Aster roots (Zi Wan) Stemona roots (Bai Bu) Platycodon roots (Jie Geng) Cynanchum roots and rhizomes (Bai Qian)

Chinese: 止嗽散

Pinyin: Zhǐ Sòu Sǎn

Other names: Stop Coughing Powder

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that transform Phlegm and extinguish Wind

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: PertussisAcute bronchitisChronic bronchitis and two other conditions

  1. Transforms Phlegm and stops coughing
  2. Disperses the Exterior
  3. Spreads the Lung Qi

Contraindications: This formula has a tendency to dry and should therefore not be used in treating... This formula has a tendency to dry and should therefore not be used in treating coughs associated with Yin Deficiency. It was designed for treating Wind-Cold and should not be used, without modification, in treating coughs due to Heat in the Lungs see more

Source date: 1732 AD

Source book: Awakening of the Mind in Medical Studies

Zhi Sou San is a 7-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Aster Roots (Zi Wan) and Stemona Roots (Bai Bu) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 1732 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that transform Phlegm and extinguish Wind. Its main actions are: 1) transforms Phlegm and stops coughing and 2) disperses the Exterior.

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.

From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as upper respiratory tract infections, acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the seven ingredients in Zhi Sou San, we review the patterns and conditions that Zhi Sou San helps treat.

The seven ingredients in Zhi Sou San

Zi Wan is a king ingredient in Zhi Sou San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Aster Roots (Zi Wan)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: Lung

Category: Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing

Zi Wan is able to warm without causing Heat as well as moisten without causing Coldness. It is better and is effective in stopping coughs and transforming Phlegm in both acute and chronic disorders.

Learn more about Aster Roots (Zi Wan)

Bai Bu is a king ingredient in Zhi Sou San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. Stemona Roots (Bai Bu)

Part used: The root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): BitterPungentSweet

Meridian affinity: Lung

Category: Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing

Bai Bu is able to warm without causing Heat as well as moisten without causing Coldness. It is better and is effective in stopping coughs and transforming Phlegm in both acute and chronic disorders.

Learn more about Stemona Roots (Bai Bu)

Jie Geng is a deputy ingredient in Zhi Sou 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

Jie Geng focuses on opening the Lung Qi Stagnation, by facilitating its spreading.  It assists the key herbs in treating the root of coughing.

Learn more about Platycodon Roots (Jie Geng)

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

4. Cynanchum Roots And Rhizomes (Bai Qian)

Part used: The root and rhizome

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: Lung

Category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

Bai Qian focuses on opening the Lung Qi Stagnation, by directing the Lung Qi downward.  It assists the key herbs in treating the root of coughing.

Learn more about Cynanchum Roots And Rhizomes (Bai Qian)

Jing Jie is an assistant ingredient in Zhi Sou San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

5. Japanese Catnip (Jing Jie)

Part used: Aerial portion and flowers, or the spikes only (in which case it is called Jing Jie Sui)

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: LiverLung

Category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

Jing Jie gives the formula a slight, Exterior-releasing (sweating) action that helps eliminate the lingering pathogenic influence.

Learn more about Japanese Catnip (Jing Jie)

Chen Pi is an assistant ingredient in Zhi Sou 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: LungSpleen

Category: Herbs that regulate Qi

In general Chen Pi's main actions are as follows: "Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs."

In the context of Zhi Sou San, it is used because it regulates the Qi to transform Phlegm.

Learn more about Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Zhi Sou San. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

7. Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLungSpleenStomach

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Gan Cao harmonizes the actions of the other herbs. It is very effective in treating throat disorders due to externally-contracted wind, when used together with Japanese catnip and Platycodon root. 

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

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