Stove earth (Zao Xin Tu) Atractylodes rhizomes (Bai Zhu) Prepared aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang)

Chinese: 黄土汤

Pinyin: Huáng Tǔ Tāng

Other names: Yellow Earth Decoction

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that stop bleeding

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: Peptic ulcersChronic hemorrhagic gastritis

  1. Warms the Yang
  2. Strengthens the Spleen
  3. Nourishes the Blood
  4. Stops bleeding

Contraindications: Contraindicated in cases of bleeding from Excess Heat. Also, this formula... Contraindicated in cases of bleeding from Excess Heat. Also, this formula should not be used where external pathogens are present. see more

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Essentials from the Golden Cabinet

Huang Tu Tang is a 7-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Stove Earth (Zao Xin Tu) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that stop bleeding. Its main actions are: 1) warms the Yang and 2) strengthens the Spleen.

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 Tu Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Spleen Yang Deficiency. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as chronic hemorrhagic gastritis or peptic ulcers for instance.

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

The seven ingredients in Huang Tu Tang

Zao Xin Tu is a king ingredient in Huang Tu Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Stove Earth (Zao Xin Tu)

Part used: The earth

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Sour

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Category: Herbs that stop bleeding

Zao Xin Tu is acrid, warm, and astringent. It warms the Middle Burner, gathers and binds, and stops the bleeding.

Learn more about Stove Earth (Zao Xin Tu)

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

2. Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Bai Zhu warms the Yang and strengthens the Spleen, thereby restoring the ability of the Spleen and Stomach Qi to govern the Blood. Therefore, this herb is able to stop bleeding due to Spleen Qi and Yang Deficiency. It also counterbalances the cloying, greasy, Yin and Blood tonifying nature of the assistant herbs of the formula.

Learn more about Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu)

Zhi Fu Zi is a deputy ingredient in Huang Tu Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi)

Part used: Processed daughter root

Nature: Hot

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: HeartKidneySpleen

Category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

Zhi Fu Zi warms the Yang and strengthens the Spleen, thereby restoring the ability of the Spleen and Stomach Qi to govern the Blood. Therefore, this herb is able to stop bleeding due to Spleen Qi and Yang Deficiency. It also counterbalances the cloying, greasy, Yin and Blood tonifying nature of the assistant herbs of the formula.

Learn more about Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi)

Di Huang is an assistant ingredient in Huang Tu Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

4. Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang)

Part used: Prepared dried root tuber

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: HeartKidneyLiver

Category: Herbs that cool the Blood

Di Huang nourishes the Yin and Blood and stop bleeding. Long-term blood loss can lead to Liver Yin and Blood Deficiency, which risks the development of internal Heat. This herb is added because the warming and acrid herbs in this formula poses
a problem when there is bleeding, as they accentuate the depletion of the Blood and Yin that occurs just from the loss of blood itself. In addition, their warming nature can incite the reckless movement of Blood that can lead to further bleeding.  Together with other assistant herb of the formula, it counterbalance the warming and drying nature of Atractylodes rhizome and Prepared aconite.

Learn more about Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang)

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

5. 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

E Jiao nourishes the Yin and Blood and stop bleeding. Long-term blood loss can lead to Liver Yin and Blood Deficiency, which risks the development of internal Heat. This herb is added because the warming and acrid herbs in this formula poses
a problem when there is bleeding, as they accentuate the depletion of the Blood and Yin that occurs just from the loss of blood itself. In addition, their warming nature can incite the reckless movement of Blood that can lead to further bleeding.  Together with other assistant herb of the formula, it counterbalance the warming and drying nature of Atractylodes rhizome and Prepared aconite.

Learn more about Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao)

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

6. 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 cold and bitter. It clears Liver Heat and also cools the Blood to prevent this from occurring, especially in concert with Unprepared Rehmannia.  Together with other assistant herb of the formula, it counterbalance the warming and drying nature of Atractylodes rhizome and Prepared aconite.

Learn more about Baikal Skullcap Roots (Huang Qin)

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Huang Tu 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: HeartLungSpleenStomach

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 Huang Tu Tang, it is used because it harmonizes the Middle Burner and the actions of the other herbs in the formula.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Huang Tu Tang is used to treat Spleen Yang Deficiency

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 Tu Tang is mostly used to treat the pattern "Spleen Yang Deficiency" which we describe below.

But before we delve into Spleen Yang Deficiency here is an overview of the Western conditions it is commonly associated with:

Chronic hemorrhagic gastritis Peptic ulcers

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Huang Tu Tang treats chronic hemorrhagic gastritis" for instance. Rather, Huang Tu Tang is used to treat Spleen Yang Deficiency, which is sometimes the root cause behind chronic hemorrhagic gastritis.

Now let's look at Spleen Yang Deficiency, a pattern that TCM practitioners commonly treat with Huang Tu Tang.

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

Spleen Yang Deficiency

Huang Tu Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Spleen Yang Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as slight abdominal distension after eating, lassitude, desire to lie down curled up and pale complexion. Patients with Spleen Yang Deficiency typically exhibit deep (Chen), slow (Chi) or weak (Ruo) pulses as well as Pale and wet tongue .

Generally speaking, Spleen Yang Deficiency often develops from Spleen Qi Deficiency, but it is more extensive and severe. The common manifestations are these related to digestive functions such as loose stools, poor appetite, slight abdominal distension and pain after eating, gas and bloating.... read more about Spleen Yang Deficiency

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