Ginseng (Ren Shen) Atractylodes rhizomes (Bai Zhu) Poria-cocos mushrooms (Fu Ling) Liquorice (Gan Cao) Yam (Shan Yao) Hyacinth beans (Bai Bian Dou) Lotus seeds (Lian Zi)  Job's tears (Yi Yi Ren)

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Chinese: 参苓白术散

Pinyin: Shēn Líng Bái Zhú Sàn

Other names: Ginseng Poria and White Atractylodes Powder

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that tonify Qi

Mother formula: Si Jun Zi Tang

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: AnemiaEnteritisChronic gastritis and five other conditions

  1. Augments the Qi
  2. Strengthens the Spleen
  3. Leaches out Dampness
  4. Stops diarrhea

Contraindications: Use with caution if patient suffers from Heat from Yin Deficiency.

Source date: 1107 AD

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

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San is a 10-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Ginseng (Ren Shen), Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu), Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling) and Liquorice (Gan Cao) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 1107 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that tonify Qi. Its main actions are: 1) augments the Qi 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 Shen Ling Bai Zhu San is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Small Intestine Deficient and Cold, Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency or Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as chronic gastritis, enteritis or irritable bowel syndrome for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the ten ingredients in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, we review the patterns and conditions that Shen Ling Bai Zhu San helps treat.

The ten ingredients in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Ren Shen is a king ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. 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

In general Ren Shen's main actions are as follows: "Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit)."

In the context of Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, it is used because it is a powerful tonic for the Spleen Qi.

Learn more about Ginseng (Ren Shen)

Bai Zhu is a king ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

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 Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, it is used because it strengthens the Spleen and dries Dampness.

Learn more about Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu)

Fu Ling is a king ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

3. 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 Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, it is used because it leaches out Dampness and assists the other key herbs in strengthening the Spleen.

Learn more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Gan Cao is a king ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

4. 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 Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, it is used because it warms and regulates the Middle Burner.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Shan Yao is a deputy ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

5. Yam (Shan Yao)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenKidneyLung

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

In general Shan Yao's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Tonifies the Lung Qi and nourishes the Lung Yin. Nourishes the Kidneys and consolidates Jing."

In the context of Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, it is used because it tonifies the Spleen and supports the key herbs.

Learn more about Yam (Shan Yao)

Bai Bian Dou is a deputy ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

6. Hyacinth Beans (Bai Bian Dou)

Part used: Dried ripe seeds

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

In general Bai Bian Dou's main actions are as follows: "Treats Summer Heat. Strengthens the Spleen and clears Damp-Heat. Relieves diarrhea and vomiting."

In the context of Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, it is used because it strengthens the Spleen and stops diarrhea.

Learn more about Hyacinth Beans (Bai Bian Dou)

Lian Zi is a deputy ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

7. Lotus Seeds (Lian Zi)

Part used: Dried ripe seed

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): SourSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartKidney

Category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

In general Lian Zi's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Spleen, stops diarrhea. Strengthens the Kidneys, reinforces Essence. Nourishes the Blood and calms the mind."

In the context of Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, it is used because it strengthens the Spleen and stops diarrhea.

Learn more about Lotus Seeds (Lian Zi)

Yi Yi Ren is a deputy ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

8. Job's Tears (Yi Yi Ren)

Part used: Dried ripe kernel

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

In general Yi Yi Ren's main actions are as follows: "Regulates water and encourages urination. Tonic to the Spleen and stops diarrhea caused by Spleen Deficiency. Reduces inflammation and eliminates pus. Dispels Wind-Damp Bi Pain. Expels Damp-Heat."

In the context of Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, it is used because it strengthens the Spleen and leaches out Dampness.

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

Sha Ren is an assistant ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

9. Amomum Fruits (Sha Ren)

Part used: Dried ripe fruit

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachKidney

Category: Aromatic herbs that transform Dampness

Sha Ren transforms Dampness and promotes the movement of Qi so the formula can tonify without causing Stagnation.

Learn more about Amomum Fruits (Sha Ren)

Jie Geng is an envoy ingredient in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

10. Platycodon Roots (Jie Geng)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: Lung

Category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

Jie Geng disseminates Lung Qi, helps spread nourishment throughout the body and  guides the actions of the other herbs into the Lungs.

Learn more about Platycodon Roots (Jie Geng)

Conditions and patterns for which Shen Ling Bai Zhu San 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 Shen Ling Bai Zhu San is used by TCM practitioners to treat three 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:

Chronic gastritis Enteritis Irritable bowel syndrome Chronic hepatitis Chronic bronchitis Chronic nephritis Anemia Diabetes mellitus

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Shen Ling Bai Zhu San treats chronic gastritis" for instance. Rather, Shen Ling Bai Zhu San is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind chronic gastritis.

Now let's look at the three patterns commonly treated with Shen Ling Bai Zhu San.

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

Small Intestine Deficient and Cold

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Small Intestine Deficient and Cold. This pattern leads to symptoms such as borborygmi, abdominal pain alleviated by pressure, desire for hot drinks and diarrhea. Patients with Small Intestine Deficient and Cold typically exhibit deep (Chen), slow (Chi) or weak (Ruo) pulses.

This is an Interior pattern of Deficiency and Cold.

It almost always is paired with Spleen Yang Deficiency, so much that it's difficult to distinguish these two patterns. The surest sign the Small Intestine is involved is the presence of borborygmi (gurgling noise made by the movement of Fluid in... read more about Small Intestine Deficient and Cold

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

Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as poor appetite, slight abdominal distension after eating, tiredness and lassitude. Patients with Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) pulses.

It's very common for Stomach Qi Deficiency to be paired with Spleen Qi Deficiency since both Organs are so closely intertwined. The Stomach receives food and then sends the pure portion to the Spleen. Together they rule transportation of food essences.

Since they're the root of Grain Qi for the... read more about Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency

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

Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as poor appetite, dry mouth, thirst with desire to drink in small sips and dry stools. Patients with Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) or floating (Fu) pulses.

Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency usually derives from Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency.

The Qi Deficiency in the Stomach progressively induces a Yin Deficiency since Stomach is the source of Yin. And since the Stomach and Spleen are such intrinsically linked Organs, deficiency in one induces... read more about Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency

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