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Herbs That Tonify Deficiencies

Herbs that tonify deficiencies strengthen or supplement the body's resistance against disease.  These herbs are usually subdivided into herbs which tonify either Qi, Yang, blood or Yin.  As Qi, blood, Yin and Yang are interdependent in the body, a deficient condition in any one of the m will affect the others.  It is very important that tonifying the herbs are only applied in cases with weakness of anti-pathogenic factors, and not during excess pathogenic factors.


a) Herbs That Tonify Qi

Herbs that tonify Qi are used for deficient Qi syndrome, which is often seen as deficient Qi in the spleen or deficient Qi in the lungs.  Deficient Qi of the spleen is manifested as poor appetite, loose stool, abdominal distension, lassitude, edema or prolapsed anus.  The symptoms of deficient Qi in the lungs are shortness of breath, dysphasia and spontaneous sweating.

When Qi deficiency is accompanied by yin deficiency or yang deficiency, herbs that tonify Yin or Yang should be added to the combination.  Because Qi is responsible for the generation and circulation of blood, these herbs are also used in the acute phase or severe blood loss to prevent collapse and to stop bleeding.

In general, overdosing of these herbs is not recommended, as it may cause stifling sensation in the chest, abdominal distension or poor appetite.

Ginseng (Renshen)
American Ginseng (Xiyangshen)
Pilose Asiabell root (Dangshen)
Pseudostellaria root (Taizishen)
Astragalus root (Huangqi)
White Atractylodes (Baizhu)
Dioscorea (Shanyao)
Hyacinth bean (Biandou)
Licorice root (Gancao)
Jujube (Dazao)

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b) Herbs That Tonify Yang

Herbs that tonify Yang are used to treat deficient Yang syndrome mainly defiant Yang of the kidneys.  Deficient Yang syndrome is manifested as aversion to cold, cold extremities, soreness and weakness or cold pain in the lower back and knees, impotence, spermatorrhea, sterility, watery leukorrhea, enuresis, white tongue coating, deep pulse, wheezing and diarrhea.

In general, herbs that tonify Yang are warm and dry in nature.  They can injure Yin and give rise to fire, so they are contraindicated for a person with deficient Yin and excessive fire syndrome.

Pilose Antler (Lourong)
Antler (Lujiao)
Antler glue (Lujiaojiao)
Deglued Antler powder (Lujiaoshuang)
Morinda root (Bajitian)
Cistanche (Roucongrong)
Curculigo rhizome (Xianmao)
Cynomrium (Suo Yang)
Epimedium (Yinyanghuo)
Eucommia bark (Duzhong)
Teasel root (Xuduan)
Cibot rhizome (Gouji)
Drynaria (Gusuibu)
Psoralea Fruit (Buguzhi)
Bitter Cardamom (Yizhiren)
Cordyceps (Dongchongxiacao)
Gecko (Gejie)
Walnut seed (Hutaoren)
Dadder seed (Tusizi)
Flattened milkvetch seed (Jiuzi)
Dog testis (Huanggoushen)
Chinese chive seed (Jiuzi)
Cnidium fruit (Shechuangzi)

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c)  Herbs That Tonify the Blood

Herbs that tonify the blood are mainly used for deficiency of blood syndrome manifested as sallow complexion, pale lips and nails, dizziness, blurred vision, palpitations, anxiety, scanty and light-red menstrual flow, or amenorrhea. Because “Qi can generate blood,” herbs that tonify Qi may enhance the therapeutic effect of tonifying the blood.

These herbs are characterized by viscosity, which may adversely affect the digestion. For this reason, they are contraindicated in cases with poor appetite, abdominal distension and fullness due to turbid dampness in the spleen and stomach. For a person with such symptoms, herbs that strengthen the spleen and help digestion are often added to the combination.

Chinese Angelica root (Danggui)
Prepared Rehmannia root (Shudihuang)
Fleeceflower root (Heshouwu)
White Peony root (Baishao)
Donkey Hide gelatin (Ejiao)
Longan Aril (Longyanrou)

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d) Herbs That Tonify Yin

Herbs that tonify Yin are used mainly for deficient Yin syndromes which occur at the later stage of febrile diseases or in chronic diseases. Deficient Yin syndromes can often be seen as deficient lung Yin, deficient stomach Yin, deficient liver yin and deficient kidney Yin. In deficient lung Yin, manifestations commonly are dry cough, cough with scanty sputum, or cough with blood, fever due to yin deficiency, and dry mouth and tongue. In deficient stomach yin, manifestations are dark red tongue with peeled coating, dry throat, thirst, absence of hunger and constipation. In deficient liver Yin, the resulting manifestations are dry eyes, blurred vision, dizziness and vertigo. In deficient kidney yin, manifestation include soreness and pain in the lower back and knees, feverish sensation on the palms, soles and chest, irritability, insomnia, seminal emissions, and afternoon fever.

In treating these syndromes, herbs that tonify Yin can be used with herbs that clear heat where manifestations of deficient heat are present. When there is deficient yin with excessive heat in the interior, herbs that clear heat due to Yin deficiency should be added to the combination of herbs. When there is deficient Yin with hyperactivity of Yang, herbs that subdue Yang should be added. In the conditions where deficiency of Yin is complicated by deficiency of Qi, herbs that tonify Qi and herbs that tonify Yin should be combined.

In general, herb which are cold or sweet in nature are contraindicated for a person with weakness of the spleen and stomach, internal blockage of phlegm and dampness, abdominal distension or diarrhea.

Glehnia root (Shashen)
Ophiopogon root (Maidong)
Asparagus root (Tianmendong)
Dendrobium (Shihu)
Fragrant Solomonseal rhizome (Yuzhu)
Siberian Solomonseal (Huangjing)
Lily bulb (Baihe)
Wolfberry fruit (Gouqizi)
Mulberry (Sangshen)
Eclipta (Mohanlian)
Grossy Privet fruit (Nuzhenzi)
Tortoise plastron (Guiban)
Turtle shell (Biejia)
Black Sesame seed (Heizhima)

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