Lindera roots (Wu Yao) Coco-grass rhizomes (Xiang Fu) Costus roots (Mu Xiang) Amomum fruits (Sha Ren) Corydalis tubers (Yan Hu Suo) Areca nuts (Bin Lang) Liquorice (Gan Cao) Dong quai (Dang Gui)

Wu Yao Tang

Chinese: 乌药汤

Pinyin: Wū Yào Tāng

Other names: Lindera Decoction

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that promote Qi movement

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: Late menstruationIrregular menstruationAbsence of menstruation and one other condition

  1. Pacifies the Liver
  2. Moves Qi
  3. Stops pain
  4. Nourishes Liver Blood
  5. Eliminates Stagnation

Source date: 1336 AD

Source book: Secrets from the Orchid Chamber

Wu Yao Tang is a 9-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Lindera Roots (Wu Yao) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 1336 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that promote Qi movement. Its main actions are: 1) pacifies the Liver and 2) moves Qi.

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 Yao Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Liver Qi Stagnation, Qi Stagnation or Qi and Blood Stagnation. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as irregular menstruation, late menstruation or absence of menstruation for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the nine ingredients in Wu Yao Tang, we review the patterns and conditions that Wu Yao Tang helps treat.

The nine ingredients in Wu Yao Tang

Wu Yao is a king ingredient in Wu Yao Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Lindera Roots (Wu Yao)

Part used: Dried root tuber

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: BladderSpleenKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

Wu Yao smoothes the flow of Qi, disperses Cold, and alleviates pain. It directs rebellious Qi downward to help relieve Excess symptoms in the chest, disperses Cold to address the cause of the Stagnation, and alleviates pain to treat the symptoms. If Wu Yao is better at directing the Qi downward, Xiang Fu is better at raising and lifting the Qi. If the former is better at eliminating Cold, the latter is better at resolving constraint due to emotional factors. Their combination thus addresses the blockage of Qi within both the Qi and Blood levels, releases constraint from both the Liver and Gallbladder, directs rebellious Qi in the chest and abdomen downward, and warms the flow of Qi, which has been slowed by pathogenic Cold.

Learn more about Lindera Roots (Wu Yao)

2. Coco-Grass Rhizomes (Xiang Fu)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): BitterPungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenLiverSanjiao

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

Xiang Fu specifically treats disorders due to Qi blockage, but also enters the Blood aspect to move Blood that has become static due to Qi Stagnation. It also pacify the Liver and stop pain. Its combination with Wu Yao addresses the blockage of Qi within both the Qi and Blood levels.

Learn more about Coco-Grass Rhizomes (Xiang Fu)

3. Costus Roots (Mu Xiang)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: GallbladderSpleenStomachLarge intestineLiverLung

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

Mu Xiang is bitter and acrid. It promotes the movement of Qi and stops pain. It focuses on the Qi dynamic of the Middle Burner, the Spleen and the Stomach, because of its focal role in the ascent and descent of Qi.  Together with Sha Ren, it reduces distention and alleviates pain while also strengthening the Spleen. Because Qi moves not just the Blood but also the Body Fluids, Qi Stagnation is widely accompanied by Dampness and water accumulation. This conjunction of symptoms, often found in premenstrual syndrome, is effectively addressed by this combination of herbs.

Learn more about Costus Roots (Mu Xiang)

4. 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 is acrid, warm and aromatic. It promotes the movement of Qi and transforms Dampness. It focuses on the Qi dynamic of the Middle Burner, the Spleen and the Stomach, because of its focal role in the ascent and descent of Qi.  Together with Mu Xiang, it reduces distention and alleviates pain while also strengthening the Spleen.

Learn more about Amomum Fruits (Sha Ren)

5. Corydalis Tubers (Yan Hu Suo)

Part used: Dried tuber

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLiverLung

Category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

In general Yan Hu Suo's main actions are as follows: "Moves the Blood, breaks Blood Stagnation and reduces associated pain. Regulates Stagnant Qi and reduces associated pain."

In the context of Wu Yao Tang, it is used because it moves the Qi to invigorate the Blood, regulating the menses and alleviating pain.

Learn more about Corydalis Tubers (Yan Hu Suo)

6. Areca Nuts (Bin Lang)

Part used: Dried ripe seed

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: StomachLarge intestine

Category: Herbs that expel parasites

In general Bin Lang's main actions are as follows: "Destroys parasites. Regulates Qi circulation. Promotes urination."

In the context of Wu Yao Tang, it is used because it pacifies the Liver, move Qi, eliminate Stagnation and stop pain.

Learn more about Areca Nuts (Bin Lang)

7. Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachHeartLung

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Gan Cao is sweet, cool and relaxing. It serves as envoy to moderate the acrid and warming actions of the other herbs and harmonizes the diverse functions of the various ingredients.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

8. 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 Wu Yao Tang, it is used because it nourishes and invigorate Blood.

Learn more about Dong Quai (Dang Gui)

9. Szechuan Lovage Roots (Chuan Xiong)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: GallbladderLiverPericardium

Category: Herbs that invigorate the Blood

In general Chuan Xiong's main actions are as follows: "Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches."

In the context of Wu Yao Tang, it is used because it nourishes and invigorates Blood.

Learn more about Szechuan Lovage Roots (Chuan Xiong)

Conditions and patterns for which Wu Yao 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 Wu Yao Tang 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:

Irregular menstruation Late menstruation Absence of menstruation Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease

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

Now let's look at the three patterns commonly treated with Wu Yao Tang.

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

Wu Yao Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Liver Qi Stagnation. This pattern leads to symptoms such as depression, irregular menstruation, menstrual cramps and irritability. Patients with Liver Qi Stagnation typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a normal (light red) tongue.

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. This affects not only the Liver, but other connected Organs too as well as the Seven Emotions.

Liver Qi Stagnation is not only the most seen Liver disharmony, but also... read more about Liver Qi Stagnation

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

Qi Stagnation

Wu Yao Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Qi Stagnation. This pattern leads to symptoms such as moving pain, depression, irritability and mood swings. Patients with Qi Stagnation typically exhibit tight (Jin) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a red sides tongue with thin white coating.

If the flow of Qi is impeded in any way, it becomes stuck or stagnant. This can be likened to a traffic jam on the freeway. That's why, unlike in the cases of Qi Deficiency or Qi Sinking, tonification is contraindicated: it would be like adding more cars to the traffic jam. Instead, Qi moving or... read more about Qi Stagnation

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