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Gather Vitality

Gui Pi Tang

Kan Herbals

Strengthens Spleen, benefits Qi, tonifies Heart, nourishes Blood, composes Spleen Thought (Yi), calms Heart Spirit (Shen), focuses and strengthens Spleen-Heart communication.

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The Comprehensive Discussion of the White Tiger Hall (c. 1st century A.D.) describes the Spleen’s virtue as trustworthiness (Xin), and the Heart’s virtue as propriety (Li). The Spleen’s Earth produces without partiality, while the Heart’s Fire discriminates. The Spleen’s Earth allows presence and power, while the Heart’s Fire provides focus, refinement and communication. The Spleen provides a myriad of consideration and meaning while the Heart allows it to manifest appropriately and comfortably. Creating a robust and harmonious interaction of the Spleen and Heart is the cornerstone intention of Gather Vitality.

Spleen Qi rules transformation and transmutations, while the Heart’s aspect of Spirit (Shen) refines and puts the myriad manifestations in their appropriate time and place. The Earth’s trustworthiness makes the Spleen the “depository organ,” while the Heart is assigned the role of “sovereign ruler” (Su Wen, chapter 8) because propriety allows social dealing to be orderly and suitable. The Spleen’s Thought (Yi) provides possibilities while the Heart’s Spirit allows congruency with the societal, interpersonal and intrapsychic dimensions of life. Gather Vitality is the classic Chinese herbal formula for tonifying and enhancing these two fundamental and complementary forces, thereby integrating the human personality.

The famous Qing Dynasty commentator, Luo Mei, describes Gather Vitality (in his Discussion of Ancient and Contemporary Famous Formulas, section 1, c. 1675 A.D.) as fostering the dialectical unity of the Spleen’s Earth and Heart’s Fire so that this “fundamental mother-child relationship in human life” can maintain unity and integrity. Gather Vitality allows reflective Heart Blood to put fortified Spleen Qi into its proper time and place, thereby fostering a person who is secure, strong, intact, alert, creative, sensitive, and who remains in harmony with the cosmos.

Gather Vitality is Chinese Herbology’s most important tonic for strengthening and gathering the fibers of effort and propriety that manifest and embed in the Spleen Qi and Heart’s Blood.


Gather Vitality is indicated when the Qi and Spleen Thought and the Blood and Heart Spirit are weakened and cannot form an integrated whole. This lack of strength and cohesiveness is recognized by weakness and disintegration affecting all aspects of a person’s life. In classical Chinese literature the formula is rarely described (at least until modern times) on a purely physical level. Dr. Xue Ji, in his Annotations on Good Formulas for Women (volume 24, section 4, 1509 A.D.), lists some of the patterns that Gather Vitality is used for: occasional insomnia (due to the Heart Blood’s inability to embrace the Spirit), occasional weariness, lethargy or apathy (the Spleen Qi’s inability to arouse), occasional mild heart palpitations (the Heart Blood’s inability to nourish the Heart), limbs that are occasionally tired or achy, occasional general fatigue (the Spleen’s inability to properly rule the muscles), irregular stools (the Spleen’s inability to regulate food), occasional menstrual disharmony (the Blood and Qi’s inability to regulate the menses), occasional “reckless Blood” (the Spleen Qi’s inability to govern the Blood), and occasional digestive disharmonies (Spleen Qi deficiency).

Sleep imbalances are probably most frequently mentioned in subsequent literature and include occasional insomnia, interrupted sleep and constant drowsiness.

Gather Vitality is also mentioned as being helpful for occasional speech difficulty that involve nervousness, hesitancy, stammering (Blood deficiency) or when there is lack of power behind words (Qi deficiency).


The instability and psychic unravelling for which this formula is designed is easily recognizable on the mental-cognitive, emotional, behavioral and spiritual levels. Dr. Yan Yong-Huo’s original description of Gather Vitality in Formulas Beneficial to Life (1253 A.D.) says it is designed for “too much thought and worry . . . and anxiety.” When Spleen Thought is weakened it generates excessive and random thoughts. A person is distracted, ruminates and has difficulty in concentration. Excessive thought can occasionally produce mental stagnation, worry, cautiousness or confusion. When the Heart Blood is depleted, thought can be self-deprecating, absent-minded, devoid of self-worth, apprehensive and frequently equating possibility with probability.

On an emotional level, one can find this formula useful for feelings of depersonalization, fear of being out of control and fear of committing embarrassing or humiliating actions. Gather Vitality can also be very helpful for a person who feels powerless, hopeless, and has low self-esteem.

Because Gather Vitality addresses both Qi and Blood, helpless behavior on the one hand and restless behavior on the other are addressed and healthy states of mind are supported. It is commonly used for combinations of meekness, cautiousness, occasional fatigue, irritability, inability to relax, feelings of insecurity, inappropriate weeping and “crossing one’s bridges before reaching them.”

Dr. Yan’s original Song Dynasty description of Gather Vitality places it in the discussion on forgetfulness, and emphasizes its primary importance for memory. Memory, in Chinese Herbology, is a substantial part of the non-physical dimension of personality that enables concrete and specific acknowledgment. Gather Vitality is useful for those who cannot report or bring to consciousness all that was (or is) known, felt or perceived; it is for those who are unable to embrace or be comfortable and at one with significant parts of their own selves.

