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Ge Gen Wan / Kudzu pills

Ge gen wan is a 2,000 year old remedy for colds which is still popular today. It was originally recorded in a book called the Shang Han Lun which was written in the early part of the first millenium. This book is still studied today, both for its formulary and for its diagnostic model. Ge gen wan is a variation of the first formula students learn: ma huang tang. This formula serves as a model for how to construct a formula.

Ma huang, or Chinese ephaedra, has become notorious of late, and has even been banned in many cases. Ephaedra has been linked to a number of deaths which resulted from the inappropriate use of ephaedra as an ingredient in a weight loss formula. This unfortunate situation has made it difficult to use an herb which, if used properly, is irreplaceable for treating colds and a variety of lung conditions.

Ma huang has a powerful ability, in the early days of a cold, to boost the immune system, promote sweating and regulate the lungs to stop cough and wheezing. Doctors of Chinese medicine also use ma huang to treat certain kinds of asthma.

Ma huang came to be used in diet formulas due to its diuretic properties. Loss of water through urination is a temporary, effective, and potentially dangerous way to lose a few pounds. Chinese doctors also use ma huang as a diuretic, but only in one very specific circumstance, acute facial edema. Ma huang is usually only used for short-term, acute conditions.

Another herb in this formula is known to almost everyone: cinnamon. In the kitchen, cinnamon bark is used in cakes and cookies, to spice cider, and is a major ingredient in Indian cuisine. The bark is used in Chinese medicine as a very strong warming agent. The stem of the plant, called gui zhi, is one of the primary herbs used to treat colds. The combination of ephaedra and cinnamon stick is an example of herbs which complement and strengthen each other's therapeutic action.

The ingredient which gives ge gen wan its name is known to many Americans as kudzu. In many parts of the South it is considered an invasive vine which covers and suffocates other plants and trees. Driving along the highway in some areas you can see it covering everything. The root has valuable medicinal properties. In ge gen wan kudzu is used primarily to address the muscle aches, especially in the upper back, shoulders, and the back of the head, which are often a part of winter colds. Ge gen, or kudzu, is also a useful herb to treat diarrhea, alcoholism and over-indulgence in alcohol.


Ge gen wan is effective to treat winter colds. Winter colds are usually, though not always, caught in the winter. The main symptoms of a winter cold are chills, muscle aches, cough, mild sore throat, sneezing, and a runny or stuffy nose with clear or white discharge. Ge gen wan should be used in the first 4-5 days of a cold. If the disease gets worse the formula is no longer appropriate.

Winter colds should be distinguished from flu or summer colds which tend to have fever, strong sore throat and sticky yellow nasal or lung discharge.

Cautions and Contraindications

Ge gen wan should not be used by people with moderate to severe hypertension. It should not be used for more than a week at a time.