Notes on This Category

• Herbs in this category are rich and tend to be greasy. Use caution when there is accumulation of dampness in the middle Jiao.
• These herbs are commonly combined with Qi tonics since Qi is necessary for blood production. They may also be combined with herbs to support their digestion (e.g., sha ren, chen pi, mu xiang, ji nei jin, shen qu, etc.) by promoting Qi circulation in the middle jiao.

The two major approaches to nourishing blood are:
1. Build blood directly with blood tonics.
2. Strengthen the digestive system (spleen Qi) to enhance the body’s own production of blood.
(A formula such as Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang, which is just Huang Qi [30g] and Dang Gui [9g], is a simple example of both approaches.)

• Also consider, as appropriate: Qi tonics, Yin tonics, Jing tonics; Gou qi zi, Sang shen, Bai zi ren, Ji xue teng, Dan shen, etc.

Bai Shao Yao – White Peony root

Nature: bitter, sour, slightly cold

Enters: Liver, Spleen

Actions: Nourishes blood; astringes Yin; softens the liver (by nourishing and astringing liver blood); relieves pain; subdues liver Yang rising; regulates the menses; adjusts the Ying and Wei; separates a mixture of Yin pathological factors.

• Blood deficiency: irregular menstruation, abdominal cramps during menstruation, uterine bleeding, vaginal discharge.
• Yin deficiency leading to floating Yang: night sweats, spontaneous sweating.
• Liver blood deficiency: hypochondriac pain, costal pain, spasm in the limbs.
• Liver Qi stagnation, liver attacking the spleen/stomach: flank, chest, epigastric, or abdominal pain.
• Liver Yang rising: dizziness, headache.
Ying/Wei disharmony: exterior wind-cold from deficiency patterns with continuous sweating that does not resolve the problem.
• Painful spasms in the abdomen, cramping pain or spasms in the hands and feet, abdominal pain associated with dysenteric disorders.
• Vaginal discharge, spermatorrhea.
• The liver, the general, can easily become stiff, stagnant, overpowering – Bai shao softens it.
• This herb has a downward energetic.
• May lower blood pressure.
• Use raw to pacify the liver. Dry-fry the herb to nourish the blood and harmonize the Ying and Wei.
• Never to be combined with Li lu.
• Compared to Dang gui, both are used for pain and blood deficiency patterns. Bai shao is more appropriate for blood deficiency accompanied by heat, while Dang gui is used more for blood deficiency accompanied by cold.
MLT: Antispasmodic, blood moving.
• King’s American Dispensatory (Lloyd/Felter)lists indications of this herb as “chorea, epilepsy, spasms, various nerve affections”
PFGC: Can astringe heat that has floated to the upper warmer and entice it down and drain it via urine.
• Due to its bitter essence, it can enter the gallbladder and boost bile production.
• Excellent at purging liver/gallbladder heat, eliminating tenesmus in dysentery or treating eye disorders involving swelling and pain.
• With Fu zi, it can astringe escaping original Yang and entice it back to the lower Jiao (must use a high dose of Bai shao in this case).
HF: A supplement with an anti-Gu nature, possessing acrid, toxin-resolving qualities, useful in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas.
Hsu: Anti-spasmodic, analgesic, CNS sedative, antibacterial, may help prevent development of gastric ulcer.
DY: Harmonizes the constructive Qi; constrains and protects Yin; nourishes the blood and constrains Yin without attracting nor blocking evils in the interior; nourishes stomach Yin; relieves tension, stops pain; tropism: the Yin division.
• With Chai hu to drain the liver without damaging liver Yin, nourish the liver without causing liver depression Qi stagnation, regulate the spleen, stop pain effectively, harmonize the interior and exterior, and constrain Yin while upbearing Yang. For such indications as:
– 1. Liver depression Qi stagnation causing disharmony between Qi and blood.
– 2. Vertigo, unclear vision, chest and lateral costal oppression, pain, and distention due to liver depression Qi stagnation or to disharmony between the exterior and interior.
– 3. Menstrual irregularities, dysmenorrhea, breast distention, low-grade fever during the menses, premenstrual syndrome, and fibrocystic breasts, all caused by liver depression Qi stagnation or disharmony between the liver and spleen.
