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Xiao Yao San Formula – Free and Easy Wanderer

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Xiao Yao San (translated as Free and Easy Wanderer or sometimes Rambling Powder) is one of the most prolific Chinese herbal formulas prescribed in the United States. You might be wondering, what is Xiao Yao San? It is a masterful combination of Chinese herbs designed to downregulate, conquer stress, and harmonize. 

What is Xiao Yao San used to treat?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we treat by pattern presentation. Xiao Yao San is in the category of formulas that harmonize and is the ideal formula to treat Liver Qi Stagnation that is allowed to happen because Liver Blood and Spleen Qi are deficient. From a biomedical perspective, Xiao Yao San can be used to treat:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • PMS symptoms
  • mild menstrual pain
  • tension headaches
  • migraine headaches
  • post-herpetic neuralgia
  • depression
  • costochondritis
  • and even IBS

For many herbalists, Xiao Yao San is the first formula that comes to mind for treating anxiety or conditions aggravated by stress.

What are the ingredients in Xiao Yao San and how does it work?

Xiao Yao San utilizes a blend of herbs that work together to harmonize and nourish. Here is a breakdown of the ingredients in Xiao Yao San and how they work together:

  • Chai Hu (Bupleurum) – Soothes the Liver Qi and relieves constraint (and this is  easier when Liver blood  is nourished).
  • Dang Gui (Angelica Root) and Bai Shao (White Peony Root) – work together to nourish the Liver Blood which then allows the Liver Qi to move more easily.
  • Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes Rhizome) and Fu Ling (Poria) – Target Spleen Qi Deficiency by nourishing the Spleen  Qi and thereby generating blood. When the blood is nourished, the Liver Qi will flow smoothly. 
  • Zhi Gan Cao (Honey Fried Licorice) – Harmonizes all of the herbs in the formula  so they can all work together.
  • Pao Jiang (Quick-Fried Ginger Root) – Soothes Stomach Qi and aids in digestion and serves as an assistant to Bai zhu and Fu Ling.
  • Bo He (Field Mint) – Much stronger than your average peppermint, Bo He soothes and relieves Liver Qi stagnation. It also clears heat (caused by stagnation) and assists Chai Hu.

Common Ways Xiao Yao San Can be Customized for You

Xiao Yao San is a lovely base from which Chinese herbalists can work creative herbal magic. If you have more heat (and this is common because when the Liver Qi stagnates, heat can be generated because it doesn’t have anywhere to go), you may be prescribed Jia Wei Xiao Yao San also known as Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San. 

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San adds two additional herbs  to the base formula above, Mu Dan Pi (where  we get  the Dan in  the title) and Zhi Zi (the Zhi in the name of the formula). Mu Dan Pi (Moutan Root Bark) is added to clear heat and invigorate the blood. Zhi Zi (Gardenia Seed) is added to also  clear heat and eliminate irritability. This modification is commonly used for PMS or PMDD.

There is another common modification where Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia Root) is added to the above Xiao Yao San creating Hei Xiao Yao San, Black Rambling Powder. This is used when Blood Deficiency is the most prevalent pattern being treated and the blood requires even more nourishment.

I will often do other customizations as warranted as well. If insomnia is the biggest concern, I  may add Ye Jiao Teng (Polygonum Caulis) to calm the spirit, nourish the blood, and help patients sleep through the night. If stress is the biggest issue, I may add He Huan Pi (Alibiziae Cortex). Each patient  is unique and there are so many ways this classical formula can be tailored to their individual needs. 

Liver icon

How does Xiao Yao San treat PMS or PMDD? 

Let me start by saying that it’s possible to have a menstrual cycle without pain, cramping, bloating, fatigue, irritability, and tears. We see it happen all the time. Just last week a patient told me that her period has never been this good before. It’s a wonderful benefit of regular acupuncture and herbal treatments.

Xiao Yao San helps PMS and PMDD symptoms by nourishing the blood and allowing the Qi to flow more easily and freely. When there is free flow, the pain and discomfort tend to melt away. This works even better if acupuncture is combined with customized herbal formulas like Xiao Yao San.

How does Xiao Yao San treat anxiety and help manage stress? 

Xiao Yao San/Free and Easy Wanderer is a great Chinese herbal formula for the treatment of anxiety and stress. Xiao Yao San harmonizes and nourishes your body so you can handle stress better. We always recommend a multi-pronged approach for the treatment of mental health. You can take Xiao Yao San while doing talk therapy and working with your doctor. 

