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Wen Jing Tang (Warm the menses decoction) is a herbal formula from the classic Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential prescriptions from the golden cabinet) written by Zhang Zhong Jing in the Eastern Han Dynasty. A formula developed in one of the earliest texts that is still regularly prescribed in modern Chinese medicine today. If the fact that it has stood the test of time isn’t enough this article will explore the formula as a whole, its individual herbs and their interactions, indications as well as western medicine approach.
What is Wen Jing Tang for?
It is in the name, Wen Jing Tang (WJT) (Warm the Menses decoction) widely known/used for its warming effects on the menses. WJT treats the complex pattern of deficiency cold and blood stasis with deficient heat affecting the Chong and Ren vessels, two channels that feature predominantly in women’s disorders.
Categorically this formula can fit into 2 slots:
- Jue Yin as it is a blood formula and because it treats cold below and heat above or within a subcategory belonging to the “Gui Zhi family” for its presentation and outcomes with fertility, along with beauty enhancing properties thanks to nourishing Yin. When Liver-blood is deficient, the uterus is empty and in a vulnerable condition so that it can be easily invaded by cold. Vice versa, When cold obstructs the uterus, Liver-blood cannot be stored properly and this may lead to blood deficiency. Thus, Liver-blood deficiency and cold often co-exist. WJT formula warms the channels, nourishes the blood, dispels cold, resolves blood stagnation and tonifies qi of the middle jiao. In the past this formula was commonly used after miscarriages. Nowadays however, it is used to assist with infertility and a wide range of menstrual disorders such as irregular periods.
- The Chong (thoroughfare) channel is the sea of blood while the Ren (conception) channel dominates the uterus. Both these channels prefer warmth to ensure optimal functioning. As previously mentioned deficiency and cold of these channels inhibit this function leading to qi and blood stagnation presenting with various menstrual disorders such as early or late menses, irregular menstruation, spotting between cycles, cold abdomen = dysmenorrhoea and infertility. Symptoms of dryness and heat such as dry lips and mouth, thirst, warm palms and soles, dry hands and feet, low grade evening fever or sense of body heat are contributed to deficient blood to moisten and stasis of blood hindering production of new blood. Blood contains yang qi, when it stagnates it can cause heat symptoms. The resulting yin, qi and blood deficiency provokes internal heat, which manifests in signs like heat effusion in the evening and vexing heat in the palms of the hands. When static blood is not eliminated, new blood is not engendered, and the fluids fail to moisten the upper body. Hence we see dry lips and mouth. Wen Jing Tang vitalises the blood, stops pain and stops bleeding. By warming, the blood circulation it improves blood and treats obstructions caused by blood stasis dissipate.
Let’s get technical: What is in Wen Jing Tang (WJT)?
There are 3 formulas that can be seen within the structure of Wen Jing Tang: Wu Zhu Yu Tang, Si Wu Tang and Mai Men Dong Tang. There are also twelve herbs.
Three of those herbs include; Wu Zhu Yu, Sheng Jiang and Ren Shen can be seen in Wu Zhu Yu Tang a formula that warms the interior and dispels cold.
Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong and Shao Yao belong to the formula Si Wu Tang a formula that tonifies and moves blood.
Mai Men Dong Tang (MMDT) is a formula that treats dryness and enriches yin, its herbs include Mai Men Dong, Ban Xia, Ren Shen and Gan Cao.
MMDT is a principal formula to unblock and tonify yang ming. The menses belong to the yang ming in terms of blood production and exits from the Chong channel, therefore the herbs within MMDT treat the root of the disorder.
It is clear by the diversity of these actions amongst the three formulas, WJT is capable of the complex job of warming the middle Jiao, heat clearing, assisting in the production of blood, invigorating blood, breaking up stasis, tonifying the yin, qi and blood and returning moisture to the channels. Combined channels the herbs of WJT reach are Stomach, Spleen, Kidneys, Liver, Lungs, Heart, Bladder, Pericardium and Gall Bladder.
The twelve herbs include the “chiefs” Wu Zhu Yu & Gui Zhi, the “deputies” Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong and Bai Shao and finally the “assistants” E Jiao, Mai Men Dong, Mu Dan Pi, Ren Shen, Zhi Ban Xia Gan Cao and Sheng Jiang.
Herbal combinations within the formula, Wu Zhu Yu, Sheng Jiang, and Gui Zhi warm the channels, dissipate cold, and warm blood; E Jiao, Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong, Shao Yao, and Mu Dan Pi nourish the blood, harmonize construction, and move stasis; Mai Men Dong and Zhi Ban Xia moisten dryness and down bear counterflow; Gan Cao and Ren Shen supplement and boost centre qi. In combination, they warm and supplement the Chong and Ren vessels, nourish blood and move stasis.
The use of Gui Zhi and Wu Zhu Yu greatly warm the menses and helps to invigorate blood when stasis of blood derives from cold in the uterus. It is important to nourish the blood when invigorating it as many blood invigorating herbs are pungent and may injure the blood and yin. The combination of herbs that nourish blood while invigorating the blood means it will not cause cloying or injure blood and yin.
In addition to warming the menses WJT scatters cold, this method is often used when there is blood stasis deriving from cold obstructing the uterus. This cold condition is the cause for dysmenorrhoea, infertility or abdominal masses. Herbs that both warm the messes and scatter the cold within WJT include Gui Zhi, Wu Zhu Yu, and Sheng Jiang.
Cold that has obstructed the uterus and vessels preventing the generation of new blood needs Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong, E Jiao and Bai Shao to assist in nourishing and invigorating.
Of the individual herb properties. To prevent yin deficiency Mai Men Dong nourishes. Sheng Jiang assists with the tonification of qi and blood. Mu Dan Pi is added to clear empty-heat deriving from blood deficiency. Ban Xia usually added to resolve phlegm is here for other reasons, it helps to regulate qi of the penetrating vessel. Zhi Gan Cao harmonises.
WJT is a remarkable formula that treats but is not limited to women’s health. A testament to itself. Simultaneously warming, tonifying, invigorating and clearing heat. Studies have shown WJT to be more than a warming formula but a moistening formula and effective in the treatment of chills with post-menopausal women.