• The combination of Bai shao and Chai hu is effective for the treatment of liver and digestive problems caused by liver depression Qi stagnation or liver-spleen or liver-stomach disharmony, such as subacute or chronic hepatitis, hepatomegaly, cholecystitis, gallstones, enteritis, and colitis.
• With Chi shao to nourish the blood, constrain Yin, stop pain, cool the blood without causing blood stasis, and drain and nourish the liver. For indications such as:
– 1. Persistent low-grade fever due to heat in the blood. (Add Sheng di, Di gu pi, and Mu dan pi.)
– 2. Dry mouth and tongue, red and painful eyes due to insufficiency of fluids or Yin caused by residual heat. (Wine mix-fry both herbs and add Xiang fu and Dang gui.)
– 3. Lateral costal and chest pain, abdominal pain and conglomerations due to blood stasis or liver depression Qi stagnation.
– 4. Menstrual irregularities or amenorrhea caused by blood stasis, blood deficiency, and/or liver depression Qi stagnation.
• With Gan cao to engender Yin (sour + sweet), calm the liver, fortify the spleen, supplement Qi and blood, harmonize the liver and spleen, soothe the sinews, and stop pain. In this combination, 6-10g Gan cao and 10-15g (up to 60g) of Bai shao can be used. For indications such as:
– 1. Weakness in the lower limbs and spasms and pain in the limbs due to disharmony between the Qi and the blood which causes inadequate nourishment of the sinews and vessels.
– 2. Abdominal pain due to liver-spleen disharmony. If either disorder is accompanied by cold signs, use wine mix-fried Bai shao and mix-fried Gan cao. If the disorder is accompanied by heat signs, use raw Bai shao (or Chi shao) and raw Gan cao.
– 3. Headaches due to blood deficiency. (Add He shou wu, Bai ji li, and Jiang can.)
• The combination of Bai shao and Gan cao is very effective for numerous problems accompanied by spasms and pain, such as gastritis or colitis, spasm of the gastrocnemius muscle in the leg, contraction of the limbs, tendinitis, lateral costal pain, and hiccups or stubborn vomiting caused by spasm of the diaphragm.
• With Gui zhi to harmonize Yin and Yang, the Qi and the blood, and the constructive and the defensive. This combination drains without damaging Yin, while constraining without retaining evils. They harmonize the vessels, relieve tension and stop pain, as well as support stomach Yin and spleen Yang, while regulating the spleen and stomach. For indications such as:
– 1. Common cold with fever, shivers, slight perspiration, no thirst, headache, thin white tongue fur, and a floating, moderate pulse or, in other words, a wind-cold exterior pattern with disharmony between the constructive and the defensive. (Take Gui Zhi Tang. 10 minutes later, eat very hot rice porridge, and stay well covered in bed to promote perspiration.)
– 2. Spontaneous perspiration and/or night sweats accompanied by fear of wind and cold, a cold feeling in the low back, and frequent catching of colds due to disharmony between the constructive and the defensive. (Use stir-fried Gui zhi.)
– 3. Chest and cardiac area pain due to heart Yang deficiency and disharmony between the Qi and blood. (Use 15-30g Gui zhi. In case of very cold limbs, Fu zi can be added.)
– 4. Abdominal pain with spasms and cramps due to deficiency cold and disharmony between the Qi and blood. (Dose Bai shao:Gui zhi::2:1. Use honey mix-fried Gui zhi and wine mix-fried Bai shao.)
– 5. Pain and/or numbness of the limbs due to disharmony between the Qi and blood. (Use stir-fried Gui zhi and wine mix-fried Bai shao.)
– 6. Vomiting and weakness during pregnancy accompanied by fear of cold, lack of appetite, nausea and a weak pulse in the cubit position due to disharmony of the spleen and stomach and the constructive and defensive. (Use stir-fried Gui zhi and wine mix-fried Bai shao.)
– 7. Weakness in the elderly, during convalescence, postpartum, and post-operatively with fatigue and lack of strength, fear of wind, and slight perspiration due to disharmony between the constructive and the defensive. (Use stir-fried Gui zhi.)
• In cases of vertigo, uncooked Bai shao should be used.
• In cases of liver-spleen disharmony causing diarrhea, Bai shao should be stir-fried until yellow.
• In cases of gynecological problems, wine mix-fried Bai shao should be used.
• In cases of chest or lateral costal pain, abdominal pain, or pain in the stomach area, wine mix-fried Bai shao should be used.

