My Favorite Herbal Formula

There are over 370 single herbs and over 185 traditional formulas (Chinese Medicine related) that we have to memorize in school and in order to take the boards. Once I finished the hardest test of my life, the Herbology National Board Exam, and the understated word "Pass" appeared on the screen, I imagined all the detailed information spill out of my ears and onto the floor. Now, as a clinical supervisor, I'm having to recall that stale information again.

To give you an example of the complexities of herbology, let me tell you about my all time favorite herbal formula: Xiao Yao San.

Xiao Yao San (“Shaow-Yaow-Saan”) is known in English as “Free and Easy Wanderer”. What a great name, right? This formula is one of the most popular formulas known today and is said to "move Liver Qi while strengthening the Spleen and nourishing blood". Now what does all this mumbo jumbo mean?

The liver, in Chinese medicine, is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (our vital energy), storing blood, and providing nourishment to the body (especially the eyes). When Qi flow is not "smooth" it is known as stagnation. Symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation include pain, tension, depression, irritability, high blood pressure, strained eyes, headaches, pain along the chest and sides of the body, bitter taste in the mouth, irregular and painful menstruation with PMS, and more.

The main thing that can cause Liver Qi Stagnation is stress. Most emotions, actually, affect the Liver in some way. Once the Liver is stagnant, other organ systems can be affected. The most common, and easiest to understand, is its relationship with the Spleen. The Spleen, in Chinese medicine, is very much involved with digestion (a little different than Western medicine). So, when the Liver is stagnating, or "overacting", on the Spleen, the digestion can be affected. A great example of this would be feeling bloated, gassy, and having loose stools after a night of drinking or after a stressful/emotional situation.

Xiao Yao San (Free and Easy Wanderer) moves Liver Qi, making everything flow smoothly and abundantly again. It also takes care of the Spleen to repair any imbalances that likely happened. This formula is said to enhance mood and manage stress due to the challenge of daily life or premenstrual tension.

DISCLAIMER: Chinese herbal formulas are not like supplements. One size does not fit all and herbal formulas should only be taken if prescribed by a licensed herbalist. Just because you may feel stressed or think you match the description above (because really, who doesn't) does NOT mean this is the right formula for you. I would need to feel your pulses and have a consultation before knowing which formula is right for you and your pattern diagnosis.

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