Apricot seeds (Xing Ren) Cardamon fruits (Bai Dou Kou)  Job's tears (Yi Yi Ren) Tetrapanax piths (Tong Cao) Lophatherum herbs (Dan Zhu Ye) Talc (Hua Shi) Houpu Magnolia bark (Hou Pu) Crow-dipper rhizomes (Ban Xia)

San Ren Tang

Chinese: 三仁汤

Pinyin: Sān Rén Tāng

Other names: Three Seeds Decoction

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that clear Heat and expel dampness

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: TyphoidColitisHepatitis and four other conditions

  1. Clears Damp-Heat
  2. Disseminates the Qi
  3. Facilitates the Qi mechanisms

Contraindications: Only indicated for Damp-Warmth or Damp-Heat disorders where Dampness is... Only indicated for Damp-Warmth or Damp-Heat disorders where Dampness is prominent. see more

Source date: 1798 AD

Source book: Systematic Differentiation of Warm Pathogen Diseases

San Ren Tang is a 8-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Apricot Seeds (Xing Ren), Cardamon Fruits (Bai Dou Kou) and Job's Tears (Yi Yi Ren) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 1798 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Heat and expel dampness. Its main actions are: 1) clears Damp-Heat and 2) disseminates the Qi.

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 San Ren Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Dampness in the Gallbladder. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as typhoid, pyelonephritis or hepatitis for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the eight ingredients in San Ren Tang, we review the patterns and conditions that San Ren Tang helps treat.

The eight ingredients in San Ren Tang

Xing Ren is a king ingredient in San Ren Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Apricot Seeds (Xing Ren)

Part used: Dried ripe seeds

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: Large intestineLung

Category: Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing

Xing Ren it dredges the Lung Qi, opens what is clogged, and facilitates the downward-directing of Qi and Fluids

Learn more about Apricot Seeds (Xing Ren)

Bai Dou Kou is a king ingredient in San Ren Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. Cardamon Fruits (Bai Dou Kou)

Part used: Fruits

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Aromatic herbs that transform Dampness

Bai Dou Kou transforms turbid Dampness and revives the Spleen. It also treats the Upper Burner by spreading Qi in the chest.

Learn more about Cardamon Fruits (Bai Dou Kou)

Yi Yi Ren is a king ingredient in San Ren Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

3. Job's Tears (Yi Yi Ren)

Part used: Dried ripe kernel

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

Yi Yi Ren leaches out Dampness through the urine. It also treats the Middle Burner by strengthening the Spleen.

Learn more about Job's Tears (Yi Yi Ren)

Tong Cao is a deputy ingredient in San Ren Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

4. Tetrapanax Piths (Tong Cao)

Part used: Dried stem pith

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: StomachLung

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

Tong Cao resolves Dampness by promoting urination and it clears Heat. It also assists in opening and directing Lung Qi downward.

Learn more about Tetrapanax Piths (Tong Cao)

Dan Zhu Ye is a deputy ingredient in San Ren Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

5. Lophatherum Herbs (Dan Zhu Ye)

Part used: Dried stem and leaf

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: StomachHeartSmall intestine

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

Dan Zhu Ye resolves Dampness by promoting urination and it clears Heat. It also vents pathogenic Heat through the Exterior.

Learn more about Lophatherum Herbs (Dan Zhu Ye)

Hua Shi is a deputy ingredient in San Ren Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

6. Talc (Hua Shi)

Part used: The mineral itself

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: BladderStomach

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

Hua Shi resolves Dampness by promoting urination and it clears Heat. It is also able to resolve Summer-Heat.

Learn more about Talc (Hua Shi)

Hou Pu is an assistant ingredient in San Ren Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

7. Houpu Magnolia Bark (Hou Pu)

Part used: Dried stem bark, root bark or branch bark

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Aromatic herbs that transform Dampness

In general Hou Pu's main actions are as follows: "Moves Rebellious Qi downward, dries Dampness and relieves Food Stagnation. Transforms Phlegm and redirects Rebellious Qi of the Lung."

In the context of San Ren Tang, it is used because it treats epigastric and abdominal distention due to Dampness or Phlegm.

Learn more about Houpu Magnolia Bark (Hou Pu)

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

8. 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 San Ren Tang, it is used because it treats epigastric and abdominal distention due to Dampness or Phlegm.

Learn more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia)

San Ren Tang is used to treat Dampness in the Gallbladder

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 San Ren Tang is mostly used to treat the pattern "Dampness in the Gallbladder" which we describe below.

But before we delve into Dampness in the Gallbladder here is an overview of the Western conditions it is commonly associated with:

Typhoid Pyelonephritis Hepatitis Brucellosis Gastritis Colitis Bacillary dysentery

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "San Ren Tang treats typhoid" for instance. Rather, San Ren Tang is used to treat Dampness in the Gallbladder, which is sometimes the root cause behind typhoid.

Now let's look at Dampness in the Gallbladder, a pattern that TCM practitioners commonly treat with San Ren Tang.

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

Dampness in the Gallbladder

San Ren Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Dampness in the Gallbladder. This pattern leads to symptoms such as jaundice, dull-yellow complexion, dull-yellow eyes and hypochondriac pain. Patients with Dampness in the Gallbladder typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses.

Dampness in the Gallbladder is typically paired with an underlying Spleen Qi Deficiency which makes the Spleen unable to transform Fluids.

As such the whole Middle Burner is typically affected, hence the symptoms of nausea and vomiting: the obstruction caused by Dampness prevent Stomach Qi from... read more about Dampness in the Gallbladder

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