Chinese Gentian (Long Dan Cao) Baikal skullcap roots (Huang Qin) Cape jasmine fruits (Zhi Zi) Bupleurum roots (Chai Hu) Akebia stems (Mu Tong) Plantain seeds (Che Qian Zi) Water plantain (Ze Xie) Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang)

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Chinese: 龙胆泻肝汤

Pinyin: Lóng Dǎn Xiè Gān Tāng

Other names: Gentian Decoction to Drain the Liver, Gentiana Combination

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that clear Heat from the Organs

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: EczemaRhinitisVulvitis and twenty one other conditions

  1. Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder
  2. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner

Contraindications: Contraindicated for long term use or in large doses, nor in cases of Spleen... Contraindicated for long term use or in large doses, nor in cases of Spleen Deficiency or injury to the Fluids, because this formula can harm the Spleen. see more

Source date: 1682 AD

Source book: Medical Formulas Collected and Analyzed

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is a 10-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Chinese Gentian (Long Dan Cao) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 1682 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Heat from the Organs. Its main actions are: 1) clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder and 2) clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

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 Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Damp Heat in the Liver, Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire or Heat in the Blood. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as spontaneous flow of breast milk, early menstruation or abnormal uterine bleeding for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the ten ingredients in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, we review the patterns and conditions that Long Dan Xie Gan Tang helps treat.

The ten ingredients in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Long Dan Cao is a king ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Chinese Gentian (Long Dan Cao)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderHeartLarge intestineLiverLung

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

Long Dan Cao it is extremely effective at draining Excessive Heat from the Liver and Gallbladder and eliminating Damp-Heat from the Lower-Burner.

Learn more about Chinese Gentian (Long Dan Cao)

Huang Qin is a deputy ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

2. 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

Huang Qin works together with Cape Jasmine fruits (Zhi Zi), another deputy in this formula, to assist the key herb (Chinese Gentian) in draining the Fire and eliminating the Dampness.

Learn more about Baikal Skullcap Roots (Huang Qin)

Zhi Zi is a deputy ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Cape Jasmine Fruits (Zhi Zi)

Part used: Dried ripe fruit

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderHeartLungSanjiao

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and purge Fire and/or clear Summer Heat

In general Zhi Zi's main actions are as follows: "Clears Heat and calms spirit. Drains Damp-Heat affecting the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears Heat in the Blood and stops bleeding. Anti-inflammatory."

Learn more about Cape Jasmine Fruits (Zhi Zi)

Chai Hu is a deputy ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

4. Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderLiver

Category: Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

Chai Hu disperses Heat caused by stagnating Liver and Gallbladder Qi. It also focuses the actions of the formula's other herbs on the Liver and Gallbladder channels.

Learn more about Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu)

Mu Tong is an assistant ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

5. Akebia Stems (Mu Tong)

Part used: Dried stem

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: HeartLungSmall intestine

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

Mu Tong works together with Plantain seeds (Che Qian Zi) and Water plantain (Ze Xie), other assistant herbs in this formula, to drain Heat from the Upper Burner and eliminate Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner by promoting urination. This provides a pathway to drain Liver Fire. Because the Liver stores the Blood, Heat in the Liver Meridian can readily injure the Yin and Blood.

Learn more about Akebia Stems (Mu Tong)

Che Qian Zi is an assistant ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

6. Plantain Seeds (Che Qian Zi)

Part used: Dried ripe seeds

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: KidneyLiverLungSmall intestine

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

In general Che Qian Zi's main actions are as follows: "Encourages urination and clears Heat. Stops diarrhea by expelling water through urination. Brightens the eyes, used in combination either for Deficiency or Heat. Reduces inflammation of infections. Arrests cough and expectorates Phlegm."

Learn more about Plantain Seeds (Che Qian Zi)

Ze Xie is an assistant ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

7. Water Plantain (Ze Xie)

Part used: Dried tuber

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: BladderKidney

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

In general Ze Xie's main actions are as follows: "Causes urination and removes Damp-Heat"

Learn more about Water Plantain (Ze Xie)

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

8. Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang)

Part used: Prepared dried root tuber

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: HeartKidneyLiver

Category: Herbs that cool the Blood

In general Di Huang's main actions are as follows: "Expels Heat by Cooling Blood. Tonifies Yin by promoting Fluid production. Soothes the Heart by calming Blazing Fire. Cools and nourishes."

