Ginseng (Ren Shen) Atractylodes rhizomes (Bai Zhu) Poria-cocos mushrooms (Fu Ling) Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Si Jun Zi Tang

Chinese: 四君子汤

Pinyin: Sì Jūn Zǐ Tāng

Other names: Four Gentlemen Decoction

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that tonify Qi

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

  1. Tonifies Qi
  2. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach

Contraindications: The long-term use of this formula may result in a dry mouth, thirst, and... The long-term use of this formula may result in a dry mouth, thirst, and irritability. see more

Source date: 1107 AD

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

Si Jun Zi Tang is a 4-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Ginseng (Ren Shen) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 1107 AD, 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 Si Jun Zi Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Qi Deficiency, Stomach Qi Deficiency or Spleen and Lung Qi Deficiency. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as chronic gastritis, peptic ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome for instance.

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

The four ingredients in Si Jun Zi Tang

Ren Shen is a king ingredient in Si 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 Si 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 Si Jun Zi Tang, it is used because it strengthens the Spleen and dries Dampness.

Learn more about Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu)

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

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 Si Jun Zi Tang, it is used because it removes Dampness and assists Ginseng and Codonopsis root in strengthening the Spleen..

Learn more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

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

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 Si 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 Si 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 Si Jun Zi Tang is used by TCM practitioners to treat eight 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 Peptic ulcers Irritable bowel syndrome Chronic hepatitis Nosebleed Anemia Neutropenia

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

Now let's look at the eight patterns commonly treated with Si Jun Zi Tang.

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

Qi Deficiency

Si Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as general weakness, weak voice, fatigue and listlessness. Patients with Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) or weak (Ruo) pulses as well as 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. 

This may apply to any of the different types of Qi, including the Qi... read more about Qi Deficiency

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

Stomach Qi Deficiency

Si Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Stomach Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as tiredness in the morning, poor appetite, loose stools and weak limbs. Patients with Stomach Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) pulses as well as Pale tongue.

Stomach Qi Deficiency is one of the most commonly seen patterns in TCM practices and it is also a very typical cause of chronic fatigue, a very contemporary condition! 

The Stomach is the origin of Post-Heaven Qi since it starts the Qi creating process by receiving ingested food and drinks and then... read more about Stomach Qi Deficiency

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

Spleen and Lung Qi Deficiency

Si Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Spleen and Lung Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as poor appetite, slight abdominal distention after eating, tiredness and lassitude. Patients with Spleen and Lung Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) pulses.

The Spleen and the Lungs are both involved in the production of Qi. They're respectively the source of Grain Qi and Clean Air which merge together to make Gathering Qi (also called True Qi). As such they have a strong inter dependence and influence over each other.

There is a saying in Chinese... read more about Spleen and Lung Qi Deficiency

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

Lung and Heart Qi Deficiency

Si Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Lung and Heart Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, weak voice and aversion to speak. Patients with Lung and Heart Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) pulses.

In terms of typical manifestations, Heart Qi Deficiency and Lung Qi Deficiency share many common ones such as spontaneous sweating, fatigue and pale face. The combined Deficiency of both Organs is quite common to be seen as a result of emotional stress such as sadness, grief and worry.  

Other than... read more about Lung and Heart Qi Deficiency

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

Stomach and Spleen Qi Deficiency

Si Jun Zi Tang 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 Lungs is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

Lung Yang Deficiency

Si Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Lung Yang Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as coughing with copious clear thin sputum, cold limbs, spontaneous sweating and frequent colds or flu. Patients with Lung Yang Deficiency typically exhibit slow (Chi), slowed-down (Huan) or wiry (Xian) pulses.

The general symptom of Lung Yang Deficiency is coughing and wheezing with profuse sputum, but the sputum is thin and watery. There is also Cold characters such as cold limbs and back, feeling of cold and easy to get cold or flu. It is because the lacking of Yang fails to warm the body. 

If this... read more about Lung Yang Deficiency

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

Lung Qi Deficiency

Si Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Lung Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as spontaneous daytime sweating, aversion to speak, shortness of breath and coughing. Patients with Lung Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) pulses as well as Pale or normal color tongue.

The Lungs govern Qi and respiration. Therefore there will be shortness of breath and coughing in case of Lung Qi Deficiency. However the condition is not severe as it is mostly on exertion and not full-blown symptoms of bronchitis or asthma.

Symptoms like coughing can also appear if Lungs' Qi... read more about Lung Qi Deficiency

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

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Si Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Spleen Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as slight abdominal distension after eating, lassitude, desire to lie down and slight abdominal pain. Patients with Spleen Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) pulses as well as Pale or normal tongue with thin white coating. Possible swollen with tooth marks on sides and transverse cracks.

Spleen Qi Deficiency is one of the most commonly seen disharmony. The three most common causes for this pattern are unhealthy diet, emotional stress and mental-excertion as they can largely harm the transformation and transportation function of the Spleen. This pattern gives rise to various... read more about Spleen Qi Deficiency

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