Snake gourds (Gua Lou) Goldthread rhizomes (Huang Lian) Crow-dipper rhizomes (Ban Xia)

Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Chinese: 小陷胸汤

Pinyin: Xiǎo Xiàn Xiōng Tāng

Other names: Minor Decoction [for Pathogens] Stuck in the Chest

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that clear Heat and transform Phlegm

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: AsthmaPleurisyInsomnia and eleven other conditions

  1. Clears Heat
  2. Transforms Phlegm
  3. Expands the chest
  4. Dissipates clumps

Contraindications: Contraindicated for patients with significant Spleen and Stomach Deficiency, as... Contraindicated for patients with significant Spleen and Stomach Deficiency, as this formula can cause loose stools. see more

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Discussion of Cold Damage

Xiao Xian Xiong Tang is a 3-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Snake Gourds (Gua Lou) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Heat and transform Phlegm. Its main actions are: 1) clears Heat and 2) transforms Phlegm.

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 Xian Xiong Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Phlegm in the Lungs or Phlegm Heat in the Lungs. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as hepatitis, cholecystitis or pancreatis for instance.

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

The three ingredients in Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Gua Lou is a king ingredient in Xiao Xian Xiong Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Snake Gourds (Gua Lou)

Part used: Dried fruit

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: StomachLarge intestineLung

Category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

Gua Lou cools and transforms Phlegm-Heat, moistens the Intestines, and directs the turbid Phlegm downward. It facilitates the elimination of Phlegm-Heat via the bowels without causing Stagnation or aggravating the Heat. As Records of Thoughtful Differentiation of Materia Medica, a key Chinese medicine treaty, states: "The most useful aspect of Gua Lou is that it guides Phlegm and turbidity downward; thus clumping in the chest and chest painful obstruction cannot be [successfully] treated without it."

Learn more about Snake Gourds (Gua Lou)

Huang Lian is a deputy ingredient in Xiao Xian Xiong Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

2. Goldthread Rhizomes (Huang Lian)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderSpleenStomachHeartLarge intestineLiver

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

Huang Lian helps Snake gourd (Gua Lou) - the key herb of this formula -drain Heat and turbidity from the Upper and Middle Burners. As often in Chinese medicine it is a mutually beneficial relationship as the moistening nature of Snake Gourd in turn prevents the d of Goldthread rhizome from aggravating the Stagnation.

Learn more about Goldthread Rhizomes (Huang Lian)

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

3. 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

Ban Xia is very effective in directing the Rebellious Qi downward, harmonizing the Stomach, transforming Phlegm, eliminating focal distention, and dissipating clumps. Together Snake gourd - the key herb in this formula - it is excellent for treating focal distention of the chest and diaphragm due to clumping of Phlegm and Heat, or for painful obstruction of the chest due to clumping of sticky and thick Phlegm. Together with Goldthread rhizome - the deputy herb in this formula - it treats the obstruction caused by Phlegm-Heat by utilizing their combination of bitter, downward-directing, and acrid opening natures.

Learn more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia)

Conditions and patterns for which Xiao Xian Xiong 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 Xiao Xian Xiong 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:

Hepatitis Cholecystitis Pancreatis Biliary reflux gastritis Peptic ulcers Biliary ascariasis Upper respiratory tract infections Pleurisy Pneumonia Bronchitis Asthma Cerebrovascular disease Psychosis Insomnia

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Xiao Xian Xiong Tang treats hepatitis" for instance. Rather, Xiao Xian Xiong Tang is used to treat patterns that are sometimes the root cause behind hepatitis.

Now let's look at the two patterns commonly treated with Xiao Xian Xiong Tang.

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

Phlegm in the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

Symptoms: Asthma Sputum in the lungs and throat

Xiao Xian Xiong Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm in the Lungs. This pattern leads to symptoms such as asthma and sputum in the lungs and throat. Patients with Phlegm in the Lungs typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, thick coating.

Phlegm in the Lungs is synonymous with Substantial Phlegm. It is Phlegm that is located in the Lungs and that can be seen. The main symptoms, on top of general Phlegm symptoms, are the heavy sputum that develops in the Lungs and throat as well as, in some cases, asthma or difficulty to breath.

read more about Phlegm in the Lungs

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

Phlegm Heat in the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

Symptoms: Clump Phlegm Chest pain Constipation Epigastric pain Clumping in the chest Bitter taste in the mouth Epigastric focal distention Focal distention of the chest Coughing of copious thick yellow sputum

Xiao Xian Xiong Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm Heat in the Lungs. This pattern leads to symptoms such as constipation, bitter taste in the mouth, coughing of copious thick yellow sputum and chest pain. Patients with Phlegm Heat in the Lungs typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, yellow coating.

Learn more about Phlegm Heat in the Lungs

Formulas similar to Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Jiao Tai Wan is 33% similar to Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Zuo Jin Wan is 33% similar to Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Xiao Ban Xia Tang is 33% similar to Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang is 29% similar to Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Er Chen Tang is 20% similar to Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Qing Wei San is 20% similar to Xiao Xian Xiong Tang