Prepared aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) Atractylodes rhizomes (Bai Zhu) Poria-cocos mushrooms (Fu Ling) White peony roots (Bai Shao)

Zhen Wu Tang

Chinese: 真武汤

Pinyin: Zhēn Wǔ Tāng

Other names: True Warrior Decoction, Black Warrior Decoction, Vitality Combination

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that warm and transform water and Dampness

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: SciaticaHypertensionHypothyroidism and fourteen other conditions

  1. Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys
  2. Eliminates Dampness

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Discussion of Cold Damage

Zhen Wu Tang is a 5-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that warm and transform water and Dampness. Its main actions are: 1) warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys and 2) eliminates Dampness.

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 Zhen Wu Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Phlegm in the Joints, Spleen Yang Deficiency or Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as congestive heart failure, chronic glomerulonephritis or hyperaldosteronism for instance.

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

The five ingredients in Zhen Wu Tang

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

1. Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi)

Part used: Processed daughter root

Nature: Hot

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartKidney

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

Zhi Fu Zi tonifies the Fire at the Gate of Vitality, restores the Kidney Yang, and thereby enables the Kidneys to resume their function of transforming water.

Learn more about Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi)

Bai Zhu is a deputy ingredient in Zhen Wu Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

2. Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomach

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Bai Zhu works together with Poria-Cocos mushroom (Fu Ling), another deputy herb here, to strengthen the Spleen and promote urination.

Learn more about Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu)

Fu Ling is a deputy ingredient in Zhen Wu Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

3. 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."

In the context of Zhen Wu Tang, it is used because it drains through the urine the Dampness and pathogenic water that has been retained in the body.

Learn more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling)

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

4. White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): BitterSour

Meridian affinity: SpleenLiver

Category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

Bai Shao preserves the Yin and alleviates pain. It prevents the dry, hot herbs that promote urination from injuring the Yin.

Learn more about White Peony Roots (Bai Shao)

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

5. 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 warms and dispels the pathogenic water and thereby strengthens the actions of the deputy herbs. It disseminates the Lung Qi, warms the Stomach, and assists Prepared aconite (Zhi Fu Zi), the key herb in this formula, by dispelling the Dampness that has overflowed into the flesh and skin.

Learn more about Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang)

Conditions and patterns for which Zhen Wu 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 Zhen Wu Tang is used by TCM practitioners to treat four 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:

Congestive heart failure Chronic glomerulonephritis Hyperaldosteronism Hypothyroidism Ascites from cirrhosis Meniere's disease Pelvic inflammatory disease Rheumatoid arthritis Hypertension Orthostatic hypotension Basilar insufficiency Osteoarthritis Sciatica Lumbar disc disease Piriformis syndrome Trigeminal neuralgia Postconcussion headache

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

Now let's look at the four patterns commonly treated with Zhen Wu Tang.

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

Phlegm in the Joints

Zhen Wu Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Phlegm in the Joints. This pattern leads to symptoms such as bone deformities, heaviness of achiness in the joints of limbs, numbness in the limbs and numbness of the muscles.

According to Chinese medicine, chronic rheumatoid arthritis or arthritis in general is seen as a form of Phlegm. As a reminder Phlegm occurs when the Body Fluids accumulate and become Stagnant during a long period of time. If they do so in the joints, this Phlegm manifests itself in arthritis and... read more about Phlegm in the Joints

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

Spleen Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Symptoms: Edema Fatigue Cold limbs Weak Limbs Loose stools Poor appetite Feeling of cold Vagina discharge

Zhen Wu Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Spleen Yang Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as cold limbs, feeling of cold, loose stools and edema. Patients with Spleen Yang Deficiency typically exhibit deep (Chen), slow (Chi) or weak (Ruo) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Generally speaking, Spleen Yang Deficiency often develops from Spleen Qi Deficiency, but it is more extensive and severe, with additional Cold symptoms, such as a cold feeling and cold limbs. It is because Spleen Yang fails to warm the body and Organs. Because of that, the body metabolism get... read more about Spleen Yang Deficiency

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

Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency

Zhen Wu Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as abdominal pain that worsens with cold, urinary difficulty, deep aching and heaviness in the extremities and dizziness. Patients with Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency typically exhibit deep (Chen) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Learn more about Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency

The Interior in Chinese Medicine is one of the so-called "Eight Principles". Learn more about Interior in Chinese Medicine

Exterior Cold invading the Interior

Zhen Wu Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Exterior Cold invading the Interior. This pattern leads to symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, hypochondriac pain and chills. Patients with Exterior Cold invading the Interior typically exhibit tight (Jin) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Learn more about Exterior Cold invading the Interior

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