Ginseng (Ren Shen) Atractylodes rhizomes (Bai Zhu) Tangerine peel (Chen Pi) Poria-cocos mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Chinese: 六君子汤

Pinyin: Liù Jūn Zǐ Tāng

Other names: Six Gentlemen Decoction

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that tonify Qi

Mother formula: Si Jun Zi Tang

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: AnorexiaAcid refluxPeptic ulcers and two other conditions

  1. Tonifies Qi
  2. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach
  3. Clears Phlegm and mucus
  4. Promotes appetite

Source date: 1107

Source book: Formulary of the Pharmacy Service for Benefiting the People in the Taiping Era

Liu Jun Zi Tang is a 6-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Ginseng (Ren Shen) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 1107, it belongs to the category of formulas that tonify Qi. Its main actions are: 1) tonifies Qi and 2) strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

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 Liu Jun Zi Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Qi Deficiency, Phlegm or Spleen Qi Deficiency. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as vaginal itching, anorexia or peptic ulcers for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the six ingredients in Liu Jun Zi Tang, we review the patterns and conditions that Liu Jun Zi Tang helps treat.

The six ingredients in Liu Jun Zi Tang

Ren Shen is a king ingredient in Liu Jun Zi Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Ginseng (Ren Shen)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLung

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Ren Shen is a a powerful tonic for the Spleen Qi. Today however it is often substituted for Codonopsis root (Dang Shen), which plays a similar role and is significantly less expensive.

Learn more about Ginseng (Ren Shen)

Bai Zhu is a deputy ingredient in Liu Jun Zi 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

In general Bai Zhu's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi."

In the context of Liu Jun Zi Tang, it is used because it strengthens the Spleen and dries Dampness.

Learn more about Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu)

Chen Pi is a deputy ingredient in Liu Jun Zi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)

Part used: Dried pericarp of the ripe fruit

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenLung

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

Chen Pi is a drying herb that directs the Qi downward and helps remove obstruction in the Middle Burner by Phlegm-Dampness. This is characterized by Rebellious Qi of the Stomach and Lungs with symptoms like nausea, vomiting (for the stomach part) and coughing sputum (for the Lungs).

Learn more about Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)

Fu Ling is an assistant ingredient in Liu Jun Zi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

4. Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Part used: Dried sclerotium

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

In general Fu Ling's main actions are as follows: "Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit."

In the context of Liu Jun Zi Tang, it is used because it removes Dampness and assists Ginseng or Codonopsis root in strengthening the Spleen..

Learn more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Liu Jun Zi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

5. Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia)

Part used: Dried rhizome and tuber

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

In general Ban Xia's main actions are as follows: "Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention."

In the context of Liu Jun Zi Tang, it is used because it , like Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi), has a drying effect and helps direct the Qi downward.

Learn more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia)

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Liu Jun Zi Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

6. 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 Liu Jun Zi Tang, it is used because it warms and regulates the Middle Burner and moderates the draining property of Poria-cocos mushrooms.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Conditions and patterns for which Liu Jun Zi 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 Liu Jun Zi Tang is used by TCM practitioners to treat five 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:

Vaginal itching Anorexia Peptic ulcers Chronic gastritis Acid reflux

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Liu Jun Zi Tang treats vaginal itching" for instance. Rather, Liu Jun Zi Tang is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind vaginal itching.

Now let's look at the five patterns commonly treated with Liu Jun Zi Tang.

Qi is one of Chinese Medicine's vital subtances. Learn more about Qi in Chinese Medicine

Qi Deficiency

Liu Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as shortness of breath, weak voice, spontaneous sweating and poor appetite. Patients with Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) or weak (Ruo) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

When Qi is Deficient, it typically appears as tiredness or weakness in the body. Since Qi is lacking, it is unable to perform any of its functions. Some of the symptoms for Qi Deficiency also commonly apply for other conditions. The overall differentiating symptoms for Qi Deficiency, however, is... read more about Qi Deficiency

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

Phlegm

Liu Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm. This pattern leads to symptoms such as chest pressure, nausea, dizziness and feeling of heaviness. Patients with Phlegm typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, thick coating.

Phlegm has a great importance in Chinese Medicine as it is both a condition in and of itself as well as a cause for other diseases.

The main cause for the formation of Phlegm is Spleen Deficiency since the Spleen rules the transformation and transportation of Body Fluids. If this function is... read more about Phlegm

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

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Liu Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Spleen Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as poor appetite, fatigue, loose stools and pale face. Patients with Spleen Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Spleen Qi Deficiency is one of the most commonly seen disharmony. Nowadays our diets are rich in sugars, fats, iced drinks, junk food and cold raw foods. This harm the Spleen function of transformation and transportation and leads to Spleen Qi Deficiency. Other bad eating habits also impair Spleen... read more about Spleen Qi Deficiency

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