In honor of the near end of Liver/Gallbladder time of year, here’s another favorite formula of mine: Wen Dan Tang. It has many uses, especially as a sedative and expectorant, but it is specifically said to ‘warm’ the Gallbladder. Already prone to Dampness and Heat, how can the Gallbladder ever need to be warmed? Either when it is ‘tired’ ‘hypo-functioning’ or overly Damp. If an excess of Dampness collects in the Gallbladder, it stagnates and can’t properly perform its functions. This in itself can lead to hypo-functioning.

Usually, however, when Dampness collects it arises from a Cold Damp Spleen, Thus, two types of Dampness co-exist here, both Cold Damp in the Spleen and Damp Heat in the Stomach and Gallbladder. Symptoms arise such as profuse white phlegm that’s foamy or frothy, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations and insomnia. The tongue has a greasy yellow coat and the pulse is slippery. These signs and symptoms point to the two types of co-existing Dampness, Cold Damp in the Spleen (white foamy or frothy phlegm) and Damp Heat in the Gallbladder and Stomach (greasy yellow tongue coat, usually in the middle portion of the tongue).

Traditionally, this formula is used either for insomnia when the person wakes up around 5 am and can’t go back to sleep or for someone who is timid, both with this presenting tongue and pulse. One of my favorite uses for this formula, however, is for depression from Damp Stagnation. If I see anyone with depression who has a thick yellow-coated tongue, this is the formula I find that works best.

Wen Dan Tang includes pinellia and chen pi for Cold Damp and bamboo shavings and zhi shi for Damp Heat. As well, the chen pi and zhi shi move Qi Stagnation. Poria clears more Dampness and licorice and jujube support the center Qi.

Wen Dan Tang

Pinellia (ban xia), 6′”9 g

Citrus peel (chen pi), 6′”9 g

Poria (fu ling), 9′”12 g

Immature bitter orange (zhi shi), 6′”9 g

Bamboo shavings (zhu ru), 6′”9 g

Licorice (gan cao), 1′”3 g

Jujube dates (da zao), 3′”5 dates

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