In the context of Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, it is used because it supplements the Yin to counteract the effect of the  bitter, drying herbs in the formula.

Learn more about Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang)

Dang Gui is an assistant ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

9. Dong Quai (Dang Gui)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiver

Category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

Dang Gui nourishes the Blood without causing Stagnation to counteract the effect of the bitter, drying herbs in the formula.

Learn more about Dong Quai (Dang Gui)

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

10. 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 Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, it is used because it harmonizes the Middle Burner and regulate the actions of the other herbs in the formula.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Conditions and patterns for which Long Dan Xie Gan 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 Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is used by TCM practitioners to treat six 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:

Spontaneous flow of breast milk Early menstruation Abnormal uterine bleeding Abnormal vaginal discharge Vaginal itching Furuncles Purulent otitis Rhinitis Acute viral hepatitis Acute cholecystitis Acute pyelonephristis Acute cystitis Vulvitis Orchitis Pelvic inflammatory disease Herpes zoster Eczema Conjunctivitis Retinal haemorrhage Haemorrhagic glaucoma Hyperthyroid Cushing's syndrome Adrenal cortex hyperpalsia Polycystic ovaries

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Long Dan Xie Gan Tang treats spontaneous flow of breast milk" for instance. Rather, Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind spontaneous flow of breast milk.

Now let's look at the six patterns commonly treated with Long Dan Xie Gan Tang.

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

Damp Heat in the Liver

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Damp Heat in the Liver. This pattern leads to symptoms such as hypochondrium fullness, chest fullness, abdominal distention and fullness and vaginal discharge. Patients with Damp Heat in the Liver typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a red tongue with sticky coating, yellow coating.

This pattern is caused by excessive Heat in the Liver and Dampness due to Spleen Deficiency. Dampness is created if the Spleen's transportation and transformation function is impaired. When Damp-Heat builds up, the flow of Qi is disturbed, resulting in Qi Stagnation symptoms. When lasting for a... read more about Damp Heat in the Liver

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

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire. This pattern leads to symptoms such as feeling of distension, irritability, feeling of heat and menstrual cramps. Patients with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a red points on the sides tongue.

This pattern develops from Liver Qi Stagnation, which creates excessive amount of Heat and then turn into Liver Heat. It manifests with a feeling of heat, a red face and desire to drink.

From a mental emotional perspective, patients tend to be irritable, anxious, moody and prone to outbursts of... read more about Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire

Blood (Xue) is one of Chinese Medicine's vital subtances. Learn more about Blood in Chinese Medicine

Heat in the Blood

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Heat in the Blood. This pattern leads to symptoms such as frequent bleeding episodes, fever, feeling of heat and red skin eruptions. Patients with Heat in the Blood typically exhibit rapid (Shu) pulses as well as a red tongue.

The most common cause of Heat in the Blood is a Heat Pernicious Influence that has invaded the body and agitates the Blood. This results in accelerated blood flow which manifests itself in a rapid pulse, expanded and damaged Blood vessels and often heavy bleeding. The Blood will be fresh red or... read more about Heat in the Blood

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

Damp-Heat in the Liver Channel

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

Symptoms: Insomnia Dark Urine Restlessness Irritability Vulvar itching Painful intercourse Yellow vaginal discharge Smelly Vaginal discharge Sticky vaginal discharge Excessive vaginal discharge

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Damp-Heat in the Liver Channel. This pattern leads to symptoms such as vulvar itching, yellow vaginal discharge, painful intercourse and restlessness. Patients with Damp-Heat in the Liver Channel typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a red tongue with thick coating, yellow coating.

Learn more about Damp-Heat in the Liver Channel

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

Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder. This pattern leads to symptoms such as fixed pain in the hypochondria, headaches, dizziness and red and sore eyes. Patients with Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder typically exhibit full (Shi) pulses as well as a red tongue with yellow coating.

Learn more about Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder

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