Welcome back to the members of our growing community of people interested in improving their overall health and sense of balance in their lives through the use of Chinese herbal formulas.
What these three formulas have in common is that they all help you to deal with various forms and symptoms of digestive distress. Which formula you pick depends on the situation: If you ate too much at the big holiday meal, then Bao He Wan might be the formula for you to help relive that distended, uncomfortably overfull feeling in your gut; if, however, you would like to nip a hangover in the bud, blunt the edges of a headache, relieve nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, or just deal with uncomfortable rumblings in your stomach and intestines, then Curing Pills or Po Chai Pills (two formulas very similar in their effects) might be the right choice.
So without any further introduction is the first of the three formulas: Bao He Wan.
Bao He Wan is a classical Chinese formula used most commonly to alleviate problems associated with acute food stagnation (which, simply put, is the accumulation of too much food in the digestive system to the point that it cannot all be processed/digested effectively). Acute food stagnation is what often happens after a huge holiday meal: you feel bloated and distended after overeating but after several hours the bloating subsides and you feel better. Bao He Wan helps to shorten that period during which you might feel uncomfortably full. Other symptoms associated with acute food stagnation that Bao He Wan can help alleviate are acid regurgitation, belching, bad-breath, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea.
Chronic food stagnation, on the other hand, occurs from long-term overindulgence in rich/greasy foods and can result in stagnation of qi, phlegm, and dampness (i.e. it is a much more complicated pattern of disharmony with many more symptoms on top of those associated with a simple episode of gross over-eating); and although Bao He Wan can help in the short term with the bloating, indigestion, and pain, it is appropriate to consult with a trained TCM practitioner to resolve the symptoms associated with chronic food stagnation (as Bao He Wan is not formulated for long-term use).
Please note that the chief herb in this formula (Shan Zha) stimulates blood circulation; therefore Bao He Wan should be used with caution during pregnancy.
The second formula we will look at today is called Curing Pills, and simply put, they are amazing at addressing a truly wide variety of symptoms associated with digestive distress. Take them at the first sign of anything “funky”– whether that be a little indigestion or acid reflux, bloating, rumbling in the stomach or intestines, etc… They are also excellent to take after an evening of indulging in alcohol to mitigate the effects of a potential hangover. I also think they indispensable in one’s travel kit, because they help the body deal with the stress of travelling, whether that manifests as digestive difficulty, jet lag, car sickness, or just general weariness and fatigue—I never leave home without them (to borrow from the old advertising slogan!).
In terms of Chinese Medicine, Curing Pills dispel food stagnation, harmonize the stomach, dispel dampness and pathenogenic factors, and relieve pain. The Plum Flower variation of this formula comprises 15 herbs which combine synergistically to accomplish these ends.
Po Chai is a relatively modern formula (first produced in 1896 in Guangdong Province to deal with an epidemic of what we might now call “stomach flu”). The family that originally manufactured Po Chai pills saw their factory nationalized after the Communist revolution in 1949, whereupon they set up shop in Hong Kong (where Po Chai Pills are manufactured to this day). The Po Chai brand became popular across many parts of Southeast Asia in the 1980’s and is experiencing a resurgence of their brand since the company changed hands in the early 2000’s, in the process modernizing and streamlining its business model and operations.
That said, the effects of Po Chai Pills are similar to those of Curing Pills. In addition to alleviating all sorts of symptoms associated with digestive distress, they are also helpful for motion-sickness, acclimating to a new climate, jet lag, and can even be used as a hang-over “cure”. The herbs in Po Chai pills are similar to those found in Curing Pills, working to harmonize digestion and to clear heat toxins and phlegm accumulation from the body.