Dose: 6-30g

Dang Gui – Angelica sinensis root – “State of Return”

Nature: sweet, acrid, warm

Enters: Liver, Heart, Spleen

Actions: Nourishes blood; promotes blood (and Qi) circulation; harmonizes the blood; relieves pain; moistens the large intestine; regulates the menses; disperses cold; reduces swelling; expels pus; generates flesh.

• For any form of blood deficiency.
• Blood deficiency and stagnation: irregular menses, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea.
• Blood deficiency: ashen face, tinnitus, blurry vision, palpitations.
• Blood deficiency with chronic wind-damp Bi syndrome.
• Blood deficiency and cold: abdominal pain.
• Blood stasis (especially with cold from deficiency): pain, traumatic injury, Bi, carbuncles/boils.
• Blood deficiency leading to large intestine dryness: constipation.
• Useful for some sores or abscesses (where blood deficiency and stasis are involved).
Dang gui’s combination of nourishing and moving qualities means that it can nourish blood without blocking it and it can move blood without depleting it.
• Injected into acupoints in China for pain (neuralgias, ischemic, arthritis – this form of therapy is not used for acute pain, tumors, infections).
• May reduce vascular plaque formation.
• Compared to Bai shao, both are used for pain and blood deficiency patterns. Bai shao is more appropriate for blood deficiency accompanied by heat, while Dang gui is used more for blood deficiency accompanied by cold.
• Doctrine of signatures (to my eye, anyway [PLB]): shaped like a uterus.
• The four parts of Dang gui:
Dang Gui Tou: head of the root. Most tonifying, less ability to promote blood circulation. DY: Quickens the blood and stops bleeding. Often stir-fried until carbonized to reinforce its hemostatic action.
• Dang Gui Shen: body of the root. Slightly more tonifying than moving.
• Dang Gui Wei: tail of the root. More moving than tonifying. DY: Quickens the blood and breaks blood stasis. This part if often wine-processed to reinforce its action.
Dang Gui Xu: the beard of Dang gui – the rootlets of the main and secondary roots. DY: Dang gui xu quickens the blood and frees the flow of the network vessels. This part is often wine-processed to reinforce its action.
Quan Dang Gui: the entire root, which includes the four parts mentioned above. DY: It harmonizes the blood. Li Dong Yuan said, “The head stops bleeding and is directed upwards. The body nourishes the blood and is fixed to the center. The tails break the blood and flow downward. The whole root quickens the blood and treats everything.”
MLT: Rich in nutrients, including vitamin B-12, folic acid, biotin.
• Stimulates hematopoeisis; also has antiplatelet action.
• One compound stimulates the uterus while another relaxes it and increases DNA synthesis and growth of uterine tissue.
• For all forms of anemia, including pernicious.
BII: Regulates estrogen, tones the uterus.
Yoga: Choraka: VPK=; P+ (in excess)
• Tonic, emmenagogue, rejuvenative (especially for Vata), diaphoretic, antispasmodic, analgesic, anti-arthritic.
• Topical: for wounds, ulcers, itching, and to nourish and beautify the skin.
Hsu: The non-volatile water-soluble compounds stimulate uterine muscle, while the volatile oil inhibits (relaxes) uterine muscle.
• Therefore, to contract the uterus, decoct for a long time (cook off the volatile oil).
• To relax the uterus, add Dang gui at the end and cook over low heat and/or for short duration.
PFGC: Li Dong Yuan said the head of Dang gui controls bleeding and entices its effect to go upward, the body nourishes blood and keeps its effect in the central region, and the tail cracks blood and causes its effect to go down. The entire plant [taken as a whole] vitalizes blood but does not much move around the body.
• With Chuan xiong, Dang gui gains the momentum of budding growth and nourishment.
• With Bai shao, the combination is an essential remedy to rescue Yin and astringe Yang.
Dang gui can harmonize blood in cases of Qi rebellion resulting in coughing – once the blood is harmonized, the Qi will descend.
Dang gui can disperse cold stasis causing diarrhea, abdominal pain, lumbar pain, or headache.
• For disorders of the Chong Mai manifesting in Qi counterflow and internal distress.
• Disorders of Dai Mai manifesting in abdominal pain and a sensation of the lumbar region being submerged in water.
• Dry skin due to undernourished flesh and muscles.
