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 four 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 four 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 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

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

Stomach Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

Symptoms: Fatigue Weak Limbs Loose stools Poor appetite Lack of taste Epigastrium discomfort

Si Jun Zi Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Stomach Qi Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as poor appetite, loose stools, fatigue and weak limbs. Patients with Stomach Qi Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) pulses as well as a 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! A weak Stomach pulse and feeling tired in the mornings are sufficient signs to diagnose this pattern. 

The Stomach is the origin... 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 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 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

Formulas similar to Si Jun Zi Tang

Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang is 75% similar to Si Jun Zi Tang

Liu Jun Zi Tang is 67% similar to Si Jun Zi Tang

Fu Zi Tang is 60% similar to Si Jun Zi Tang

Ju Yuan Jian is 60% similar to Si Jun Zi Tang

Xiao Yao San is 50% similar to Si Jun Zi Tang

Bao Yuan Tang is 50% similar to Si Jun Zi Tang