The 5 Days Approach For Custom Formulas

Another, More Flexible Approach

Establishing Percentages When Gram Quantities Are Known

Finding Gram Quantities When Percentages Are Given

Introduction

KPC and many other granule manufacturers produce granules that are concentrated to a 5:1 ratio—e.g. five grams of raw herbs are concentrated to make one gram of granules. Some experts believe that granules are slightly more potent than is indicated by the 5:1 ratio because the extraction methods used by manufacturers capture more constituents than a simple decocting process does. While it might seem that this potency difference would alter the ratio, in the strictest sense it does not as long as 5 parts by weight of raw herbs are reduced to 1 part by weight of granules.

In any case, the 5:1 ratio is always approximated and really can’t be unequivocally determined. This is mentioned here to suggest that practitioners may want to adjust granule dosages conservatively downward, particularly when working at the higher ends of the dosage ranges. However, while conservative starting dosages might make sense, a hesitancy to dose near the higher ends of dosage ranges when it is indicated might not. Finally, some substances (minerals, shells, animal products, and some herbs) cannot be concentrated, and extra attention is necessary when adding them to formulas. For our purposes we will imagine that we live in a perfect world where all granule products are 5 times as potent as an equal weight of their raw counterparts.

Disclaimer: This article is a guide written for trained practitioners who want to convert raw herb dosages to granule dosages. It is not a guide to determining actual dosages for patients—the patient's signs and symptoms, size and weight, age, state of health, and use of medications must all be considered when determining dosages.

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The 5 Days approach for standard formulas:

If you are referencing a raw formula and the daily dosage is provided, you can simply use the same dosages for 5 day’s worth of the formula in granules.

Example—Si Jun Zi Tang, p. 309 in Formulas and Strategies (Bensky et al.):

Ren Shen 3-9g

Bai Zhu 6-9g

Fu Ling 6-9g

Zhi Gan Cao 3-6g

This approach and the two discussed below it share an important strength: they allow you to think about dosages as if you were administering raw herbs. You can first decide where you want to be within the dosage range for each herb before doing any math. So, let’s say you decided that you want to dose as follows:

Ren Shen 6g

Bai Zhu 9g

Fu Ling 6g

Zhi Gan Cao 3g

Total 24g

Again, these are dosages for 1 day’s worth of raw herbs or for 5 day’s worth of granules. Multiply the 5-day dosage for each herb by the number of 5-day periods you feel is most appropriate for the circumstances: multiply by 1.5 for a week’s (7.5 days) worth, by 2 for 10 day's worth, by 3 for 2 week’s (15 days) worth, or by 6 for a month’s worth of formula.

For 15 day’s worth of this formula in granules multiply your 5-day dosages by 3:

Ren Shen 18g

Bai Zhu 27g

Fu Ling 18g

Zhi Gan Cao 9g

Total 72g

Now you have to determine how many gram spoons the patient should take each day—just divide 72 grams by 15 days—4.8 grams per day. The daily dosage will (of course) stay the same regardless of the duration. For example, if you plan to dispense only 5 day’s worth of formula and you divide that total—24 grams—by 5, you still get 4.8 grams.

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The 5 Days approach for custom formulas:

You can also use this approach when writing a custom formula—this works when writing completely original formulas or when you are adding herbs to or otherwise modifying classical formulas. The dosage ranges for single herbs provided in most reference works are for daily dosages and are derived from typical usages in classical formulas. In order to use this method you simply think of the daily dosage ranges for raw herbs as the 5-day dosage ranges for granules. Here’s a randomly-constructed formula with dosage ranges from Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica (Bensky et al.):

Range

Chen Pi 3-9g

Zhi Ban Xia 3-9g

Yi Yi Ren 9-30g

Mu Dan Pi 6-12g

Xi Yang Shen 3-6g

Dang Gui 4.5-15g

Dang Gui provides a nice example for this method: you don't want a patient to take more than 15 grams of Dang Gui granules in a 5 day period. You also know that 10 grams is a medium dose for 5 days, and 5 grams is a low dose for 5 days. Select your dosages for each herb (preferably in a logical manner) within the ranges…

Chen Pi 6g

Zhi Ban Xia 6g

Yi Yi Ren 30g

Mu Dan Pi 9g

Xi Yang Shen 3g

Dang Gui 10g

Total 51g

As in the first approach, multiply the 5-day dosage for each herb by the number of 5-day periods you feel is most appropriate for your patient. For example: 5 day’s worth of Chen Pi is 6g, 7.5 days=9g, 10 days=12g, 15 days=18 grams, and 1 month=36g. The total for 5 days is 51 grams, so you will have the patient take 10 grams per day (perhaps adjusting down to 9 grams—3 gram spoons 3x/day). If you want to modify a classical formula, simply choose from the dosage ranges provided with the formula and choose an appropriate dosage for each new herb added.