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San Benefits

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San also known as Jia Wei Xiao Yao San is used for Liver Qi Stagnation with Spleen Qi and Liver Blood Deficiency that is complicated by heat. If heat signs are not present, standard Xiao Yao San is prescribed. The added heat clearing herbs are targeted to help with insomnia, irritability, short tempers, and overall mood.

Free and Easy Wanderer Dosage

This will depend on the severity of your symptoms, your age, and your weight. Your herbalist will be able to appropriately prescribe the best dose for you and your symptoms.

Free and Easy Wanderer for Fertility

Xiao Yao San is used to regulate the menstrual cycle. Having a regular cycle can be helpful for fertility because it can help couples narrow down their fertile windows and accurately predict ovulation.

Free and Easy Wanderer Insomnia

Xiao Yao San and Jia Wei Xiao Yao San can help the body handle stress. This can be helpful for anxiety and other mental health conditions as well. For insomnia, Jia Wei Xiao Yao San is more frequently used because there are often heat symptoms associated with insomnia and adding the Mu Dan Pi and Zhi Zi is quite helpful for clearing heat and helping you get a good night’s sleep.

Free and Easy Wanderer for Anxiety

As stated above, Xiao Yao San can be a really helpful adjunct therapy for mental health. We find that these formulas work best when custom made by your acupuncturist so that it fits your symptoms and pattern presentation. In addition, when treating anxiety, customized herbal formulas work really well in conjunction with acupuncture and therapy.

Free and Easy Wanderer for Depression

Xiao Yao San (Free and Easy Wanderer) can also be helpful for treating depression, especially if there is a deficiency pattern involved. We find that these formulas work best when custom made by your acupuncturist so that it fits your symptoms and pattern presentation. In addition, when treating anxiety, customized herbal formulas work really well in conjunction with acupuncture and psychotherapy.

What Is Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San Used for?

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San also known as Jia Wei Xiao Yao San is used for Liver Qi Stagnation with Spleen Qi and Liver Blood Deficiency that is complicated by heat. If heat signs are not present, standard Xiao Yao San is prescribed. 

Some examples of heat symptoms include insomnia, excessive thirst, irritability, feeling hot, palpitations, and a short temper.

What are the Ingredients of Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San?

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San (also known as Jia Wei Xiao Yao San) includes the same ingredients as Xiao Yao San with two additional herbs added.

Start with the same ingredients in Xiao Yao San:

  • Chai Hu (Bupleurum) – Soothes the Liver Qi and relieves constraint (and this is  easier when Liver blood  is nourished).
  • Dang Gui (Angelica Root) and Bai Shao (White Peony Root) – work together to nourish the Liver Blood which then allows the Liver Qi to move more easily.
  • Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes Rhizome) and Fu Ling (Poria) – Target Spleen Qi Deficiency by nourishing the Spleen  Qi and thereby generating blood. When the blood is nourished, the Liver Qi will flow smoothly. 
  • Zhi Gan Cao (Honey Fried Licorice) – Harmonizes all of the herbs in the formula  so they can all work together.
  • Pao Jiang (Quick-Fried Ginger Root) – Soothes Stomach Qi and aids in digestion and serves as an assistant to Bai zhu and Fu Ling.
  • Bo He (Field Mint) – Much stronger than your average peppermint, Bo He soothes and relieves Liver Qi stagnation. It also clears heat (caused by stagnation) and assists Chai Hu.

To make Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San (Jia Wei Xiao Yao San) the following is added:

  • Mu Dan Pi (Moutan Root Bark) – Clears heat, cools and invigorates the blood, and clears ascending Liver Fire. 
  • Zhi Zi (Gardenia Seed) – Clears heat and eliminates irritability.

What Is Xiao Yao San Good for?

Xiao Yao San (Free and Easy Wanderer) is used to treat many things. Xiao Yao San uses can range from mental health support such as stress, anxiety, and irritability to digestive complaints such as low appetite, gastritis, and indigestion all the way to PMS symptoms such as breast pain, bloating, irritability, and headaches. If you’re ready to experience this for yourself, ask your TCM trained herbalist at your next appointment if Xiao Yao San, or something similar, might be able to help you.To get started, head to our booking page and schedule your first appointment. If you’d like us to check your insurance benefits, we’d be happy to take care of that for you. We are in-network with CareFirst/BlueCross, Aetna, and the VA Community Choice Network.

About the Author

Hi! I’m Elyse, the go-getter who founded Cherry Blossom Healing Arts. I’m 100% a healer who loves to help people feel better! I absolutely love practicing acupuncture in Washington, DC.

You May Have Insurance Coverage for Acupuncture!We Are In-Network with CareFirst/BlueCross, Aetna, and the VA Community Choice Network. Your out-of-network insurance may also have acupuncture coverage.

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