Tonification Herbs

This big category of herbs includes tonification for Qi, Blood, Yang, and Yin. Tonify cautiously! I know a number of Western herbalists who recommend tonification even when there is no deficiency. As a rule*, this is not true in Chinese medicine. We tonify when we see deficiency. To do otherwise will cause a systemic imbalance and our whole philosophy is based on keeping the body in dynamic balance.

*There’s a seeming caveat to this rule: Yu Ping Feng San. Many Chinese medical practitioners recommend taking Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Screen) 2 months prior to allergy and cold/flu season in order to boost immunity. Even so, I do not recommend this formula for people who don’t get allergies and who rarely get sick. I only suggest it for those who get seasonal allergies (pretty common here in Austin, Texas) or get sick often.

Many of the herbs you studied in the previous categories were Singles 1 and Singles 2 were for excesses…and excesses don’t need tonification! The herbs that are in this category are for deficiency cases.

A little more about the category you should know:

Qi tonics are often used with Yang tonics because Qi and Yang are so closely related. Qi tonics tend to be sweet in flavor (Chinese version of flavor, but sometimes sweet to the tastebuds too). Overuse of Qi tonics can cause a fullness or stagnation in the Middle Jiao, so they are frequently used with Qi regulators

Yang tonics are often used with Qi tonics because Qi and Yang are so similar. Yang tonics are warm and drying and can therefore easily overdry/overheat Yin and damage it. Yin herbs are frequently added to Yang tonic formulas to preserve that balance.

Yin and Blood tonics are often used together because Yin and Blood are deeply linked together. Both of these tonifying categories of herbs can be “cloying” – too rich – for the digestive system. Use them with caution for patients with Spleen dampness, fullness in the middle jiao, poor appetites, and diarrhea. Combine them with herbs that strengthen the Spleen and/or with herbs to relieve food stagnation.

Qi Tonification Herbs

Notes start on page 2 of the PDF linked above. aQi tonifiers are mostly about the Lung and Spleen with some (but less) emphasis on the Kidney and Heart.

Ren shen, xi yang shen, dang shen, tai zi shen (aka, hai er shen in some books), huang qi (fun thing to know not covered in the notes: don’t use it for autoimmune patients!), bai zhu, shan yao, bai bian dou, gan cao, da zao, yi tang, ci wu jia (again….you had it in another category too).

Blood Tonification Herbs

A “blood deficiency” in Chinese medicine doesn’t mean you’re a quart low. It means the quality of blood is not supporting the body, the mind, the emotions, and/or the spirit (like you can separate out any of those things!). When you speak of blood deficiency in TCM, you’re talking about Heart Blood deficiency and/or Liver Blood deficiency. Does that mean the Heart and Liver have different blood? No. But the symptoms of deficiency express differently for each one.

Fun little fact about bai shao and chi shao: they are often referred to as “shao yao” in older reference books. Both are from the peony plant with bai shao being from the white version and chi shao from the red. At some point in Chinese medical history they were separated into two different herbs. You’ll see this differentiation in the notes.

Dang gui, shu di huang, bai shao, he shou wu, e jiao, long yan rou.

Yang Tonification Herbs

Yang deficiency usually refers to Kidney yang, but one can also have a Heart yang deficiency (think COPD and CHF), and a Spleen yang deficiency. Kindey yang deficiency (and the other yang xu’s as well, but mostly Kidney) can cause sexual impotence and can affect both men and women, though men seem to take a greater hit on this. When you see the term “fortify” in the notes, know that this generally refers to correcting sexual dysfunction.

Remember that these herbs are generally quite warm and drying. Balance them accordingly with Yin tonifying herbs. Some references even say you can’t tonify yang without tonifying yin.

Lu rong, lu jiao, lu jiao jiao, lu jiao shang, rou cong rong, ba ji tian, ying yang huo (also called xian ling pi), xian mao, bu gu zhi, yi zhi ren, du zhong, xu duan, tu si zi, sha yuan zi, ge jie, dong chong xia cao, zi he che, hu tao ren, hai ma, jiu zi, yang qi shi

Yin Tonification Herbs

Because these herbs are spread out over 3 lectures, I linked them below. Just click on the ones you need to study and it will take you where you need to go.

Yin is the moist, cool, material foundation of the body while Yang is the active, warm, less solid part of physical existence. That’s why yin, blood, and body fluids are so closely associated. That’s also why yang and qi are so tightly identified. A thin pulse can indicate yin, blood, or fluid deficiency in the body. Be sure to differentiate between fluid/blood deficiency and yin deficiency before you prescribe yin herbs.

Because yin deficiency lowers the cool, moist component of the body, a person with yin deficiency can have deficient heat. You might choose to combine yin tonics with deficient heat clearing herbs.

Sha shen, mai dong (aka mai men dong), yu zhu, gou qi zi, sang shen, han lian cao, nu zhen zi, hei zhi ma, gui ban, bie jia, tian dong, shi hu, bai he, huang jing

Stabilize and Bind Herbs

Stabilizing indicates there is some leakage in the system and we need to help hold the resources. These herbs treat symptoms, not the root of the problem. Combine them with herbs that treat the underlying condition.

