Energy Regulator Herbs: Tonics

Drugs which regulate and balance the flow of vital-energies in the body and remedy illnesses due to energy imbalances are called “energy regulators.” Such ailments are of two types: energy deficient and energy stagnant. Energy deficient ailments are treated with tonic medications, which appear under the “tonic” section. Energy stagnant ailments are treated with drugs which “manage and discipline qi.”

Energy stagnation occurs when qi does not flow freely through the body’s meridian network. Qi is literally “blocked” in the meridians, depriving the rest of the body of vital energy. Energy stagnation is caused by extreme imbalances between “hot” and “cold” energies, sudden emotional outbursts, poor diet, over-eating, prolonged hunger, excess phlegm, damp excess, bruises and clots due to traumatic injuries.

Tonics: Legend of the Horny Goat Weed

Common symptoms of energy stagnation fall into three categories.

  • Spleen and stomach energy stagnation: abdominal swelling and discomfort, poor appetite; dyspepsia, rising bile, nausea and vomiting, stomach aches, irregular bowel movements.
  • Liver energy stagnation: pain and pressure in rib-cage, painful testicles and scrotum, dysmenorrhoea and swelling, pain, or tumors in breast.
  • Lung energy stagnation: shortness of breath, irregular respiration, oppression in chest, cough, asthma.

Depending on the type of stagnation, these drugs have a variety of effects: they clear meridian blockages, alleviate pain, eliminate mental depression, facilitate energy flow, expand the chest cavity, scatter stagnant qi, suppress “rebellious qi” tonify the stomach, promote digestion and others.

The drugs are mostly “pungent” and “warm,” properties which tend to scatter qi. Patients with energy- and yin-deficiencies should use them sparingly.




Natural distribution: Southeastern China, Taiwan, Vietnam.

Parts used: Rind of the fruit.

Nature: Pungent and bitter; warm.

Affinity: Spleen, lungs.

Effects: Regulates energy; digestive; stomachic; expectorant; antitussive; anti-emetic; drying.

Indications: Energy stagnation in spleen and stomach: abdominal pain and pressure, nausea and vomiting, dyspepsia, etc; oppression in chest, cough, stagnation due to excess phlegm.

Dosage: 3-8 g.

Remarks: The rind contains Vitamins A, B, and C; the white fibers of the rind are the most effective parts as expectorants; the seeds are analgesic.



Natural distribution: China, Japan.

Parts used: Unripe fruits.

Nature: Bitter; slightly cold.

Affinity: Spleen, stomach.

Effects: Regulates energy; stomachic; antidiarrheic; expectorant.

Indications: Dyspepsia; undigested food in intestinal tract; abdominal fullness and pain; constipation; diarrhea; oppression in chest due to phlegm.

Dosage: 5-10 g.

Remarks: When stomach and spleen stagnation cause constipation, the drug purges; when it causes diarrhea, the drug facilitates complete evacuation of bowels so the condition will stop. Research has shown it to be effective in shrinking distended stomach and in prolapse of rectum and womb.



Natural distribution: India, Yunnan.

Parts used: Roots.

Nature: Pungent and bitter; warm.

Affinity: Spleen, large intestine.

Effects: Regulates energy; analgesic; stomachic.

Indications: Abdominal pain and pressure; abdominal noises; discomforts of dysentery.

Dosage: 1.5-8 g.

Remarks: Juice of the fresh root is an effective asthma remedy.



Natural distribution: Asia, Australia, America, Europe.

Parts used: Roots and tubercles.

Nature: Pungent, slightly bitter and sweet; neutral.

Affinity: Liver, pericardium.

Effects: Regulates liver energy; emmenagogue; sedative; analgesic.

Indications: Liver energy stagnation: oppression in chest and pain in rib-cage, stomach ache, dyspepsia; amenorrhoea; dysmenorrhoea.

Dosage: 5-10 g.



Natural distribution: China, Japan, Vietnam, eastern India.

Parts used: Peduncle.

Nature: Bitter; neutral.

Affinity: Stomach.

Effects: Regulates stomach and spleen energy; controls hiccups and coughs

Indications: Hiccups.

Dosage: 4-6 g.

Remarks: For effective control of hiccups, use with clove and fresh ginger; the ripe, dried fruit is stomachic and astringent; the juice of the fresh, unripe fruits lowers blood pressure and is used in hypertension.

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