In my last article, “Fool’s Cold: The Improper Use of Yin Qiao San,” I promised to share some of my favorite formulas for treating the common cold. To avoid creating one monolithic post, I’m going to do a series of articles with each one focusing on a specific formula. You will note that many of the formulas I share are from Kan Herb Company. I used to work at Kan as an herbal consultant, so I am very familiar with their formulas, and I know the level of quality-control they put into their products (including testing for heavy metals, microbes, and pesticides). While I have yet to be impressed with teapills or tablets from any company, I have found Kan’s liquid extracts to be quite potent.
Dispel Invasion (Jing Fang Bai Du San)
Dispel Invasion is based on Jing Fang Bai Du San (the Plum Flower version is called “Release the Exterior Teapills”). According to Chinese medicine theory, this formula is indicated for wind-cold-damp. I saw a lot of this presentation when I was living and practicing in Santa Cruz, CA. During the fall and winter months, it can be especially cold and damp in the mornings—especially when the fog rolls in. Jing Fang Bai Du San is designed to treat the following symptoms: fever and chills without sweating, pain and stiffness of the head/neck, and body aches/pains; the tongue coat will be thin and white, and the pulse will be floating (Bensky & Barolet, p. 54).
Here are the herbs that comprise this formula along with their relevant Chinese medicine actions (herbs that the Kan formula omits are marked with an asterisk and herbs that the formula adds are in brackets):
Jing Jie: releases the exterior (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 14); when combined with Fang Feng and Zi Su Ye, it resolves the exterior (Jiao, 2001, p. 16); used for both wind-cold and wind-heat patterns (Jiao, 2001, p. 16).
Fang Feng: releases the exterior (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 17); expels wind-dampness and alleviates pain (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 17); when combined with Jing Jie and Zi Su Ye, it resolves the exterior (Jiao, 2001, p. 16).
Chai Hu: raises and disperses to vent the exterior and drain heat (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 75).
Qian Hu*: directs qi downward and disperses phlegm (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 376); re-establishes the normal flow of Lung qi (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 377); rectifies qi and transforms phlegm (Jiao, p. 169).
Chuan Xiong: expels wind and alleviates pain, especially pain from headache (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 599).
Qiang Huo: releases the exterior and disperses cold (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 20); used in conjunction with Du Huo to treat headache and neck pain from common cold (Sionneau, p. 69); enters the Tai Yang channel (Jiao, p. 169); markedly effective for a subjective feeling of cold (Jiao, 2001, p.19).
Du Huo*: disperses wind-cold-damp and releases the exterior (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 324); used in conjunction with Qiang Huo to treat headache and neck pain from common cold (Sionneau, p. 69); exerts a powerful effect for dispelling wind and overcoming dampness (Jiao, 2001, p. 21).
Fu Ling: facilitates urination and leaches out dampness (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 268).
Jie Geng: spreads/disseminates Lung qi (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 429); alleviates sore throat in conjunction with Gan Cao (Mitchell, Ye, & Wiseman, p. 518; Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 733); courses wind and resolves the exterior (Jiao, 2001, p. 432).
Zhi Ke: promotes the flow of qi, particularly in the chest (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 519); rectifies qi and transforms phlegm (Jiao, p. 169).
Gan Cao: alleviates sore throat in conjunction with Jie Geng (Mitchell, Ye, & Wiseman, p. 518; Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 733); moistens the Lungs and stops cough (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 732).
Sheng Jiang*: releases the exterior and disperses cold (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 31).
[Gan Jiang]: warms the middle and expels cold (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 682); warms the Lungs and transforms thin mucous (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 682).
[Zi Su Ye]: releases the exterior and disperses cold (Bensky, Clavey, & Stoger, p. 12); when combined with Fang Feng and Jing Jie, it resolves the exterior (Jiao, 2001, p. 16); aromatically rectifies the qi (Jiao, 2001, p. 18).
The herbs in Dispel Invasion combine to create a formula that vents the exterior, resolves cold and dampness, opens the Lung and chest, stops cough, alleviates sore throat, and transforms phlegm. Jing Jie and Zi Su Ye work together to release the exterior with their warm acridity, while their relative lightness helps guide the pathogen up and out of the body; Fang Feng assists in this process by contributing additional release exterior properties. In the original formula, the use of Sheng Jiang enhances the release exterior action. Qiang Huo is another warm, acrid herb that releases the exterior and is particularly good for the neck pain that frequently accompanies patterns involving wind-cold, because the herb has a connection with the Tai Yang. In the original formula, Du Huo pairs with Qiang Huo to create an herbal synergy for resolving wind-cold-damp. Fu Ling assists by leaching out dampness through the urine and fortifying the Spleen. The combination of Jie Geng, Zhi Ke, and Gan Jiang moves the Lung qi, stops cough, and transforms phlegm. In the original formula, Qian Hu further amplifies these phlegm resolving capabilities. Chuan Xiong is a clever addition that warms, expels wind, and alleviates pain from headache. Gan Cao harmonizes the formula, stops cough, and also alleviates sore throat in conjunction with Jie Geng.
Now let’s look at the relevant pharmacological actions of the herbs (herbs that the Kan formula omits are marked with an asterisk and herbs that the formula adds are in brackets):
Jing Jie: antibiotic, antipyretic, and analgesic (Chen, p. 50).
Fang Feng: antipyretic, antibiotic, and antiviral (Chen, p. 52).
Chai Hu: analgesic, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, immuno-stimulant, antibiotic, and antiviral (Chen, p. 85; Law, 2014).
Qian Hu*: expectorant, antibiotic, and antiviral (Chen, p. 700); anti-inflammatory (Sarkhail, 2013)
Qiang Huo: antipyretic and analgesic (Chen, p. 54); anti-inflammatory (Blunder, 2014).
Du Huo*: analgesic and anti-inflammatory (Chen, p. 305; Chen, 1995); antibiotic (Chen, p. 305).
Fu Ling: anti-inflammatory (Jeong, 2014); antibiotic (Chen, p. 384).
Jie Geng: expectorant, anti-tussive, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory (Chen, p. 696); antimicrobial and anti-oxidant (Nyakudya, 2014).
Zhi Ke: moderate effect to relax and dilate the airways (Chen, p. 486).
Gan Cao: anti-inflammatory, increases phagocytosis, anti-tussive, expectorant, and antibiotic. (Chen, p. 869-870).
Sheng Jiang*: antibiotic (Chen, p. 46); antiviral (Chang, 2013).
[Gan Jiang]: regulates body temperature (Chen, p. 451); anti-inflammatory (Choi, 2013)
Seen from either the Chinese medicine perspective or the perspective of modern pharmacology, the clinical usefulness of Jing Fang Bai Du San should be obvious. Even more noteworthy, however, is that there is no reason to fall back on Yin Qiao San or Gan Mao Ling to treat colds simply because of the pharmacological aspects of the herbs contained in them. We can still diagnose and treat according to Chinese medicine theory: Jing Fang Bai Du San has antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory effects as well. So get back to your practice, and prescribe the appropriate formula for the Chinese medicine pattern that presents! In my next post, I’ll be discussing the use of Gui Zhi Tang to treat common colds…
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