An Informational Medicine Analysis of the
Principles of Chinese Herbal Formulation
Part Four
A Suggested Guide To Practicing Herbal Formulation

E. F. Block
August 2010

Work in Progress


This section will use the CHM formula and convert it to a Western Herbal Formulation (WHF), if possible. The Materia Medica is so much greater for CHM that this may well be an insurmountable obstacle. The author suggests that those practicing herbal medicine in North America expand their herbal repertoire and learn the traditional Chinese herbs as well, especially if it is to be able to construct an herbal formula that will suit the patient with their current diseased condition. Almost always, in CHM, Licorice is used as the envoy herb in order to harmonize the formula.

In TCM, it is the signs and symptoms that determine the diagnosis and the subsequent treatment protocol. In Western medicine it is the Western diagnosis that determines the treatment protocol. The reason for this is that Western medicine does not acknowledge the human body field (HBF) as a part of the human body. In TCM, it is the HBF that is the basis of diagnosis and treatment. Please keep this distinction in mind when you practice your healing skills.

The only book, so far, that I have read that contained any hint of herbal formulation is that of Jill Davies, "A Garden of Miracles: Herbal Drinks for Pleasure, Health and Beauty", 1985, Beaufort Books, NY. She speaks of a general outline for formula proportions: 1. a goodly quantity of the herb of primary objective, 2. a small amount of an herb to reduce tension within the body, 3. a small amount of an herb to stimulate the direction of the formula, and 4. a small amount of a carminative or demulcent herb to counteract any harsh properties of the other herbs of the formula. Then she talks about, apart from its specific structure, its action that takes place on many levels and that all factors should be considered. This includes: 1. elimination and de-toxification, 2. support and maintenance, 3. building and strengthening. This information fits well with CHM and the principles of classical formulation.

Example - Formulation for Kidney Stones

A patient presents with severe pain in the right side of the back just below the ribs and in the lower right side of the pelvic cavity, has a swollen tongue with teeth marks on the sides and a thick, yellow coating on the back of the tongue. Pulse is slow, moderate. Urination is somewhat difficult with dark yellow and smelly urine, history of passing kidney stones. Diagnosis is Damp-Heat in the lower jiao, specifically in the Kidney and Bladder channels. Treatment is to drink lots of water, to stop drinking Gatorade, stop taking any calcium supplements, and drink Kidney Stone Tea three times a day until pain abates and stone is passed.

Kidney Stone Tea, tid - Decoction

  • Chief Herb - Agrimony, 12 grams
  • Deputy Herb - Corn Silk, 9 grams
  • Assistant Herb - Horsetail, 9 grams
  • Envoy Herb - Licorice, 6 grams

Decoction - place tea in a ceramic, glass or porcelain container of sufficient size. Cover with water to 1 inch above herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, cool, pour off and save. Just cover herbs with water and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, cool. Pour off and combine portions. Separate into 3 portions and drink 3 times a day.

Example - Bronchitis and Respiratory Infection

A patient presents with a cough with sputum, bronchial constriction (wheezing) and pain with irritability. Symptoms have progressed deeper from a sore throat. Tongue is red with a thick, yellow coating on the whole. Pulse is deep, rapid. Temperature is 101.80 F. Diagnosis is Heat in the upper jiao, specifically the lungs. Treatment is to drink lots of water; cool, damp cloths on the forehead; drink decoction 3 times a day until sputum and pain abates, delete Willow Bark as fever breaks.

Herbal Decoction for Respiratory Infection and Fever, tid

  • Chief Herb - Echinacea, 12 grams
  • Deputy Herb - Ligusticum, 9 grams
  • Assistant Herb - Slippery Elm, 9 grams
  • Assistant Herb - Willow Bark, 9 grams
  • Envoy Herb - Licorice, 6 grams