Stabilizing herbs are often used with expelling herbs to keep things from getting to “expelly.”

Stabilize the Exterior

Ma huang gen, fu xiao mai, nuo dan gen xu

Stabilize the Lung and Intestines

Starts on page 3.
Wu wei zi, wu mei, he zi, rou dou kou, chi shi zhi, wu bei zi, ying su ke

Stabilize the Kidney

Notes start on page 2. Leakage of sperm, leakage of urine, and excessive vaginal discharge are all a product of Kidney essence deficiency. Uterine bleeding can also fall into this category when it is out of the norm, but can also be linked to excess heat, blood stasis and more.

Shan zhu yu, fu pen zi, sang piao xiao, hai piao xiao, lian zi, qian shi, jin ying zi

Calm Shen/Spirit Herbs

The Heart and the shen/spirit are always linked. When the spirit/shen is disturbed it could be from excess, heat or phlegm or both overriding the basic functions of the Heart. Phlegm disturbing the heart is sometimes referred to as Phlegm Misting the Mind or Phlegm Misting the Portals of the Heart. The old Chinese view of the Heart is as a lantern with nine windows (the openings of the body). When the Heart is working properly the light from within shines brightly outward. Those “windows” also allow for a clear view of the world. When these portals are covered with Phlegm (whether literal or invisible), the view of the world is skewed and unclear as is the person’s communication with the outside world. Heat makes the blood and the spirit restless and causes sleepless nights, mania and more.

Deficiency can include blood, yin, and yang in relation to the Heart. Heart qi and yang deficiencies affect the shen, but not as much as excesses. Symptoms here are more physical.

Liver disturbances can also disturb the Shen, whether the Liver suffers from excess or deficiency. More on that later.

Zhu sha, long gu, suan zao ren, bai zi ren, ye jiao teng, yuan zhi

Subdue Liver Yang, Extinguish Liver Wind

SO many Liver syndromes!  Liver qi stagnation, Liver blood deficiency, Liver yin deficiency, Liver fire, Liver wind, Liver yang rising…. Oy! And they are all intertwined with the good possibility of one causing a cascade of others. One example: Spleen qi deficiency leading to poor blood quality. Poor blood quality leading to Liver blood deficiency, meaning blood and qi can’t flow well. That can cause Liver qi stagnation. Stagnation causes Liver heat which in turn damages Yin, causing

And they are all intertwined with the good possibility of one causing a cascade of others. One example: Spleen qi deficiency leading to poor blood quality. Poor blood quality leading to Liver blood deficiency, meaning blood and qi can’t flow well. That can cause Liver qi stagnation. Stagnation causes Liver heat which in turn damages Yin, causing more heat and snapping the connection and balance between Liver yin and Liver yang. Yang goes rising upward and eventually becomes Liver fire! Damn!

But nevermind that right now. What we are here to talk about is Liver yang rising and Liver wind. Regardless, that gives you an idea why these two are tied together.

Subdue Liver Yang Herbs

Remember those herbs in the Calm Shen section that anchored Heart/spirit? There is a very close relationship between Heart and Liver when the Shen is disturbed. The term used there was “anchor” but the term here is “subdue” Liver Yang. In Chinese, the word for anchor is “zhong zhen” which means to put something heavy down to stabilize that which is shaky. The word subdue, however, is the word “qian” which means subdue the yang.

Shi jue ming, zhen zhu mu, mu li, dai zhe shi, bai ji li

Extinguish Liver Wind, Stop Tremors

Some random thoughts about this category. 1) The terms “anchor” and “subdue” for floating yang are almost synonymous. In the notes, the term anchor refers to heavy substances like shells or minerals. They “pin down” the floating yang. Subdue refers to a less heavy substance. 2) This group of herbs doesn’t nourish yin, but you could add gui ban and bie jia among other herbs for this purpose. 3) Liver wind is mostly due to yin or blood deficiencies. 4) Wow, dead bugs smell nasty in a jar! 4a) Bugs in a raw formula will freak most patients out. Grind those bad boys up. And still, they will smell nasty. 4b) They work, though!

Ling yang jiao, gou teng, tian ma, niu huang, di long, quan xie, wu gong, jiang can.

Aromatics that Open Orifices

Notes start on page 5. These are aromatics that revive the brain or spirit.

She xiang, bing pian, su he xiang, shi chang pu

Expel Parasites

These are the classic types of intestinal worms: roundworms, hookworms, pinworms, tapeworms. If you intend to treat these, you need a lab analysis to confirm this….which is usually accurate, but not always. The advantage to treating with Chinese herbs is that the toxicity is low. It’s worth it for most people to try these if someone comes to you who can’t afford a doc or a lab analysis.

Shi jun zi, fei zi, bing lang, nan gua zi, guan zhong, ku lian gen pi, da suan

External Application

Page 3. You can use just about any herb externally. And these are not exclusively used externally unless noted. But they are used mostly externally…except for those last two, which are pretty danged toxic when used internally.

Ming fan, she chuang zi, liu huang, chan su.