• Can moisten Lung dryness, can smooth aggravation of liver wood.
• Its moistening effect reaches all tissues and muscles.
• Can move blood and control bleeding – useful for hematemesis and epistaxis (for this use, it is best to fry it in vinegar to emphasize its descending effect.
• Its ability to disperse the surface is weak, but it is still an excellent remedy to dispel wind (by moving blood) – good for post-partum seizures.
HF: A supplement with an anti-Gu nature, possessing acrid, toxin-resolving qualities, useful in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas.
DY: Dispels stasis; downbears the Qi, stops cough, and calms asthma.
Dang gui is probably the best Chinese herb for treating blood stasis due to blood deficiency or accompanied by blood deficiency.
Dang gui, or rather Quan dang gui (whole Dang gui), harmonizes the blood. Harmonizing the blood is a term which (in the Chinese materia medica) is almost specific to Dang gui. This is because Dang gui is one of the few medicinal substances which nourishes and moves the blood simultaneously (other substances which possess both properties only mildly nourish the blood).
• To stop cough and calm asthma, the whole herb (Quan dang gui) should be used.
Dang gui and Shu di are probably the two most effective medicinal substances for treating constipation due to blood deficiency. Dang gui you, the oil extracted from Dang gui, is particularly indicated for nourishing the blood, moistening dryness, moistening the intestines, and promoting defecation.
• With Chuan xiong to move the Qi and quicken the blood without damaging the blood, to nourish the blood without producing stasis, to dispel stasis and stop pain. For the following indications, both herbs should be wine-processed, though uncooked Chuan xiong may be used in the case of headaches or dermatological problems:
– 1. Menstrual irregularities, dysmenorrhea, and postpartum abdominal pain due to blood stasis that may be mixed with Qi stagnation. (Xiong Gui San)
– 2. Rheumatic pain due to wind-dampness and blood vacuity.
– 3. Headaches due to blood deficiency and/or blood stasis. (Jia Wei Si Wu Tang)
– 4. Wounds, ulcers, or enduring cutaneous inflammations due to Qi and blood vacuity with Qi and blood stagnation. (Tou Nong San)
• With Huang qi to supplement the Qi to strongly engender and transform blood, to effectively supplement the Qi and blood. For the following indications, wine mix-fried Dang gui and honey mix-fried Huang qi should be used. Also, the whole Dang gui root (Quan dang gui) or the body of Dang gui (Dang gui or Dang gui shen) should be used. The dosage of Dang gui for the following indications should be relatively low if there is Qi deficiency and weakness in the middle burner.
– 1. Delayed menstruation (a long cycle), postpartum weakness, agalactia due to Qi and blood deficiency. (Shi Quan Da Bu Tang)
– 2. Low-grade fever caused by blood deficiency. (Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang) Wu Kun of the Ming dynasty said, “When the blood is full, the body is cool. When the blood is vacuous, the body is warm.”
– 3. Sores and welling abscesses that do not heal, due to blood and Qi deficiency. (Tou Nong San)
– 4. Numbness of the limbs due to deficient blood not nourishing the sinews.
– 5. Various hemorrhages due to Qi not containing the blood within the vessels. (Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang)
• With Shu di to nourish blood, enrich Yin, supplement the liver and kidneys, downbear the Lung Qi and promote Qi intake by the kidneys, stop cough, and calm asthma. For indications such as:
– 1. Chronic cough and/or asthma due to Yin deficiency of the kidneys associated with blood deficiency. If there is blood deficiency, Qi lacks its root. This can create an imbalance in the upbearing and downbearing function of the Qi with Lung Qi deficiency. If the kidneys are weak, they cannot insure their function of Qi intake. This then results in Qi counterflow and asthma. For these indications, this combination can be found in Jin Shui Liu Jun Jian.
– 2. Blood deficiency. (Si Wu Tang)
– 3. Constipation due to blood deficiency.
PCBDP: In a clinical trial, it was shown to be effective in improving abnormal protein metabolism in 60% of patients with chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver, and it increased the erythrocyte and platelet count in many patients.

