Ephedra (Ma Huang) Cinnamon twigs (Gui Zhi) Dried ginger (Gan Jiang) Wild ginger (Xi Xin) Schisandra berries (Wu Wei Zi) White peony roots (Bai Shao) Crow-dipper rhizomes (Ban Xia) Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Chinese: 小青龙汤

Pinyin: Xiǎo Qīng Lóng Tāng

Other names: Minor Blue Green Dragon Decoction

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that clear Wind-Cold

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

  1. Releases the Exterior
  2. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids
  3. Warms the Lungs
  4. Directs Rebellious Qi downward

Contraindications: This formula should not be used long term, nor for conditions with Heat,... This formula should not be used long term, nor for conditions with Heat, coughing of Blood, or coughing due to Yin deficiency. Use with caution in cases with hypertension (due to the presence of Ephedra, which increases blood pressure). see more

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Discussion of Cold Damage

Xiao Qing Long Tang is a 8-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Ephedra (Ma Huang) and Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Wind-Cold. Its main actions are: 1) releases the Exterior and 2) transforms Phlegm-Fluids.

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 Qing Long Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as upper respiratory tract infections, bronchitis or bronchial asthma for instance.

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

The eight ingredients in Xiao Qing Long Tang

Ma Huang is a king ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Ephedra (Ma Huang)

Part used: Dried herbaceous stems

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: BladderLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

In general Ma Huang's main actions are as follows: "Releases the surface through sweating. Promotes the circulation of Lung Qi and stop wheezing. Promotes urination."

In the context of Xiao Qing Long Tang, it is used because it releases the Exterior, arrests wheezing, and promotes urination.

Learn more about Ephedra (Ma Huang)

Gui Zhi is a king ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. 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 releases the Exterior, opens the Blood vessels, and promotes Qi transformation. Together with the other key herb in this formula, Ephedra (Ma Huang), the two herbs disperse Wind-Cold from the Exterior, promote water metabolism to remove Phlegm-Fluids, disseminate Lung Qi, and open the vessels to treat wheezing and body aches.

Learn more about Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi)

Gan Jiang is a deputy ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Hot

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: StomachHeartKidneyLung

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

Gan Jiang works together with Wild ginger (Xi Xin), the other deputy herb in this formula, to warm the Interior, transform Phlegm-Fluids, and help the key herbs (Ephedra and Cinnamon twigs) release the Exterior. It is particularly effective at warming the Spleen, the deficiency of which is the primary cause of the Phlegm-Fluids. Wild ginger also stops the coughing by facilitating the flow of Qi throughout the body.

Learn more about Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang)

Xi Xin is a deputy ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

4. Wild Ginger (Xi Xin)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: HeartKidneyLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

In general Xi Xin's main actions are as follows: "Relieves the Exterior and warms the Yang. Expels Cold and relieves pain. Warms the Lungs and reduces Phlegm. Moves the Qi and disperses Phlegm to open the nasal passages."

Learn more about Wild Ginger (Xi Xin)

Wu Wei Zi is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

5. Schisandra Berries (Wu Wei Zi)

Part used: Dried ripe fruits

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): SourSweet

Meridian affinity: HeartKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that stabilize and bind

In general Wu Wei Zi's main actions are as follows: "Tonifies the Kidneys and preserves the Essence. Astringes the Lung Qi and stops coughing. Retains Bodily Fluids and encourages their production. Tonifies the Heart and calms the spirit (Shen)."

In the context of Xiao Qing Long Tang, it is used because it prevents the leakage of Lung Qi.

Learn more about Schisandra Berries (Wu Wei Zi)

Bai Shao is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

6. 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 Qing Long Tang, it is used because it nourishes the Blood and nutritive Qi.

Learn more about White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

Ban Xia is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

7. Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia)

Part used: Dried rhizome and tuber

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

In general Ban Xia's main actions are as follows: "Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention."

In the context of Xiao Qing Long Tang, it is used because it transforms Phlegm-Fluids and harmonizes the Stomach.

Learn more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia)

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

8. 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 Xiao Qing Long Tang, it is used because it augments the Qi and harmonizes the interaction of the other herbs.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Xiao Qing Long Tang is used to treat Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

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 Qing Long Tang is mostly used to treat the pattern "Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm" which we describe below.

But before we delve into Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm here is an overview of the Western conditions it is commonly associated with:

Upper respiratory tract infections Bronchitis Bronchial asthma Emphysema Cardiopulmonary disease Hay fever Allergic rhinitis Conjunctivitis Dacryosolenitis Enteritis Peptic ulcers Atrophic gastritis Cirrhosis Bacillary dysentery Nephritis Rheumatic heart disease Pleuritis Epilepsy Enuresis Periarthritis of the shoulder

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Xiao Qing Long Tang treats upper respiratory tract infections" for instance. Rather, Xiao Qing Long Tang is used to treat Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm, which is sometimes the root cause behind upper respiratory tract infections.

Now let's look at Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm, a pattern that TCM practitioners commonly treat with Xiao Qing Long Tang.

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

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Xiao Qing Long Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm. This pattern leads to symptoms such as general sensation of heaviness, pain in the muscles, absence of sweating and no thirst. Patients with Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

When Lung Qi is stagnant (because, for instance, of Wind-Cold), Phlegm-Fluids (a type of Phlegm characterized by white, very watery and thin sputum) accumulates in the Lungs because they cannot fulfill their function of sending the Fluids down to the Kidneys or to the skin and muscles. See our... read more about Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

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