Gather Vitality tonifies the Qi and fortifies a person’s ability to transform, maintain, be firm and encounter, while simultaneously nourishing the blood and enabling acknowledgement, embracing and being comfortable. It allows one’s efforts and manifestations to locate and recognize a reality that is appropriate, reassuring and secure. Gather Vitality enables the assertion of oneself, to embrace authentic possibilities and limitations, and be aware of one’s own creativity, worth and responsibilities. It facilitates comfort in the process of life, and a respectful, mindful concern with outward creativity and inward reflection.


Gather Vitality (Gui Pi Tang) originates with the famous Chinese formula “Restoring Spleen Soup,” which derives from Yan Yong-Huo’s Formulas Beneficial to Life (1253 A.D.). The popular version of this formula selected here is a modification of Dr. Yan’s formula developed by Xue Ji in his Annotations on Good Formulas for Women (1509 A.D.). Dr. Xue decided to add Dong quai root and Polygala root to the original formula to make it both more nourishing to the blood and fostering of a Heart-Spleen connection. Dr. Xue’s version has become the standard form of “Restore the Spleen Decoction” (Gui Pi Tang) in China today.

Analytically, one can describe the formula as comprising the “Four Gentleman Soup” (Si Jun Zi Tang) – Chinese red ginseng root and rhizome, White atractylodes rhizome, Poria with wood root and Honey fried Chinese licorice root and rhizome, plus “Angelica Tonify Blood Soup” (Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang) – Dong quai root and Astragalus root) of Li Dong-Yuan (1180-1251 A.D.), and adding Heart Spirit herbs and Saussurea root.


Polygala root is an indispensable herb to facilitate communication between the psycho-spiritual components of the organs. The Divine Husbandman (c. 150 A.D.) says it “tonifies deficiency . . . benefits the nine orifices, supports Wisdom (Zhi Hui), helps memory, strengthens the Will (Zhi) and doubles strength.” The Transformation of Herbal Products (1644 A.D.) explains its dramatic effects on the Non-corporeal soul (Hun), sometimes Corporeal soul (Po). It is bitter, acrid and warm, and, in modern times, is said to enter the Heart, Kidney and Lung meridians.

Astragalus root, according to the Materia Medica of Ri Hua-Zi (713 A.D.), “helps Qi, strengthens the tendons and bones, fosters the muscles, and tonifies the Blood.” It is a crucial herb to enhance and invigorate the transforming qualities of Qi. It is sweet and slightly warm, and enters the Spleen and Lung meridians.

White atractylodes rhizome reinforces the other Qi tonics in the formula. The Materia Medica for Seeking Genuineness (1769 A.D.) calls White atractylodes rhizome “the main Spleen Qi tonic herb.” It is bitter, sweet and warm, entering the Spleen and Stomach meridians.

Poria with wood root is the portion of Poria surrounding and containing the root. It nourishes the Spirit (Shen).” It is sweet, bland, neutral and, according to Mou Xi-Yong (c. 1625 A.D.), enters the Heart meridian.

Dry fried Sour jujube seed is an important Blood tonic and “addresses Heart restlessness,” according to the early Miscellaneous Records of Famous Physicians (c. 500 A.D.). The Explained Illustrated Materia Medica (c. 1750 A.D.) amplifies this idea by explaining that Zizyphus “encourages the Hun to return to the Liver . . . and thereby reduces Heart restlessness.” It is sweet, sour and warm, and enters the Heart, Spleen, Liver and Gallbladder meridians.

Longan aril, according to The Divine Husbandman (c. 150 A.D.) “calms the Will (Zhi) . . . and strengthens the Non-corporeal soul (Hun), sometimes Corporeal soul (Po).” The Household Materia Medica (c. 1350 A.D.) continues this idea by saying that Longan aril “benefits intelligence and stabilizes the Heart.” It is sweet and warm and, in modern times, is said to enter the Heart and Spleen meridians.

Chinese red ginseng root and rhizome is, in modern times, the representative Qi tonic, but The Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica (c. 150 A.D.) goes beyond this usage and describes Ginseng as “calming the Spirit (Jing shen), stabilizing the Non-corporeal (Hun) and Corporeal soul (Po).” The Pouch of Pearls (1186 A.D.) says Ginseng “nourishes the Blood, tonifies the Stomach Qi and drains Heart over-excitement (Huo).” It is sweet, slightly bitter and warm and, in modern times, is said to enter the Spleen and Lung meridians.

Dong quai root is the crucial Blood tonic herb of the Chinese Materia Medica. In Gather Vitality, it is important in bringing out the potential of the other Blood tonic herbs. It is sweet, acrid, bitter and warm, entering the Heart, Liver and Spleen meridians.

Saussurea root is an important Qi-moving herb that, according to the Golden Mirror (1742 A.D.), is added to Gather Vitality because it “acridly scatters . . . the accumulated fear and dread and the thought that stagnates.” It is acrid, bitter and warm, and enters the Spleen, Stomach, Large Intestine and Gallbladder meridians.

Honey fried Chinese licorice root and rhizome tonifies the Middle Burner and adjusts and harmonizes the other herbs in the formula. It is sweet, bland and gentle, and enters the twelve meridians.

Ginger rhizome ensures that the rest of the formula does not disturb the digestion. The Pouch of Pearls (1186 A.D.) says it “benefits the Spleen-Stomach.” It is acrid and hot, and enters the Lung and Stomach meridians.

Red jujube fruit is a common addition to formulas to “calm the Middle, nourish the Spleen, help the twelve meridians, level the Stomach Qi . . . and harmonize the hundred herbs” (Divine Husbandman). It is sweet and neutral, and enters the Spleen and Stomach meridians.