Si Shen Tang is one of the most famous traditional Chinese herbal formula to treat diarrhea, strengthening the spleen and regulate digestive functions. It only has a few ingredients: Shan Yao, Qian Shi, Lian Zi, and Fu Ling. You can find it in the forms of powder, granule, pill or as a dish in some local Chinese restaurants. There are variations of ingredients and tastes, but the functions are all similar.
Ingredients and functions
Here are the major four ingredients:
Huai Shan (淮山) or Shan Yao (山药) – It strengthens spleen and stomach, benefits lung and kidney. It helps with low appetite, loose stool, fatigue, frequent urination, excess leukorrhea.
Qian Shi (芡实) – It strengthens kidney and spleen to stop diarrhea, transform dampness to regulate spleen and stomach. Qian Shi helps with knee and back pain, spermatorrhea, frequent urination, leukorrhea, and diarrhea.
Lian Zi (莲子) – It calms the spirit, strengthens spleen and kidney. It is good for diarrhea from chronic spleen deficiency, spermatorrhea from kidney deficiency, excess virginal discharge for women, anxiety, and insomnia.
Fu Ling (茯苓) – regulate water metabolism, transforms dampness and calms the Shen (spirit).
The nature of these four herbs is sweet and bland. Sweet and blend help drying out excess dampness and regulate spleen and stomach’s function for better digestion.
The dosage is flexible, usually equal part of each four herbs is fine. For example, 15 gram of each, or a handful of each raw herbs. Since these herbs are more like food, it is safe to use larger quantity.
Most of the Si Shen Tang from restaurants use a modified version. Yi Ren (or called Yi Yi Ren: Chinese Barley) is usually added to Si Shen. Yi Yi Ren’s function is similar to the original four herbs. It is bland, transforms dampness, strengthens the spleen and helps relieve diarrhea or loose stool.
Si Shen Tang as street food is typically combined with pork and its intestines. It is an old belief that eating the animal organ can tonify our respective organ. It does not have a scientific background, and it might not be practical in the US, but the food does taste delicious when properly prepared.
Home cooked Si Shen Tang
We do not need to use intestines to prepare Si Shen Tang. Usually, pork and chicken are used because they are bland in nature (not too hot or cold) and do not irritate sensitive digestive track.
You can cook herbs only without adding any meat. Add enough water to cover herbs plus a few inches. Boil for a few minutes and reduce the heat to simmer until the liquid is about 1/3 of the original amount. Drink 1 cup (or mug) 2-3 times a day until symptoms are relieved.
When cooking with meat, you can cook herbs first for longer decoction of herbal tea, or put herbs and pork together in a big pot. Bring the water to boil for a few minutes and turn down the heat to simmer for at least 20-30 minutes. You can also cook bone broth separately (pork or chicken) for a longer period, and add herbs to cook for the last 20 minutes. There is no set way to cook the dish. Experiment and find what fits your schedule and what method taste best for you.
Ginger slices can be added for flavor and its warming function. Some people like to add a little rice wine or sake. Add some salt if desired.
Si Shen Tang is a mild formula even children can enjoy it. It helps increase the appetite for little picky eaters and relieve minor loose stools.
Daybreak diarrhea or Cock’s Crow diarrhea
Si Wu Tang is famous for treating “Daybreak diarrhea,” or “Cock’s Crow diarrhea.” It is a chronic early morning diarrhea that happens around 5 am (or 4-8 am )in the morning several days in a row. In Chinese medicine, it is related to spleen and kidney yang deficiency. It usually comes with symptoms like cold, pale face, pain, bloating, and fatigue. Avoid cold, junk, and spicy food, and take Si Shen Tang should help to raise the Qi and regulate digestion.
Si Shen Tang is an herbal formula very commonly used in every Chinese family, just like Si Wu Tang for women, Si Jun Zi Tang for tonify Qi, or Ginseng chicken soup in the winter times. If you get loose stool easily, feeling tired and drained all the time, why not give Si Wu Tang a try. It might work better than the drug and fewer side effects.