Dose: 3-15g

E Jiao – Ass Hide Gelatin

Nature: sweet, neutral

Enters: Lung, Liver, Kidney

Actions: Stops bleeding; nourishes blood; nourishes Lung Yin and moistens the Lungs.

• Any bleeding leading to blood deficiency: hematemesis, hemafecia, epistaxis, uterine bleeding, consumptive disorders with coughing of blood.
• Blood deficiency: dizziness, palpitations, sallow face, vertigo, insomnia.
• Liver Yin deficiency: restlessness, insomnia.
• Lung Yin deficiency: dry cough, asthma.
• Increases WBC’s for cancer, anemia.
• Greasier than Shu di (commonly combined with herbs such as Pei lan, Huo xiang, etc.).
• The substance of choice for blood deficiency with concurrent loss of blood.
• Usually dissolved into a strained decoction or wine, or used in pills.
MLT: Regularly taken by older women to counteract symptoms of dryness associated with aging.
Hsu: Aids in blood clotting, increases RBC count and amount of hemoglobin in the blood, aids against shock due to external wounds.
DY: With Huang lian to drain fire and enrich Yin according to the method of draining the south (i.e. fire) and supplementing the north (i.e. water), reestablish the interaction between the heart and kidneys, quiet the spirit, and treat dysentery damaging Yin. For indications such as:
– 1. Vexation, agitation, and insomnia due to febrile disease which has damaged Yin, deficiency fire, or heart and kidneys not communicating. (Huang Lian E Jiao Tang) Unprepared, or, even better, wine-processed Huang lian should be used.
– 2. Dysentery which damages Yin with pus and blood in the stools due to damp-heat in the large intestine.
– This is a key pair for heart-kidney disharmony, with symptoms mentioned above, plus many psychological disorders, loss of memory, profuse dreams, and tendency to wake up easily and frequently.
• Some treatises say that when E jiao is stored and aged, it is of superior quality. It is then called Chen e jiao.
E jiao has a remarkable ability to promote red blood cell production.

Dose: 3-15g

He Shou Wu – Polygonum multiflorum root – “Mr. He’s Black Hair”

Nature: bitter, sweet, astringent, slightly warm

Enters: Liver, Kidney

Actions: Nourishes blood; augments the Jing; secures the Jing and stops leakage; tonifies the liver and kidneys; eliminates toxicity and treats malaria; relieves fire toxicity; moistens the large intestine and promotes bowel movement; eliminates internal wind and expels wind from the skin (through nourishing blood).

• Jing and blood/Yin deficiency: dizziness, blurry vision, early greying of the hair, weakness of the lumbar region and knees, soreness in the extremities, insomnia, seminal emission, uterine bleeding.
• Jing leakage: nocturnal emission, premature ejaculation, vaginal discharge.
• Jing and blood deficiency: chronic malaria, carbuncles, lumps, constipation.
• Fire toxicity: carbuncles, neck lumps, goiter, sores, scrofula.
• Blood deficiency: wind rash with itching.
• Bensky/Gamble: compared to Shu di, He shou wu is thought to focus more on the liver, while Shu di focuses more on the kidneys.
PLB: when He shou wu is prepared with black beans, its action is focused more on the kidneys.
He shou wu is drier than Shu di. It does not have Shu di’s viscous, cloying properties, does not impair digestion, and is acceptable for use with mild dampness.
• Weaker than Shu di at nourishing blood, stronger than Shu di at nourishing Jing.
• Use the prepared form to nourish Jing and blood and tonify the liver and kidneys.
• Use the dry form to moisten the large intestine for constipation and for its anti-inflammatory action.
• Lowers serum cholesterol.
• Widely used for hypertension and coronary heart disease.
• Do not cook this herb in a steel vessel – it alters the chemistry of the herb.
• This herb is also known (mistakenly) as Fo ti tieng.
MLT: Often steamed with black soy beans and yellow rice wine (giving it a reddish-brown color) to increase its tonic properties.
• Its chemistry resembles human adrenocorticoids.
• Contains much lecithin (may be responsible for the herb’s cholesterol-controlling effects).
• Reduces the heart rate while slightly increasing circulation of blood through the heart.
• Very good for lumbar pain from blood/Jing deficiency.
HF: A supplement with an anti-Gu nature, possessing acrid, toxin-resolving qualities, useful in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas.
BF: In He Shou Wu Lu (Song of He Shou Wu), it is said that this herb boosts the Qi.
• In Dian Nan Ben Cao, it is said that this herb astringes the Jing and hardens the kidneys.
• In Kai Bao Ben Cao, it is said that this herb mainly treats scrofula, disperses welling abscesses and swellings, treats head and face wind sores and the five kinds of hemorrhoids, stops heart pain, boosts the blood and qi, blackens the hair, brightens the color of the cheeks, and also treats various women’s postpartum and abnormal vaginal discharge diseases (several of these patterns involve damp-heat).
Yoga: P, V-; K and ama+ (in excess)
• Tonic, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac, astringent, nervine.
• For anemia, neurasthenia, impotence, low back pain, enlarged lymph glands, arteriosclerosis, diabetes.
• With Gotu kola to counteract aging (He shou wu for the tissues, Gotu kola for the mind).
Hsu: Purgative (by anthraquinone derivatives) – stimulates intestinal peristalsis; inhibits increase in serum cholesterol, decreases absorption of cholesterol from the alimentary canal, prevents retention of lipid in serum or inhibits deposition of lipid on inner membrane of arteries; antiviral; cardiotonic.

