Goldthread rhizomes (Huang Lian) Donkey-hide gelatin (E Jiao) Baikal skullcap roots (Huang Qin) White peony roots (Bai Shao)

Huang Lian E Jiao Tang

Chinese: 黄连阿胶汤

Pinyin: Huáng Lián ē Jiāo Tāng

Other names: Coptis Colla Asini Decoction, Coptis and Ass-Hide Gelatin Decoction

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that nourish the Heart and calm the Mind

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: HypertensionAphthous ulcersNervous exhaustion and two other conditions

  1. Enriches the Yin
  2. Causes Fire to descend
  3. Eliminates irritability
  4. Calms the spirit

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Discussion of Cold Damage

Huang Lian E Jiao Tang is a 5-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Goldthread Rhizomes (Huang Lian) and Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that nourish the Heart and calm the Mind. Its main actions are: 1) enriches the Yin and 2) causes Fire to descend.

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 Huang Lian E Jiao Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency or Lesser Yin Heat Transformation. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as nervous exhaustion, autonomic dystonia or erectile dysfunction for instance.

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

The five ingredients in Huang Lian E Jiao Tang

Huang Lian is a king ingredient in Huang Lian E Jiao Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Goldthread Rhizomes (Huang Lian)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderSpleenStomachHeartLarge intestineLiver

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

In general Huang Lian's main actions are as follows: "Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Lower Burner. Eliminates Fire toxicity especially when there is associated Dampness. Acts as a sedative by eliminating Heart Fire. Eliminates Stomach Fire. Expel parasites"

In the context of Huang Lian E Jiao Tang, it is used because it directly clears Fire from the Heart and thereby calms the Mind.

Learn more about Goldthread Rhizomes (Huang Lian)

E Jiao is a king ingredient in Huang Lian E Jiao Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao)

Part used: Solid glue prepared from the dried or fresh skin of donkeys

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: KidneyLiverLung

Category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

In general E Jiao's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies and nourishes Blood. Stops bleeding. Moistens and lubricates Yin."

In the context of Huang Lian E Jiao Tang, it is used because it indirectly controls the Heart Fire by enriching the Yin and nourishing the Blood.

Learn more about Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao)

Huang Qin is a deputy ingredient in Huang Lian E Jiao Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Baikal Skullcap Roots (Huang Qin)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderSpleenHeartLarge intestineLungSmall intestine

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

In general Huang Qin's main actions are as follows: "Expels Heat and Dampness. Clears Upper Burner Heat, especially of the Lung. Clears Heat and stops reckless movement of Blood. Clears pathogenic Heat which is upsetting the fetus. Cools the Liver, reducing Liver Yang rising syndrome."

In the context of Huang Lian E Jiao Tang, it is used because it drains Heat from the Upper Burner and the Intestines.

Learn more about Baikal Skullcap Roots (Huang Qin)

Bai Shao is a deputy ingredient in Huang Lian E Jiao Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

4. White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): BitterSour

Meridian affinity: SpleenLiver

Category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

In general Bai Shao's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain."

In the context of Huang Lian E Jiao Tang, it is used because it enriches and retains the Yin to harmonize the functions of the Qi.

Learn more about White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

Ji Zi Huang is an assistant ingredient in Huang Lian E Jiao Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

5. Chicken Egg Yolks (Ji Zi Huang)

Part used: The egg yolk, raw or cooked

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: HeartKidney

Category: Tonic herbs for Yin Deficiency

In general Ji Zi Huang's main actions are as follows: "Nourishes Yin and moisturizes Dryness. Nourishes blood and dispels Wind."

In the context of Huang Lian E Jiao Tang, it is used because it enters the Heart and Kidneys, tonifies the Yin and Blood, and resolves Heat toxicity.

Learn more about Chicken Egg Yolks (Ji Zi Huang)

Conditions and patterns for which Huang Lian E Jiao 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 Huang Lian E Jiao Tang 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:

Nervous exhaustion Autonomic dystonia Erectile dysfunction Aphthous ulcers Hypertension

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Huang Lian E Jiao Tang treats nervous exhaustion" for instance. Rather, Huang Lian E Jiao Tang is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind nervous exhaustion.

Now let's look at the two patterns commonly treated with Huang Lian E Jiao Tang.

'Heat' as a body pattern in Chinese Medicine is one of the so-called "Eight Principles". Learn more about Heat pattern in Chinese Medicine

Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency

Huang Lian E Jiao Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as restlnessness, anxiety, fidgeting and insomnia. Patients with Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency typically exhibit rapid (Shu), empty (Xu) or floating (Fu) pulses as well as a red tongue with complete absence of coating.

Yin Deficiency involves the excessive consumption of Body Fluids, Essence and Blood. The main cause is overwork, which usually develops very gradually and slowly over several years. The only exception to a rapid Yin Deficiency is when Pathological Heat consumes Body Fluids and Yin very fast. 

If... read more about Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency

'Heat' as a body pattern in Chinese Medicine is one of the so-called "Eight Principles". Learn more about Heat pattern in Chinese Medicine

Lesser Yin Heat Transformation

Huang Lian E Jiao Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Lesser Yin Heat Transformation. This pattern leads to symptoms such as feeling of heat, irritability, insomnia and dry mouth and throat at night. Patients with Lesser Yin Heat Transformation typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or fine (Xi) pulses.

This is one of the two patterns of the Lesser Yin stage, the second Yin stage of the Six Stages theory

The Lesser Yin stage is where the disharmony mainly affects the Kidney Channel.

The Kidneys are considered the root of Yin and Yang in the body. As such, this stage has two patterns, called... read more about Lesser Yin Heat Transformation

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