Water plantain (Ze Xie) Poria-cocos mushrooms (Fu Ling) Polyporus (Zhu Ling) Cinnamon twigs (Gui Zhi)

Wu Ling San

Chinese: 五苓散

Pinyin: Wǔ Líng Sàn

Other names: Poria Five Herbs Formula

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that promote urination and leach out Dampness

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: LupusEdemaAscites and seventeen other conditions

  1. Promotes urination,
  2. Warms the Yang
  3. Strengthens the Spleen
  4. Promotes Qi transformation function
  5. Drains Dampness
  6. Clears edema

Contraindications: In patients with Spleen or Kidney Qi Deficiency, the dosage and duration of use... In patients with Spleen or Kidney Qi Deficiency, the dosage and duration of use of this formula must be carefully limited. It is not indicated for thirst due to Heat Excess or from Yin Deficiency. see more

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Discussion of Cold Damage

Wu Ling San is a 5-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Water Plantain (Ze Xie) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that promote urination and leach out Dampness. Its main actions are: 1) promotes urination, and 2) warms the Yang.

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 Wu Ling San is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Yin Excess, Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water overflowing or Phlegm. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as lupus, edema or glomerulonephritis for instance.

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

The five ingredients in Wu Ling San

Ze Xie is a king ingredient in Wu Ling San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Water Plantain (Ze Xie)

Part used: Dried tuber

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: BladderKidney

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

Ze Xie leaches out Dampness and promotes urination. Its cold nature also enables it to eliminate the Stagnant Heat caused by water buildup.

Learn more about Water Plantain (Ze Xie)

Fu Ling is a deputy ingredient in Wu Ling San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

2. Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Part used: Dried sclerotium

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

Fu Ling is particularly effective in leaching out Dampness by promoting urination, strengthening the Spleen and assisting the Yang.

Learn more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

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

3. Polyporus (Zhu Ling)

Part used: Dried sclerotium

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: BladderKidney

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

In general Zhu Ling's main actions are as follows: "Drains Dampness and encourages urination"

In the context of Wu Ling San, it is used because it also eliminates Dampness and promotes urination.

Learn more about Polyporus (Zhu Ling)

Gui Zhi is an assistant ingredient in Wu Ling San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

4. Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi)

Part used: Dried young branches

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

Gui Zhi serves as both an assistant and envoy in this formula. When the retention of Dampness obstructs the circulation of Fluids, the Kidneys and Bladder may be unable to transform them. Cinnamon twigs are used to warm the Fire at the gate of vitality, which is like adding firewood under the cauldron. Not only does this assist the Bladder in transforming and discharging urine, it also helps the Spleen Qi to raise the clear, thus facilitating the movement and 'steaming' of the Fluids by the Kidneys. In this respect, it serves as an envoy to the Kidneys and Bladder. As an assistant, it also helps to dispel pathogenic influences from the Exterior and thereby release the exterior aspects of the greater Yang-warp disorder.

Learn more about Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi)

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

5. Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Bai Zhu strengthens the Spleen Qi, thereby helping it transform and transport Fluids (one of its key roles) and thus helping resolve Dampness.

Learn more about Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu)

Conditions and patterns for which Wu Ling 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 Wu Ling San is used by TCM practitioners to treat seven 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:

Lupus Edema Glomerulonephritis Pyelonephritis Nephrotic syndrome Cystitis Hydrocele Migraine Trigeminal neuralgia Motion sickness Meniere's disease Hepatitis Gastrectasis Acute enteritis Ascites Congestive heart failure Conjunctivitis Pericardial and pleural effusions Hydrocephalus Polyhydramnios

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

Now let's look at the seven patterns commonly treated with Wu Ling San.

'Yin' as a body pattern in Chinese Medicine is one of the so-called "Eight Principles". Learn more about Yin in Chinese Medicine

Yin Excess

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Symptoms: Edema Dampness Loose stools Vaginal discharge Frequent urination Feeling of heaviness Abdominal distention and fullness

Wu Ling San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Yin Excess. This pattern leads to symptoms such as dampness, loose stools, frequent urination and abdominal distention and fullness. Patients with Yin Excess typically exhibit slippery (Hua), tight (Jin), wiry (Xian) or full (Shi) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thick white coating.

Excess Yin is a Full Yin state pattern. Its symptoms are like those of the Cold and Damp Heat Pernicious Influences. When Yin becomes in Excess, this leads to Body Fluids accumulating in the body. They may built up throughout the body, giving a general appearance of swelling and heaviness, or they... read more about Yin Excess

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

Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water overflowing

Wu Ling San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water overflowing. This pattern leads to symptoms such as oedema especially of the legs and ankles, cold feeling in the legs and the back, abdominal distention and fullness and soreness of the lower back. Patients with Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water overflowing typically exhibit deep (Chen), slow (Chi) or weak (Ruo) pulses.

This pattern is a severe case of Kidney Yang Deficiency and necessarily a very chronic condition. This is both a Deficiency and Excess pattern, the Excess part being the accumulation of Fluids.

It occurs when Kidney Yang fails to transform Body Fluids (since the Kidneys "rule Water") which... read more about Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water overflowing

Body Fluids (Jin Ye) is one of Chinese Medicine's vital subtances. Learn more about Body Fluids in Chinese Medicine

Phlegm

Wu Ling San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm. This pattern leads to symptoms such as chest pressure, nausea, dizziness and feeling of heaviness. Patients with Phlegm typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, thick coating.

Phlegm has a great importance in Chinese Medicine as it is both a condition in and of itself as well as a cause for other diseases.

The main cause for the formation of Phlegm is Spleen Deficiency since the Spleen rules the transformation and transportation of Body Fluids. If this function is... read more about Phlegm

Body Fluids (Jin Ye) is one of Chinese Medicine's vital subtances. Learn more about Body Fluids in Chinese Medicine

Oedema

Wu Ling San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Oedema. This pattern leads to symptoms such as oedema of ankles, oedema of legs, oedema of hands and oedema of face. Patients with Oedema typically exhibit slowed-down (Huan) or hidden (Fu) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Oedema (also spelled "Edema") a retention of Body Fluids that results in swellings, depending where the retention occurs: it can be in the limbs, the legs, the face, etc. The swellings are usually so that if one presses on it with a finger, the resulting dip takes a long time to disappear.

Oedema... read more about Oedema

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

Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency

Wu Ling San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as pale complexion, oedema of face, oedema of limbs and abdominal distention and fullness. Patients with Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency typically exhibit deep (Chen), weak (Ruo) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Learn more about Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency

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