You should, of course, consider the overall nature (temperature) and desired effect of the resultant formula. This is both obvious and outside the scope of this article, but it is mentioned here because logic might seem to dictate the choice of several “ideal” herbs that together create a formula that is much warmer or colder than intended—and herbs added to a classical formula can significantly change its nature. These issues can be rectified by eliminating herbs that are possibly redundant, adjusting dosages, or by adding one or two herbs that will have a moderating effect (e.g. adding Huang Qin to an overly-warm formula).

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Another, more flexible approach:

Perhaps you’d like the freedom to write a granule formula to be taken for any number of days: 1, 2, 3, 29, 37... The following method requires a little creative thinking, but it is easy to use after working with it once or twice. It involves rounding raw dosages up or down until they are divisible by 5, and then dividing by 5 to get a daily granule dose. This method is commonly used…

Example—Si Jun Zi Tang, p. 309 in Formulas and Strategies (Bensky et al.):

Ren Shen 3-9g

Bai Zhu 6-9g

Fu Ling 6-9g

Zhi Gan Cao 3-6g

For Ren Shen you could easily choose to use 5 grams, but keep in mind that you can also use 2.5 or 7.5 grams, because 2.5 divided by 5 equals 0.5 and 7.5 divided by 5 equals 1.5. You would probably choose not to round any herb up above the dosage range, ie. you would not round Ren Shen's dosage up to 10 grams and would instead round it down to 7.5 grams or to 5 grams. Let’s adjust all the dosages to be divisible by 5:

Ren Shen 5g

Bai Zhu 7.5g

Fu Ling 7.5g

Zhi Gan Cao 5g

Now divide by 5 to get one day’s dosages:

Ren Shen 1g

Bai Zhu 1.5g

Fu Ling 1.5g

Zhi Gan Cao 1g

Total 5g

Then pick any number of days and multiply the daily dose by that number. 7 day’s worth would be:

Ren Shen 7g

Bai Zhu 10.5g

Fu Ling 10.5g

Zhi Gan Cao 7g

Total 35g

Our website allows you to order by the half-gram, but you could also round Bai Zhu and Fu Ling up to 11 grams (the extra half-gram divided by 7 days results in a nominal daily increase). Now go back to the one-day dosages and total them—in our example the total is 5 grams. You might tell your patient to take 3 gram spoons in the morning and 2 in the evening.

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Establishing percentages when gram quantities are known:

Perhaps you have written a nice formula for five day’s worth of herb granules and you suddenly see that the online dispensary you mistakenly chose to use is asking for herb percentages. The fastest way to determine percentages (without thinking about how it works) is to multiply the gram weight of each herb by 100 and divide the result by the total number of grams in the formula. In our example below we know the gram weights for all the herbs and we also know that the total weight of the formula is 75 grams.

Ren Shen 4 grams 4 x 100=400, 400÷75=5.33333%

Chen Pi 6 grams 6 x 100=600, 600÷75=8%

Zhi Ban Xia 6 grams =8%

Yi Yi Ren 30 grams 30 x 100= 3000, 3000÷75=40%

Mu Dan Pi 9 grams 9 x 100=900, 900 ÷75=12%

Dang Gui 10 grams 10 x 100=1000, 1000 ÷75=13.3333%

Bai Shao 10 grams =13.3333%

Total 75 grams

This work can be checked by totaling the percentages to make sure they add up to 100:

Ren Shen 4
grams 5.3333%

Chen Pi 6 grams 8%

Zhi Ban Xia 6 grams 8%

Yi Yi Ren 30 grams 40%

Mu Dan Pi 9 grams 12%

Dang Gui 10 grams 13.3333%

Bai Shao 10 grams 13.3333%

Total 99.999%

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At some point you may have to resort to using percentages to figure out how many grams of each herb you’ll want to use. This can happen when an atypical source you are referencing (eg. the labels on standard KPC formula bottles) provides you only with percentages. If you didn’t have enough of a pre-made formula on hand and you wanted to recreate it in some quantity other than 100 grams you would have to do a little bit of math.

Example:

Ren Shen 10%

Dan Gui 15%

Bai Shao 15%

Bai Zhu 15%

Yi Yi Ren 20%

Cang Zhu 10%

Fu Ling 10%

Zhi Gan Cao 5%

This would, of course, be a direct correlation for a 100 gram formula, but what if 100 grams is too much for the patient—what if you want, for example, 45 grams? Multiply each percentage by 45:

10% x 45=4.5

15% x 45=6.75

20% x 45= 9

5% x 45= 2.25

Your work can be checked by adding the weights of the individual herbs to make sure they total 45 grams:

Ren Shen 4.5g

Dan Gui 6.75g

Bai Shao 6.75g

Bai Zhu 6.75g

Yi Yi Ren 9.0g

Cang Zhu 4.5g

Fu Ling 4.5g

Zhi Gan Cao 2.25g

Total 45 grams

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