Dose: 9-30g

Long Yan Rou – Longan fruit – “Dragon Eye Flesh”

Nature: sweet, warm

Enters: Heart, Spleen

Actions: Tonifies Qi and nourishes blood of the spleen and heart; calms the Shen.

• Heart and spleen blood and Qi deficiency: insomnia, palpitations, poor memory, dizziness.
• Especially for problems associated with excessive pensiveness or overwork.
• Often eaten alone or taken as an infusion.
LL: Very warm.

Dose: 6-15g (to 30)

Shu Di Huang – Rehmannia root (Wine-cooked) – “Cooked Earth Yellow”

Nature: sweet, slightly warm

Enters: Liver, Heart, Kidney

Actions: Nourishes blood and Yin; supports the Jing and marrow.

• Blood deficiency: sallow face, dizziness, insomnia, palpitations, irregular menstruation, uterine bleeding, postpartum bleeding.
• Kidney Yin deficiency: tidal fever, night sweats, seminal emission, steaming bone disorder, wasting and thirsting disorder (may correspond with diabetes), low back and joint pain, vertigo.
• Jing and blood/Yin deficiency: weak lumbar region, knees and lower extremities, dizziness, poor hearing and vision, early greying of hair.
• Very greasy – can cause nausea and damage the digestion (often combined with or toasted with Chen pi and Sha ren).
Shu di’s function to nourish the Jing is not as strong as Lu rong.
• May lower blood pressure and serum cholesterol.
• Bensky/Gamble: compared to He shou wu, Shu di is thought to focus more on the kidneys, while He shou wu focuses more on the liver. [Though preparing He shou wu with black soy beans enhances its action on the kidneys.]
PFGC: Treats asthma due to Yin deficiency and failure of the kidneys to absorb Qi.
• Taxation cough.
• Kidney deficiency leading to inhibition of the kidneys’ filtering process, causing decreased urination and eventually edema.
• Treats injury to the Yin layer of all organ networks.
Hsu: Cardiotonic; dilates renal blood vessels, diuretic; hypoglycemiant.
Yoga: P, V-; K and Ama +
• Tonic, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac, demulcent, laxative, emmenagogue.
• For weak kidneys, lumbar pain, sexual debility, irregular menses, cirrhosis, anemia, hair loss, diabetes, senility.
DY: With Dang gui to nourish blood, enrich Yin, supplement the liver and kidneys, downbear the Lung Qi and promote Qi intake by the kidneys, stop cough, and calm asthma. See Dang gui for specific indications and notes.
Shu di and Dang gui are probably the two most effective medicinal substances for treating constipation due to blood deficiency.
Shu di is incompatible with animal blood, onions, chives, turnips, radishes, and garlic.

Dose: 9-30g