Chlorite Schist (Meng Shi) Rhubarb (Da Huang) Baikal skullcap roots (Huang Qin) Agarwood (Chen Xiang)

Chinese: 滚痰丸

Pinyin: Gǔn Tán Wán

Other names: Flushing Away Roiling Phlegm Pill

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that clear Heat and transform Phlegm

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: EpilepsySchizophreniaAnxiety neurosis and seven other conditions

Main actions: Drains Fire and Phlegm

Contraindications: Contraindicated during pregnancy and postpartum. Because of the rather strong,... Contraindicated during pregnancy and postpartum. Because of the rather strong, harsh properties of this formula, it should not be used in weak individuals or in the absence of excessive heat and chronic, stubborn Phlegm. see more

Source date: 1396 AD

Source book: Subtle Import of the jade Key

Gun Tan Wan is a 4-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Chlorite Schist (Meng Shi) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 1396 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Heat and transform Phlegm. Its main action is that it drains Fire and Phlegm .

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 Gun Tan Wan is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Phlegm Misting the Heart or Phlegm-Heat. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as anxiety neurosis, manic depression or schizophrenia for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the four ingredients in Gun Tan Wan, we review the patterns and conditions that Gun Tan Wan helps treat.

The four ingredients in Gun Tan Wan

Meng Shi is a king ingredient in Gun Tan Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Chlorite Schist (Meng Shi)

Part used: The mineral

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): SaltySweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLiverLung

Category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

Meng Shi is sweet, salty and neutral. It strongly drives Phlegm retained in the Stomach and Intestines downward and out of the body. It also descends the Qi to calm wheezing, arrests palpitations, pacifies the Liver, and suppresses anxiety and convulsions.  It is used in its calcined form to ensure that its properties
are rapidly dispersed.

Learn more about Chlorite Schist (Meng Shi)

Da Huang is a deputy ingredient in Gun Tan Wan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

2. Rhubarb (Da Huang)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLarge intestineLiverPericardium

Category: Purgative herbs that drain downward

Da Huang is bitter and cold. It cleanses Fire from the Upper Burner by descending it through the Large Intestine in the Lower Burner. Therefore, it unblocks the obstruction of the Yang Organs. Unless the obstruction is removed, there is no clear path for removal of Phlegm-Fire from the body.  It is also good for Dampness and Heat congealing into Phlegm in the Middle and Lower Burners. It expels pathogens to halt their violence, and has a special ability to uproot chaos and restore normality. The key and deputy herbs thus strongly drive out the Phlegm via the Intestines. The large dosage of this herb is used to thoroughly transform the root of this disorder. It is also washed in wine in order to direct their action to the Upper Burner from which it can then exert
their downward-directing action via the Middle and Lower Burners.

Learn more about Rhubarb (Da Huang)

Huang Qin is an assistant ingredient in Gun Tan Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

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 is bitter and cooling. It clears Fire from the Upper Burner to prevent it from scorching the Body Fluids and thereby
generating more Phlegm. The large dosage of this herb is used to thoroughly transform the root of this disorder. It is also washed in wine in order to direct their action to the Upper Burner from which it can then exert
their downward-directing action via the Middle and Lower Burners.

Learn more about Baikal Skullcap Roots (Huang Qin)

Chen Xiang is an assistant ingredient in Gun Tan Wan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

4. Agarwood (Chen Xiang)

Part used: Wood shavings

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

Chen Xiang is bitter, acrid and warming. It regulates the Qi and open constraint, rapidly directing the Rebellious Qi downward in order to eliminate the Phlegm. It is included in this formula follows the principle that, in treating Phlegm disorders, it is useful to first regulate the Qi, since it is the Qi that motivates the movement of Body Fluids in the body. In addition, its warming nature slightly buffers the cooling action of the three other ingredients in order to protect the normal Qi.

Learn more about Agarwood (Chen Xiang)

Conditions and patterns for which Gun Tan Wan 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 Gun Tan Wan 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:

Anxiety neurosis Manic depression Schizophrenia Pediatric seizure disorder Epilepsy Viral encephalitis Stubborn headaches Bronchial asthma Acute bronchitis Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Gun Tan Wan treats anxiety neurosis" for instance. Rather, Gun Tan Wan is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind anxiety neurosis.

Now let's look at the two patterns commonly treated with Gun Tan Wan.

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

Phlegm Misting the Heart

Gun Tan Wan is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm Misting the Heart. This pattern leads to symptoms such as mental confusion, unconsciousness, lethargic and withdrawn state and incoherent speech. Patients with Phlegm Misting the Heart typically exhibit slippery (Hua) pulses as well as Thick sticky slippery white coating, swollen tongue, midline crack until the tip of the tongue.

This pattern is also called 'Cold Phlegm or Mucus Obstructing the Heart Orifices'. It is similar to the pattern of 'Phlegm Fire harassing the Heart' (also called 'Hot Phlegm or Mucus Obstructing the Heart orifices'), but it is a Cold Pattern here. 

Children can have this pattern and it is often... read more about Phlegm Misting the Heart

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

Phlegm-Heat

Gun Tan Wan is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm-Heat. This pattern leads to symptoms such as a feeling of oppression in the epigastrium, mucus in stools, depression and red face. Patients with Phlegm-Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as Red swollen tongue with yellow sticky coating.

Phlegm-Heat is a pattern that typically occurs when Dampness or Body Fluids combine with pathogenic Heat. In this case the Heat either invades from the Exterior or is generated by emotional disorders, long-term illness, poor diet or other internal disharmonies.

The Heart is associated with Fire,... read more about Phlegm-Heat

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