Managing Student Stress With TCM Formulas Part 2

By Casper0_0 | The Tea Guy | 17 Apr 2022



In this second edition of Chinese Medicine formulas that can assist with your mental work, we have the legendary Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan. Again, this article is not intended to diagnose or prescribe the use of any herbs, it is only intended for educational purposes. Let’s get to the formula!

Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan:

The name of this formula translates to “the Emperor of Heaven’s Special Pill to Tonify the Heart”. The story of who exactly received this formula is debated, but it is still a fun story. From Bensky’s Formulas and Strategies (2015) “It is said that once, when the Buddhist monk Zhi Gong was exhausted from the chanting of scriptures, he was given this formula in a dream by the Heavenly King Deng…Although (this) account is mythological, (it) refers to this formula’s magical effect in treating exhaustion from too much thinking.” Whether or not you believe that a divine Emperor can appear and dispense herbal knowledge, the fact that this formula originated from Buddhist monks, a career that requires years of very long days and nights of philosophical debating, shows its effectiveness for those doing mental work. A break down of how this formula works first requires a dialogue on the Chinese Medicine understanding of the Heart and its functions in the human body.

            Every function of the human body can be broken down into the basic, yet infinitely complex, dichotomy of Yin-Yang. The Heart is the Yang organ, Yang is characterized in the Heart as Fire. The Heart houses the luminous light that is our consciousness, our Shen-Spirit. The Heart governs Blood, if the Heart is weak then blood cannot travel to where it needs to go, i.e. the extremities. Because our Shen-Spirit is housed within and travels with our blood, wherever our Blood travels, we have consciousness. Consider this; on a cold day when your hands are cold, its hard for you to feel and move the tips of your fingers. Also, we do not bleed when we get our hair cut and we are not in pain when it is cut, why? We have no blood within our hair follicles.  Furthermore, because our Shen-Spirit is housed within our blood- which is governed by our Heart- when our Heart is weak, that subsequently makes our blood, then our Shen-Spirit weak. When our Shen-Spirit is deprived, we suffer from “mental-emotional problems, poor memory, dull thinking, insomnia or somnolence and in extreme cases, unconsciousness,” (Giovanni, Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Pg. 110). This is one of the many reasons why our Heart is so special, any other organ can become run down and we will notice as time passes, but the Heart as the Emperor will not make it a secret when it is deprived, your experience of consciousness will be quickly changed.

            Because everything must be balanced, the Heart-Fire is controlled by Kidney-Water: “The correlate of the heart are the vessels; its splendor appears in the complexion; its ruler are the kidneys” (From HuangDi NeiJing SuWen Ch.10). The Kidney’s are the Yin-Water of the human body, they are the “Cold Water of the North” where our Fire-Spirit descends into every night so we can enter a deep and restful sleep in the inactivity of Yin. An issue that can arise when the Heart is deficient is that the Heart-Yang will not have the strength to make the journey down to the Kidney-Yin at night, we call this insomnia in the modern world. When this happens, our Shen-Spirit that rides with our Heart-Yang gets stuck between waking and sleeping, further depleting our Yang. This is the type of insomnia that is characterized by a difficulty to fall asleep. When our Kidneys are deficient and cannot contain our Heart-Yang at night, that is insomnia characterized by a difficulty with staying asleep.

Now let’s get into how the herbs in this formula helps our Heart and our ability to study. First off is the Chief herb: Sheng Di Huang nourishes Kidney Yin (water) and clears heat. This ability helps the Kidneys to control the overheating Spirit while also producing more blood for the Spirit to reside within. Then there are the three Deputy herbs: Tian Men Dong, Mai Men Dong and Xuan Shen. All three of these herbs enrich the yin, clear heat and calm the Shen-Spirit. The Assistant herbs are in four separate pairings:

  • Dan Shen and Dang Gui tonify blood to nourish the Heart while also moving the blood.
  • Bai Zi Ren and Yuan Zhi calm the spirit
  • Ren Shen (Ginseng) and Fu Ling assist the Heart Qi
  • Suan Zao Ren and Wu Wei Zi prevent the leakage of Heart Qi and Yin water.

Finally, the Envoy herb: Jie Geng guides the other herbs to the Heart, and thus the Spirit. An herb that is no longer used due to its extreme toxicity but is traditionally apart of this formula is Zhu Sha (Cinnabar) whose function is to anchor and calm the Shen-Spirit.

All of the herbs in this formula could have pages of explanation for why each are so unique and effective for this situation. As time goes on, I would like to dedicate individual blog posts to each of these herbs but for now let’s look at them as a collective team. From the above descriptions for each grouping, we can see that the primary focus of this formula is to build up the Kidney-Yin and Heart-Blood first, with calming and heat clearing herbs being of a secondary importance. This is due largely to the function of Kidney-Water and its role in ruling the Heart; when the Kidneys are empowered in their function, they can contain the Heart-Fire and provide it the space to calm down and rebuild itself. The Heart is aided in its recuperation by the Blood building herbs in this formula as well.

After all of these herbs have joined forces to rectify the misfunctioning of our Heart-Kidney axis, we can get back to studying with a clear and focused mind! This formula is incredible for those who read frequently and also have problems falling asleep. Before trying this formula for yourself, go see a Chinese Herbologist and see if it is right for you!

Thank you for reading!

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