Dong quai (Dang Gui) White peony roots (Bai Shao) Yam (Shan Yao) Donkey-hide gelatin (E Jiao)

Tiao Gan Tang

Chinese: 调肝汤

Pinyin: Tiào Gān Tāng

Other names: Regulating the Liver Decoction

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that nourish Yin and tonify

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: Menstrual crampsAbsence of menstruation

Main actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin

Source date: 1827 AD

Source book: Fu Qing Zhu's Gynecology

Tiao Gan Tang is a 7-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Dong Quai (Dang Gui) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 1827 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that nourish Yin and tonify. Its main action is that it nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin.

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 Tiao Gan Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Liver Blood and Kidney Yin Deficiency or Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as menstrual cramps or absence of menstruation for instance.

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

The seven ingredients in Tiao Gan Tang

Dang Gui is a king ingredient in Tiao Gan Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Dong Quai (Dang Gui)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiver

Category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

In general Dang Gui's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation."

In the context of Tiao Gan Tang, it is used because it nourishes and invigorates Blood.

Learn more about Dong Quai (Dang Gui)

2. White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): BitterSour

Meridian affinity: SpleenLiver

Category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

In general Bai Shao's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain."

In the context of Tiao Gan Tang, it is used because it nourishes and moves Blood.

Learn more about White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

3. 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 Tiao Gan Tang, it is used because it tonifies Stomach and Kidneys.

Learn more about Yam (Shan Yao)

4. Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao)

Part used: Solid glue prepared from the dried or fresh skin of donkeys

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: KidneyLiverLung

Category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

In general E Jiao's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies and nourishes Blood. Stops bleeding. Moistens and lubricates Yin."

In the context of Tiao Gan Tang, it is used because it nourishes Blood.

Learn more about Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao)

5. Cornelian Cherries (Shan Zhu Yu)

Part used: Dried ripe sarcocarp

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Sour

Meridian affinity: KidneyLiver

Category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

In general Shan Zhu Yu's main actions are as follows: "Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding."

In the context of Tiao Gan Tang, it is used because it nourishes Liver-Yin.

Learn more about Cornelian Cherries (Shan Zhu Yu)

6. Morinda Roots (Ba Ji Tian)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: KidneyLiver

Category: Tonic herbs for Yang Deficiency

In general Ba Ji Tian's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Kidney Yang. Expels Wind-Damp-Cold painful obstruction (Bi Pain)."

In the context of Tiao Gan Tang, it is used because it tonifies Kidney Yang and Kidney Essence.

Learn more about Morinda Roots (Ba Ji Tian)

7. 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 Tiao Gan Tang, it is used because it harmonizes all ingredients.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Conditions and patterns for which Tiao 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 Tiao Gan Tang is used by TCM practitioners to treat two 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:

Menstrual cramps Absence of menstruation

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Tiao Gan Tang treats menstrual cramps" for instance. Rather, Tiao Gan Tang is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind menstrual cramps.

Now let's look at the two patterns commonly treated with Tiao Gan Tang.

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

Liver Blood and Kidney Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Symptoms: Fatigue Tinnitus Sore back Dizziness Scanty periods Blurred vision Delayed period Dull menstrual cramps Pain relieved with massage

Tiao Gan Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Liver Blood and Kidney Yin Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as sore back, scanty periods, dizziness and pain relieved with massage. Patients with Liver Blood and Kidney Yin Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) or floating (Fu) pulses as well as a red tongue with complete absence of coating.

Learn more about Liver Blood and Kidney Yin Deficiency

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

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency

Tiao Gan Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as soreness and weakness in the lower back, lightheadedness, vertigo and tinnitus. Patients with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a red tongue with partial absence of coating.

Learn more about Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency

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