Maltose (Yi Tang) Cinnamon bark (Rou Gui) White peony roots (Bai Shao) Fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang)

Xiao Jian Zhong Tang

Chinese: 小建中湯

Pinyin: Xiǎo Jiàn Zhōng Tāng

Other names: Minor Construct the Middle Decoction, Small Strengthening the Centre Decoction

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that warm the middle and dispel Cold

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: AnemiaMigraineHypoglycemia and eight other conditions

  1. Warms and tonifies the Middle Burner (Spleen and Stomach)
  2. Tonifies Qi
  3. Relieves spasmodic pain

Contraindications: Contraindicated for Heat from Yin Deficiency. It should not be used without... Contraindicated for Heat from Yin Deficiency. It should not be used without modification in patients with vomiting or roundworms because these conditions are often aggravated by sweet substances. see more

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Discussion of Cold Damage

Xiao Jian Zhong Tang is a 6-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Maltose (Yi Tang) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that warm the middle and dispel Cold. Its main actions are: 1) warms and tonifies the Middle Burner (Spleen and Stomach) and 2) tonifies 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 Xiao Jian Zhong Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Stomach Deficient and Cold. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as chronic gastritis, peptic ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the six ingredients in Xiao Jian Zhong Tang, we review the patterns and conditions that Xiao Jian Zhong Tang helps treat.

The six ingredients in Xiao Jian Zhong Tang

Yi Tang is a king ingredient in Xiao Jian Zhong Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Maltose (Yi Tang)

Part used: The sugar

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Yi Tang Tonifies both the Qi and Blood, generates Fluids, alleviates thirst, and moderates abdominal pain.  Records of Thoughtful Differentiation of Materia Medica describes Maltose as the "quintessence of a quintessence" because it is distilled from grains such as rice, wheat, or barley, all of which are associated with sweetness and earth. Containing the very essence of earth makes it ideally suited to tonifying the Middle Burner.

Learn more about Maltose (Yi Tang)

Rou Gui is a deputy ingredient in Xiao Jian Zhong Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

2. Cinnamon Bark (Rou Gui)

Part used: Dried stem bark

Nature: Hot

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartKidneyLiver

Category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

In general Rou Gui's main actions are as follows: "Warms the Spleen and Kidneys and tonifies the Yang. Expels Cold, Warms the meridians, promotes circulation of Qi and Blood and relieves pain. Used with tonics to assist in the generation of Qi and Blood."

In the context of Xiao Jian Zhong Tang, it is used because it warms the Middle Burner and disperses Cold.

Learn more about Cinnamon Bark (Rou Gui)

Bai Shao is a deputy ingredient in Xiao Jian Zhong Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. 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 Xiao Jian Zhong Tang, it is used because it benefits the Yin with its sweet and sour taste.

Learn more about White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Jian Zhong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

4. Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang)

Part used: Fresh root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

In general Sheng Jiang's main actions are as follows: "Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning."

In the context of Xiao Jian Zhong Tang, it is used because it tonifies the protective Qi and strengthen the Middle Burner.

Learn more about Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang)

Da Zao is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Jian Zhong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

5. Jujube Dates (Da Zao)

Part used: Dried ripe fruit

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

In general Da Zao's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach Qi. Tonifies the Blood. Calms the Shen (spirit). Moderates the actions of other herbs in formula."

In the context of Xiao Jian Zhong Tang, it is used because it tonifies the protective Qi and strengthen the Middle Burner.

Learn more about Jujube Dates (Da Zao)

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

6. 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 works with the deputy herbs to stop spasmodic abdominal pain. It also harmonizes the functions of the Middle Burner and of the formula in general.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Xiao Jian Zhong Tang is used to treat Stomach Deficient and Cold

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 Xiao Jian Zhong Tang is mostly used to treat the pattern "Stomach Deficient and Cold" which we describe below.

But before we delve into Stomach Deficient and Cold here is an overview of the Western conditions it is commonly associated with:

Chronic gastritis Peptic ulcers Inflammatory bowel disease Autonomic dystonia Chronic hepatitis Cholelithiasis Chronic nephritis Prostatic hypertrophy Migraine Anemia Hypoglycemia

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Xiao Jian Zhong Tang treats chronic gastritis" for instance. Rather, Xiao Jian Zhong Tang is used to treat Stomach Deficient and Cold, which is sometimes the root cause behind chronic gastritis.

Now let's look at Stomach Deficient and Cold, a pattern that TCM practitioners commonly treat with Xiao Jian Zhong Tang.

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

Stomach Deficient and Cold

Xiao Jian Zhong Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Stomach Deficient and Cold. This pattern leads to symptoms such as epigastric pain relieved with pressure or eating, poor appetite, preference for warm drinks and foods and vomiting of clear fluids. Patients with Stomach Deficient and Cold typically exhibit deep (Chen), slow (Chi) or weak (Ruo) pulses.

Also called Stomach Yang Deficiency, this pattern is normally associated with Spleen-Yang Deficiency, which leads to Internal Cold, resulting in cold limbs, loose stools, vomiting of clear fluids, no thirst, preference for warm drinks and foods and a Weak pulse.

When Stomach-Qi is deficient, it... read more about Stomach Deficient and Cold

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