Introduction to the formulas from Qin's 56 methods 

Over a period of 30 years, Qin Bo-Wei (1901-1970) created one of the most important collections of core formulas, which are especially suited for our modern patient population. Qin's formulas do not follow the modern Western trend and treat diseases, such as fibromyalgia, MS, arthritis, or hypothyroidism. In contrast, they focus on core disharmonies representing core concepts in Chinese medicine. When applied they treat a large range of complaints and of course can treat the disease.

When using these formulas, we recommend using Jason Blalack's book on Qin's 56 methods as a clinical guide.

Why use Qin's Formulas?

  • They are effective 
  • They are especially applicable for our modern patients. They are small number of ingredients, smaller dosages, and very precise 
  • They aid in the development of the practitioner's skills over time; teaching a thinking method that is accessible for the evolving herbalist 
  • They represent the core ideas in Chinese medicine, forming a true synthesis of thought. Qin's formulas incorporate essential ideas from the Inner Classic (Nei Jing), Discussion of Cold Damage (Shang Han Lun), Warm Disease School (wen bing), Spleen School (Pi Wei Lun), etc. 
  • They represent a very clinical and integrated approach to medicine, instead of a collection of somewhat disconnected formulas. That is, although Qin's formulas are based on classical formulas, they have been filtered through one of the most prominent lineages in Chinese medicine history (Meng He). Thus they are held together in a cohesive manner


Qin's formulas are effective as is, as are a large number of other classical formulas we find throughout Chinese medicine's history. There are reasons mentioned below, that we feel (as did Qin) that his formulas are more effective than many classic formulas.

Qin's formulas are modern and are well suited for our patient population

“The movements of qi are not uniform. Past and present do not move on the same track. 
Old formulas are not suitable for new disorders.”

- Zhang Yuansu (1151–1234)

A common question among practitioners is how to apply classic formulas in modern times. Quite simply, we live in a time that is imaginably different than, for example, Han dynasty China (206 BCE - 220 CE) and our modern patients differ from various patient populations throughout history.

Actually many famous doctors throughout history have expressed a dissatisfaction with methods of the past. For example, in the 12th century, Zhang Yuansu said, “The movements of qi are not uniform. Past and present do not move on the same track. Old formulas are not suitable for new disorders.”

Qin practiced in the Zhejiang region in China in the mid 1900's. Since the Southern Song dynasty, this population had become known as being more sensitive and fragile. Thus the medical lineage from this region (Meng He), that Qin came from, developed a style of practice to suit these patients. These doctors became very refined in their approach by choosing smaller formulas with smaller numbers of ingredients. They were especially adept at using various herbal preparation methods (pao zhi) to better fine tune their prescriptions, making them more precise and resulting in fewer side-effects, and therefore more suitable for this 'sensitive' population. 

Our modern day clients also tend to be on the more sensitive side due to better living conditions, less physical labor, a more toxic environment, chemical and food sensitivities etc. Many practitioners find that their patients today require a lighter approach.

Qin spent around 30 years developing his formulas from this perspective. Although he based his formulas directly on classic formulas and ideas, they are somewhat designed for our modern times. That is, he modified or updated classical formulas with knowledge that came after the original prescription. For example, the Shang Han Lun only used a handful of herbs, based on what was available in the time and place the formulas were written. Qin takes these traditional ideas and uses herbs that were discussed in later centuries. Thus he makes more refined choices enabling the formulas to better treat our modern population, yet sticking to the underlying principles found throughout history.

This is not to say that classical formulas are not valuable and should not be used, but simply that it serves modern practitioners to understand and make use of the work of previous generations of clinicians and decide what is best for each patient.

From one single lineage

Most collections of formulas are comprised of prescriptions from different authors, different time periods, and different patient populations. As we know, different physicians throughout the ages had widely varying theoretical ideas, opinions on dosing, and even different viewpoints about what an individual herb's function was. Making sense of all of the intricacies behind each formula requires deep knowledge.

In contrast, Qin's formulas are filtered through his lineage and clinical experience. Therefore each of Qin's formulas utilizes herbs in a consistent manner in regard to function and dosage. Studying one consistent system can be easier and more fruitful than trying to make sense of the nuanced beliefs spanning 2000 years.

Simplify your approach

Each of Qin's formulas represents one core treatment method. There is a trend in the West to diagnose four or even more patterns in a single patient. We often feel our patients are overly complex and they have multiple patterns that must be simultaneously addressed. While our modern patients are often truly very complex, developing the ability to focus on the core pathodynamic and diagnose simply and clearly is an invaluable skill which often leads to better and faster results. When patients require more complex formulas, two of Qin’s formulas can be combined if desired.  However, we often find that in apparently complex patients, simplifying the approach can be the best thing for everyone. Not only do we strive to identify the underlying cause but we can see very quickly if our diagnosis in correct. If we are wrong, we change our approach to another method.

For example, yin deficiency and damp-heat patterns often look very similar. Instead of diagnosing and trying to simultaneously treat multiple contradictory patterns, a simpler solution is to pick one and if this fails, then try the other. This helps us hone in on the real underlying issue. Once this is discovered we can modify as needed.

A core set of formulas to start a bulk pharmacy

Finally, using Qin’s methods is an excellent way to start an herbal pharmacy. These formulas offer a complete treatment system and can  address 85-90% of the complaints that come through the door. In addition, because the formulas are relatively small, the cost of purchasing a pharmacy is dramatically less than stocking larger formulas, or of course, a whole bulk herb pharmacy.