'Tis the Season for Curing Pills

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Article originally published November 9, 2020 Plum Flower Curing Pills

Yes! Welcome to the season where we traditionally want to reach for Curing Pills, and this year they are especially useful. These unprecedented, challenging times have turned every familiar aspect of our lives upside down, and our digestion may very well be suffering too. With more folks working from home, designing new routines for social interaction, more stress eating, more takeout foods, and possibly less exercise, our digestion has no doubt been challenged. Factor in the upcoming winter months with more time spent indoors and the consumption of seasonally rich foods, and we have the perfect recipe for digestive distress. Curing Pills to the rescue!

Formula Use

As most practitioners who have used this prescription know, its results are exceptional. It often seems as though there are no digestive complaints that Curing Pills cannot resolve! So, what is it that makes this formulation so universally effective?

The herbs in this formula come from the categories of: Spicy Cool, Aromatic Transform Damp, Regulate Qi, Dispel Food Stagnation, and Dispel Wind and Phlegm. The traditional functions of Curing Pills include draining Dampness and Heat from the intestines, relieving food stagnation, clearing summertime Damp Heat, regulating the Qi and benefiting the Spleen.

Originally designed to address summer Damp Heat invading the Large Intestine, in large part the formula relies on the aromatic transform Damp and regulate Qi herbs Hou po, Cang zhu, Huo xiang, Ju hong and Mu xiang to wake up the Spleen to eliminate Dampness in the Large Intestine. The relieve food stagnation herbs Gu ya and Shen qu further assist the Spleen by directly aiding digestion. Fu ling and Yi yi ren strengthen the Spleen's regulation of fluids, while Ge gen and Tian hua fen cool and moisten fluids in the Stomach.

Curing Pills Ingredients

And finally, here is the secret to this prescription’s ability to create that light and easy feeling in the Middle Jiao that is so characteristic of Curing Pills: Tian ma, Bai zhi, Ju hua and Bo he. These four herbs cool, lighten, soothe and ease constraint; allowing the Stomach Qi to descend and the clear Qi of the Spleen to ascend. When the Spleen Qi ascends, a renewed taste for the five flavors returns; and when the Stomach Qi descends, a healthy appetite is restored!

Curing Pills can be used to address lack of appetite, indigestion, food stagnation, discomfort due to overindulgence, stomach upset from external pathogens, and most complaints that arise from Stomach Qi stagnation and intestinal discomfort. Although Curing Pills have few contraindications, caution should be used in cases with Yin Deficiency. Because of the Qi-regulating aspects of the formula, caution should also be used during pregnancy, particularly during the late stages or in cases of threatened miscarriage.

Having been an herbalist for three decades, I'd have to say that Curing Pills are on my list of the top five most commonly useful formulas. I recommend keeping Curing Pills in the home medicine cabinet, the family First-Aid kit, the daily backpack, and in the glove compartment of the family car. With the holidays coming up, Curing Pills go right to the top of my list!

Available in several different package options!

A Brief History of Curing Pills

Curing Pills first came onto the scene as Po Chai Pills, one of the most recognized Chinese patent medicines in America. Found in every Chinatown from San Francisco to New York City, this wonderful remedy was instantly recognizable with its ornate artwork-festooned box filled with little vials of tiny red pills. Marketed as being able to resolve everything from indigestion to a hangover, it’s proven to be an exceptionally useful and effective herbal medicine for a broad array of complaints.

Originally formulated in 1896 by Li Shiu-kei, Po Chai pills were first manufactured in the Guangdong province city of Foshan. Following the communist revolution in 1949, the Li family fled to Hong Kong and began manufacturing there. By then Po Chai Pills were already well known in Hong Kong, and their popularity continued to grow through the 1970s and 80s. When the Li family left Foshan for Hong Kong, the factory in Mainland China continued manufacturing Po Chai pills and renamed them Pill Curing. Pill Curing is packaged in a less-ornate, but still very noticeable red box, while those still made by the Li family kept the original name of Po Chai Pills. Mayway’s Plum Flower® version have continued the tradition of them being tiny pills (for faster breakdown and absorption) but removed the colored coating. Also, instead of plastic tubes, Plum Flower® Curing Pills come in capsules and convenient stick packs.


  • Bensky, D. et al., Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, 3rd ed., Eastland Press: 2004.
  • Chen, J. & Chen, T., Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, Art of Medicine Press: 2004.
  • Maclean, Will, Clinical Manual of Chinese Herbal Patent Medicines, Pangolin Press: 2003
  • Wrinkle, A. et al., A Practitioner’s Formula Guide, Elemental Essentials Press: 2008.

About the Author

Mark W. Frost, MSTCM, and licensed acupuncturist, was previously chair of the Herbal Medicine Department at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, California where he taught in both the Masters and Doctoral Programs and served as a clinical supervisor in their Community Clinic. Mark has also been in private practice in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He is the author of numerous articles on Chinese herbal medicine and has presented at several TCM conferences since 2014.

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