• Because the herbs in this category are quite cold and bitter, use them with caution in cases of body fluid injury or deficiency of the spleen and/or stomach.
• Herbs in this category are commonly combined with:
A. Herbs that strengthen the spleen and stomach, when there is deficiency of these organs.
B. Herbs that nourish Yin, when there is injury of body fluids by heat or the patient has pre-existing Yin deficiency.
C. Herbs that clear heat and reduce fire, when there is fire.
D. Herbs that clear heat and eliminate toxicity, when there is toxicity.
In general, these herbs are related to or bear close resemblance to the class of herbs that in Western herbalism are called “bitter tonics.” This use of the word “tonic” is somewhat different from the Chinese concept of a tonic. These herbs are considered tonics because they are useful for atonic conditions of membranes, muscles, and other tissues – particularly of the gastrointestinal tract. Also, based on the doctrine of signatures, yellow herbs are said to be useful for yellow conditions (e.g. thick yellow tongue coat indicating damp-heat, the yellowness of jaundice indicating [yang-type] damp-heat, yellow phlegm), and to affect organs that process yellow fluids – urine and bile (i.e. the biliary tract and urinary tract). For these purposes (mainly digestive weakness) they are prescribed in much smaller doses than those given in Chinese herbalism for clearing damp-heat. Typical doses of the bitters are a few drops of tincture in water (up to about 60 drops), three times daily, which might be equivalent to something from 0.02g to a maximum of 1.5 g of the herb daily. When using these herbs in the Chinese doses given below, they may be wisely combined with protective/restorative supplements (e.g., warming herbs such as sheng jiang; moderating herbs such as gan cao, da zao; middle jiao rectifying herbs such as chen pi, mu xiang; spleen Qi tonics; probiotics; l-glutamine; zinc-carnosine; etc.) when appropriate.
Also consider to clear Damp-Heat, when appropriate: Bai hua she she cao, bai tou weng, bai xian pi, ban lan gen, chuan xin lian, jin yin hua, ma chi xian, pu gong ying, shan dou gen, tu fu ling, yu xing cao, hu huang lian, qin jiao, xi xian cao, pei lan, bi xie, bian xu, che qian zi, chi xiao dou, deng xin cao, di fu zi, dong gua ren, dong kui zi, hai jin sha, hua shi, jin qian cao, mu tong, qu mai, shi wei, tong cao, yi yi ren, yin chen hao, ze xie, da huang, gan sui, qian niu zi, chuan lian zi, mu xiang, hu zhang, niu xi, si gua lou, yi mu cao, chun gen pi, bai mao gen, di yu, huai hua, etc.
See also herbs that also clear heat in the Drain Damp category, Cool Herbs that Resolve Phlegm category, etc.
The first three herbs in this category, plus Zhi zi comprise the formula Huang Lian Jie Du Tang.