Last February, Dr. Huang Huang gave a 4 day seminar on the Ten Key Formula Families in San Francisco.  Here is a link to view an excerpt of this seminar pertaining to Zhi Gan Cao Tang. (Eric Brand is the translator for this excerpt)   Below is written material about the formula from Dr. Huang Huang, translated by Sharon Weizenbaum.  If you are interested, the entire course is available by going to This Link.

Dr. Huang Huang writes on Zhi Gan Cao Tang

Formula Constituents

Zhi Gan Cao        12-24 grams
Sheng Jiang        9-18
Ren Shen             6-12
Sheng Di Huang  50-100
Gui Zhi                 9-18
E Jiao                   6-12
Mai Men Dong    12-24
Huo Ma Ren        12-24
Da Zao                30-60

Formula Cooking Method

For the above 9 ingredients, use seven sheng of clear wine and eight sheng of water.  First boil eight ingredients to get three sheng and remove the dregs.  Add the E Jiao and warm until it is completely dissolved.  Take one sheng warm and drink 3 times a day.

Original Text

  1. When there is cold damage, knotted pulse and heart pulsations, Zhi Gan Cao Tang rules (177)
  2. The Qian Jin Yi says that Zhi Gan Cao Tang returns the pulse:  It treats deficiency and depletion with sweating and stuffiness with knotted pulsations. This keeps going without cease.
  3. The Wai Tai says that Zhi Gan Cao Tang treats Lung wilt with excessive saliva and 温温液液 (?) in the heart. (Jin Gui Yao Lue, chapter 7 appendix)

Formula Presentation

  1. Knotted pulse and heart pulsations
  2. Emaciation with a wan withered facial complexion and dry skin
  3. Cough, chest oppression, shortness of breath and bleeding.

Formula Application

  1. Viral carditis
  2. Abnormal sinus syndrome
  3. Rheumatic heart disease, coronary heart disease and 高心病.  (?)
  4. Bleeding illnesses, blood illnesses and trauma with bleeding.
  5. Post chemotherapy for cancers in which the body is severely depleted and weak.
  6. Pulmonary tuberculosis, bronchial asthma, lung abscess and cardiopulmonary disease.


  1. In ancient times, this formula was used to stop bleeding and to strengthen.  However, in later generations it is often used not only to stop bleeding but also for patients who are emaciated, weak and depleted.
  2. Presently this formula is used to treat arrhythmias but in relation to this there are two important points to pay attention to.
    1. This formula does not treat all abnormal heartbeats.  In general it is for people whose physiques are not well developed and who are clearly emaciated.
    2. The pulse is knotted and at the same time there are palpitations.  These symptoms emerge together.  The first symptom is one that the practitioner feels while the second is one that is felt by the patient subjectively.  This is an internal thumping that happens spontaneously.  If there is a knotted pulse without these pulsations then this formula will not be as effective.
  3. When this formula is used for serious acute disease presentations, the dosages are important to attain the desired goal.  In these cases Sheng Di, Gan Cao and Gui Zhi should be used in large amounts.  When this formula is used to recuperate from chronic illness, for vegetarians or delicate body types then smaller dosages will do.  One package can be used for two or three days even.  If the dosage is too big it could cause indigestion, distention or diarrhea.
  4. The amount of Gan Cao in this formula is large.  The cause of the illness differs from person to person.  If it is a serious acute illness with abnormal heart rhythms then it is appropriate to use large amounts.  On the other hand, when one is recuperating from a chronic illness it does not need to be a large dose.  One can take 6-12 grams and that will suffice.  You should pay attention to any adverse reactions to large dosages of Gan Cao such as water swelling, weakness of the four limbs, hypertension and reduced blood potassium.
  5. Cook this formula a long time and add wine.  This is the classic instruction.  When cooking the formula “clear wine” is to be added and cooked for a long time.  In the past, rice wine was called clear wine.  The alcohol content is not high and after cooking the alcohol volatizes and what is left is a very nutritious substance.  In modern times the process of adding wine and cooking for a long time has shown to have a nutritional effect.  Cooking Di Huang with wine is also the usual practice of Zhang Zhong in his classic formula.
  6. This formula is richly nutritious.  After decocting and concentrating the liquid, it can be made into syrup and used as a medicine in the winter.  This is quite convenient.
  7. When determining if this formula has been effective, you will primarily want to observe whether or not the appetite and spirit have returned to normal and also whether or not the bowels are functioning easily.  For the long term you will want to see the body weight go up and if the nourishment is good.  If the formula is not appropriate the response will be diarrhea and abdominal distention.