Apricot seeds (Xing Ren) Perilla leaves (Zi Su Ye) Platycodon roots (Jie Geng) Hogfennel roots (Qian Hu) Bitter oranges (Zhi Ke) Tangerine peel (Chen Pi) Fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) Crow-dipper rhizomes (Ban Xia)

Xing Su San

Chinese: 杏苏散

Pinyin: Xìng Sū Sàn

Other names: Apricot Kernel and Perilla Leaf Powder, Apricot Seed and Perilla Formula

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that disperse Dryness and moisten

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: EmphysemaBronchitisCommon cold and one other condition

  1. Clears Dry-Cold
  2. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough
  3. Transforms thin mucus

Source date: 1798 AD

Source book: Systematic Differentiation of Warm Pathogen Diseases

Xing Su San is a 11-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Apricot Seeds (Xing Ren) and Perilla Leaves (Zi Su Ye) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 1798 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that disperse Dryness and moisten. Its main actions are: 1) clears Dry-Cold and 2) disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough.

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 Xing Su San is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Body Fluids Deficiency, Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire or Dry-Cold. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as common cold, bronchitis or emphysema for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the eleven ingredients in Xing Su San, we review the patterns and conditions that Xing Su San helps treat.

The eleven ingredients in Xing Su San

Xing Ren is a king ingredient in Xing Su San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Apricot Seeds (Xing Ren)

Part used: Dried ripe seeds

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: Large intestineLung

Category: Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing

In general Xing Ren's main actions are as follows: "Stops cough and wheezing caused by either Heat or Cold. Lubricates the Intestines and relieves constipation."

In the context of Xing Su San, it is used because it disseminates the Lung Qi and stops coughing.

Learn more about Apricot Seeds (Xing Ren)

Zi Su Ye is a king ingredient in Xing Su San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. Perilla Leaves (Zi Su Ye)

Part used: Dried leaf (or bearing young branches)

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

In general Zi Su Ye's main actions are as follows: "Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Promotes the circulation of Spleen and Stomach Qi. Calms a restless fetus. Detoxifies seafood poisoning"

In the context of Xing Su San, it is used because it releases the Exterior Cold by promoting moderate sweating.

Learn more about Perilla Leaves (Zi Su Ye)

Jie Geng is a deputy ingredient in Xing Su San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. Platycodon Roots (Jie Geng)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: Lung

Category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

In general Jie Geng's main actions are as follows: "Opens the Lungs and smoothes the flow of Lung Qi. Expels Phlegm and pus from the Lungs and throat, can be used for either Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat according to the other herbs in the formula. Directs the actions of other herbs to the Upper Warmer."

In the context of Xing Su San, it is used because it causes the Lung Qi to descend and stops coughing.

Learn more about Platycodon Roots (Jie Geng)

Qian Hu is a deputy ingredient in Xing Su San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

4. Hogfennel Roots (Qian Hu)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenLung

Category: Cool herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

Qian Hu assists the key herbs (Apricot seeds and Perilla Leaves) by directing the Qi downward and releasing the Exterior.

Learn more about Hogfennel Roots (Qian Hu)

Zhi Ke is a deputy ingredient in Xing Su San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

5. Bitter Oranges (Zhi Ke)

Part used: Dried ripe fruit

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungentSour

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

In general Zhi Ke's main actions are as follows: "To regulate the flow of Qi, remove its stagnation, and alleviate distension."

In the context of Xing Su San, it is used because it moves the Qi, expands the chest, and stops the coughing by regulating the Qi.

Learn more about Bitter Oranges (Zhi Ke)

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Xing Su San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

6. Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)

Part used: Dried pericarp of the ripe fruit

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenLung

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

Chen Pi , together with the 2 other assistants in this formula (Poria-cocos mushrooms and Crow-dipper rhizome), addresses the problem of thin mucus that patients suffer from in the patterns treated by this formula. To do so, the three herbs regulate the Qi of the Middle Burner, which in turn helps transform the Phlegm.

Learn more about Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Xing Su San. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

7. Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang)

Part used: Fresh root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

Sheng Jiang , together with the two other envoys in this formula (Jujube dates and Liquorice), harmonizes the actions of the other herbs and regulate the nutritive and protective Qi.

Learn more about Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang)

8. 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."

Learn more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia)

9. Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

Part used: Dried sclerotium

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that drain Dampness

In general Fu Ling's main actions are as follows: "Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit."

Learn more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

10. 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."

Learn more about Jujube Dates (Da Zao)

11. 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."

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Conditions and patterns for which Xing Su 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 Xing Su San is used by TCM practitioners to treat five 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:

Common cold Bronchitis Emphysema Upper respiratory tract infections

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

Now let's look at the five patterns commonly treated with Xing Su San.

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

Body Fluids Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

Tongue shape: Cracked

Symptoms: Dry skin Dry nose Dry lips Dry cough Dry tongue Dry stools Dry throat

Xing Su San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Body Fluids Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as dry tongue, dry skin, dry nose and dry cough. Patients with Body Fluids Deficiency typically exhibit choppy (Se) or fine (Xi) pulses.

Body Fluids are all the fluids in the body, except from Blood. This means that their Deficiency will inevitable result in various symptoms of Dryness. Typical symptoms include dry skin, dry mouth, dry nose, dry cough, dry lips and dry tongue.

A Deficiency of Body Fluids can cause Yin Deficiency... read more about Body Fluids Deficiency

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

Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Floating (Fu)

Symptoms: Fever Thirst Sweating Dry Skin Dry nose Dry cough Dry mouth Dry throat Sore throat Aversion to cold

Xing Su San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire. This pattern leads to symptoms such as fever, thirst, sweating and sore throat. Patients with Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or floating (Fu) pulses.

Within the Four-Levels theory, Dry-Heat is the first level of invasion of External Pathogens, when it still resides in the body's Exterior.

It is the combination of two pathogens: Heat and Dryness. Both Evils can hurt Body Fluids and as a result injures Yin.  As vicious circle, it makes the... read more about Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire

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

Dry-Cold

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

Symptoms: Fever Dry nose Dry skin No sweat Coughing Headaches Dry mouth Dry throat Scanty sputum Aversion to cold

Xing Su San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Dry-Cold. This pattern leads to symptoms such as dry nose, fever, headaches and aversion to cold. Patients with Dry-Cold typically exhibit tight (Jin) or floating (Fu) pulses.

During late autumn, Dry-Cold can penetrate the Defensive Qi and disturb its circulation in the Channels. The fight between the Defensive Qi and the external Pernicious Influence causes fever. The aversion to cold is due to the weakened Defensive Qi failing to warm the skin and muscles.  The Cold... read more about Dry-Cold

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

Phlegm

Xing Su 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

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

Exterior Dry Cold invading the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Symptoms: Phlegm Headaches Dry cough Dry throat Stuffy nose Chills without sweating

Xing Su San is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Exterior Dry Cold invading the Lungs. This pattern leads to symptoms such as headaches, chills without sweating, stuffy nose and dry throat. Patients with Exterior Dry Cold invading the Lungs typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thin white coating.

Learn more about Exterior Dry Cold invading the Lungs

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