Xiao Yao San

Sarah Bartle

By Sarah Bartle LAc

If you have seen me in the clinic then you probably know I love the herbal formula Xiao Yao San and its cousin Jia Wei Xiao Yao San. This formula is a must have in my personal medicine cabinet and one that I frequently prescribe clinically. In America, Xiao Yao San, is commonly translated to Free and Easy Wanderer. It is a poetic translation albeit not a direct translation describing the formula’s intended purpose to relax and reduce obsessive worries.

Xiao Yao San is a gentle but effective formula to treat anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal issues and fatigue brought on by everyday stresses. Our modern, inner city, American lifestyle leaves very few of us immune to the side effects of a fast paced life. We tend to overwork and overthink which leads to these very common issues. Other common symptoms treated by Xiao Yao San are hypochondriac pain, headache, vertigo, dry mouth and throat and bitter taste in the mouth.

Xiao Yao San is also a workhorse at treating menstrual disorders. Irregular or painful menstruation, PMS, breast distension and abdominal masses are treated with Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San as appropriate. Due to the ability to regulate the menstrual cycle it is frequently used by women suffering from infertility.

The formula was first recorded in the year 1078 in the book Imperial Grace Formulary of the Tai Ping Era. I love that this formula is almost 1,000 years old! Even though the cause of stress was very different when this formula was made it is still quite useful today. I feel that shows a great thread in humanity linking us through medicine.

As practitioners, we don’t always have enough time in clinic to give a detailed description of a formula. Let me know if you found this useful and I can share information about other commonly used formulas in future blog posts.


Chen, J., & Chen T. (2009) Chinese Herbal Formulas and Applications. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc.

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