi's main actions are as follows: "Relieves the Exterior and disperses Wind. Disperses Wind and Cold from the Yang Brightness channels. Relieves Wind-Damp Cold painful obstruction. Dries Dampness and pus and reduces swelling. Opens the nasal passages."

In the context of Gua Lou San, it is used because it expels pus.

Learn more about Angelica Roots (Bai Zhi)

7. Green Tangerine Peel (Qing Pi)

Part used: Dried pericarp of the young or immature fruits

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: GallbladderStomachLiver

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

In general Qing Pi's main actions are as follows: "Smooths the flow of Liver Qi and releases Stagnation. Reduces Food Stagnation. Dries Damp and reduces Phlegm."

In the context of Gua Lou San, it is used because it moves Qi and it specifically affects the breasts.

Learn more about Green Tangerine Peel (Qing Pi)

8. 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 Gua Lou San, it is used because it harmonizes all ingredients.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Conditions and patterns for which Gua Lou San 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 Gua Lou San is used by TCM practitioners to treat two 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:

Mastitis Breast engorgement

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Gua Lou San treats mastitis" for instance. Rather, Gua Lou San is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind mastitis.

Now let's look at the two patterns commonly treated with Gua Lou San.

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

Gua Lou San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Liver Qi Stagnation. This pattern leads to symptoms such as depression, irregular menstruation, menstrual cramps and irritability. Patients with Liver Qi Stagnation typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a normal (light red) tongue.

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. This affects not only the Liver, but other connected Organs too as well as the Seven Emotions.

Liver Qi Stagnation is not only the most seen Liver disharmony, but also... read more about Liver Qi Stagnation

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

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

Gua Lou San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat. This pattern leads to symptoms such as thirst, epigastric pain, dry mouth and restlnessness. Patients with Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu), slippery (Hua) or full (Shi) pulses as well as a red centre tongue with yellow coating.

Stomach Fire indicates a true Excess of Heat in the Stomach, creating symptoms such as mouth ulcers, bad breath, intense thirst and bleeding of the gums. Body Fluids are burned off by the excessive Heat, which creates extreme thirst and constipation. Over time the Heat can cause obstruction to... read more about Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

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