Lithospermum roots (Zi Cao) Dong quai (Dang Gui) Sesame oil (Ma You) Beeswax (Feng La)

Chinese: 紫当膏

Pinyin: Zǐ Dāng Gāo

Other names: Lithospermum and Tangkuei Ointment

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula category: External formulas for External disorders

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: EczemaSunburnLip sores and three other conditions

  1. Clears Heat and cools the Blood
  2. Resolves toxicity
  3. Moistens Dryness
  4. Relieves pain and itching

Source date: 1831 AD

Source book: Complete Book of Patterns and Treatments in External Medicine

Zi Dang Gao is a 4-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Lithospermum Roots (Zi Cao) and Dong Quai (Dang Gui) as principal ingredients.

Invented in 1831 AD, it belongs to the category of external formulas for External disorders. Its main actions are: 1) clears Heat and cools the Blood and 2) resolves toxicity .

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 Zi Dang Gao is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Toxic-Heat. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as lip sores, eczema or psoriasis for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the four ingredients in Zi Dang Gao, we review the patterns and conditions that Zi Dang Gao helps treat.

The four ingredients in Zi Dang Gao

Zi Cao is a king ingredient in Zi Dang Gao. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Lithospermum Roots (Zi Cao)

Part used: The root

Nature: Cold

Taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLiverPericardium

Category: Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity

Zi Cao clears Heat, cools the Blood, and resolves Toxicity. When the Toxic-Heat are resolved and the damaged skin is moistened, the pain and itching will cease.

Learn more about Lithospermum Roots (Zi Cao)

Dang Gui is a king ingredient in Zi Dang Gao. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

2. Dong Quai (Dang Gui)

Part used: Dried root

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: HeartLiverSpleen

Category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

Dang Gui moistens the skin and invigorates the Blood. When the Toxic-Heat are resolved and the damaged skin is moistened, the pain and itching will cease.

Learn more about Dong Quai (Dang Gui)

Ma You is an envoy ingredient in Zi Dang Gao. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

3. Sesame Oil (Ma You)

Part used: Pressed oil

Nature: Cool

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: Large intestine

Category: Herbs for external application

In general Ma You's main actions are as follows: "Moistens the Large Intestines and unblock stools. Neutralizes toxins. "

In the context of Zi Dang Gao, it is used because it neutralizes toxins.

Learn more about Sesame Oil (Ma You)

Feng La is an envoy ingredient in Zi Dang Gao. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

4. Beeswax (Feng La)

Part used: The wax

Nature: Warm

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: Spleen

Category: Herbs for external application

Feng La detoxifies, stops discharge and relives pain. It also promotes wound healing and the generation or new tissues.

Learn more about Beeswax (Feng La)

Zi Dang Gao is used to treat Toxic-Heat

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 Zi Dang Gao is mostly used to treat the pattern "Toxic-Heat" which we describe below.

But before we delve into Toxic-Heat here is an overview of the Western conditions it is commonly associated with:

Lip sores Eczema Psoriasis Seborrheic dermatitis Chilblains minor burns Sunburn

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Zi Dang Gao treats lip sores" for instance. Rather, Zi Dang Gao is used to treat Toxic-Heat, which is sometimes the root cause behind lip sores.

Now let's look at Toxic-Heat, a pattern that TCM practitioners commonly treat with Zi Dang Gao.

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

Toxic-Heat

Zi Dang Gao is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Toxic-Heat. This pattern leads to symptoms such as fever, swellings, pus and boils. Patients with Toxic-Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu) pulses as well as Red tongue with yellow coating.

There are two types of Toxic-Heat. One type is called Toxic-Heat Stagnation, which mainly happens in Channels or other surfaces like skins, throat, lymph or mouth. The symptoms include pain, redness and swollen in throat as well as skin pustule and rush. Acne during teenage time is mainly due to... read more about Toxic-Heat

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