Chinese Medicine, Herbalism, Tea
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Nourishing Milky Oat Tea Blend~ Western Take on Gan Mai Da Zao Tang (Calm the Spirit Decoction)



Gan Mai Da Zao Wan is a Chinese formula from the Jing Gui (The Golden Cabinet), a medicine text written by Zheng Zhong-Jing in 220 AD.  It is in the Calm Spirit category and its strategy is to tonify Heart Yin and Blood deficiency as it calms the spirit. It is also addresses digestion.

(It never ceases to amaze me that we are using formulas written 1800 years ago, and they are more relevant than ever.)

Gan Mai Da Zao Wan is specifically used for what is called ‘restless organ syndrome’. There isn’t an exact analogous syndrome in the West, but it can be compared loosely to worry, an over-active, racing mind, and anxiety. Any excessive emotion can injure the body (and in fact is the only internal cause of disease in Chinese medicine), and in this case it injures the Heart fluids of blood and Yin. The Heart houses the mind and spirit, so when the foundational Yin and blood are deficient, the Shen or spirit cannot be held in check, thus mental-emotional symptoms get even more out of whack. It’s a vicious cycle.

Gan Mai Da Zao Wan is incredibly simple, containing herbs just three herbs, two of which are food herbs.

  • Fu Xiao Mai – Sprouted wheat berries – Triticum spp.Poaceae (Grass, often called Gramineae) family.
  • Da Zao – Jujube dates – Ziziphus jujuba, Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn) family.
  • Gan Cao – Licorice – Glycyrrhiza glabra, Fabacea (Legume) family.

I was inspired by the overall concept of using a grain, a berry and licorice like Gan Mai Da Zao Wan, to create an herbal tea blend to calm the spirit and simultaneously restore a stressed-to-the-limits nervous system. Specifically, shot adrenal glands from overwork. The adrenals are more akin to the Kidney in Chinese medicine, so my inspired tea is not completely analogous, but that is to be expected.

A nourishing grain provides bodily support through the digestive interface. Both Gan Mai/Wheat and Milky Oats enter the Spleen/Stomach and are nourishing and nutrient rich. They both have spirit calming actions, too.

Da Zao/Jujube and Hawthorn Berry are red (the color associated with the heart and blood) and tonify. Da Zao enters the Spleen and Stomach, but can indirectly tonify the Heart and blood because the Earth organs (the Spleen and Stomach) a major source of blood production. After the Earth organs have transformed food and drink into Blood, it is sent to the Heart to be distributed in general circulation.

In Western herbalism, Hawthorn is of course used for supporting the heart and circulation of blood. In brief, it relaxes the capillaries and promotes free and smooth flow of blood. The Hawthorn used in Chinese herbalism is a different species but very similar; it’s main use is to promote the digestion of heavy, rich and fatty foods, which in turn keeps the arteries free of gunk and the heart healthy.

Both versions have licorice, a tonifying and harmonizing adaptogenic herb. I added another adaptogen, Holy Basil/Tulsi, to support the ability to withstand constant onslaught of stress and improve cerebral circulation and memory (Winston, p169). Memory and concentration is associated with the Heart in Chinese medicine, so it fits in this formula concept quite well. Plus, Holy Basil/Tulsi tastes and smells yummy (it’s in the mint family, after all!).

Nourishing Milk Oat Tea Blend

  • Milky Oats – Avena sativa, Poaceae (Grass, often called Gramineae) family.
  • Hawthorn Berry – Crataegus spp, Rosaceae  (Rose) family.
  • Licorice – as above.
  • + Holy Basil/ Tulsi – Ocimum tenuiflorum, Lamiaceae (Mint) family.

I drank this tea almost daily for four weeks and noticed my retention of my studies was improved. It usually takes me about three months to feel the effects of adaptogens in reducing my stress level, mostly because I add more and more stress to my plate constantly while in school. That’s just me, though. Maybe it would take less time for someone else. I made it a quart at a time, and let it steep overnight to thoroughly extract the goodness. The tea was quite refreshing and plenty sweet.

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