Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi Formulation

Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi and Mastering Herbal Formulas

Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi: Celebrating the Art and Science of Formulation

At RAW Forest Foods, our commitment to the ethnobotanical traditions and science—what we call the art and science—of herbal medicine is intertwined with our approach to the meticulous formulation of our products. Just as we embrace the Daodi philosophy in sourcing our ingredients, we apply the same level of dedication and precision to our formulation process. Central to this process is the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system, a cornerstone of Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), renowned for its structured and holistic approach to creating true herbal formulas.

The Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi System of Formulation

In our product development process, we follow the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system of formulation—a framework deeply rooted in Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Following the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi framework empowers us to create genuine—true—herbal formulas that unlock and harness the full potential of our phyto-therapeutic and myco-therapeutic ingredients.

The Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi System Categorizes Herbs into Four Indispensable Roles

Moving deeper into the system, the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi, with its origins in the rich history of Classical Chinese Medicine, is a time-honored and time-tested methodology that dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). Its principles are well-documented in classical Chinese medicine texts such as Shāng Hán Lùn (傷寒論) (Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders) and Jīn Guì Yào Lüè (金匱要略) (Prescriptions of the Golden Casket). These texts have been instrumental in shaping this comprehensive herbal categorization system.

Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi categorizes herbs into four distinct roles within a formula, each playing a critical part in achieving a balanced and effective formula. This categorization, developed and refined over centuries, reflects the rich heritage and profound understanding of herbs, their interactions, and their therapeutic effects in traditional Chinese medicine. These roles—Jun (Principal Herbs), Chen (Associate Herbs), Zuo (Assistant Herbs), and Shi (Envoy Herbs)—form the backbone of true herbal formulations.

Jun (君药 jūn yào) - Principal Herbs

The Jun herbs are the primary or sovereign herbs in a formula, selected to address the main pattern or underlying condition of the patient. They play a central and pivotal role in achieving the therapeutic goals of the formula, often serving as the linchpin for the primary therapeutic effect.

Chen (臣药 chén yào) - Associate Herbs

Acting as minister or deputy herbs, the Chen herbs support and assist the Jun herbs in treating the primary condition. They may have complementary actions, enhancing the effectiveness of the formula and addressing secondary aspects of the condition.

Zuo (佐药 zuǒ yào) - Assistant Herbs

The Zuo herbs optimize the overall therapeutic outcome by harmonizing the formula, mitigating potential side effects, or directing the formula's actions to specific areas of the body. They play a crucial role in ensuring the formula's balance and tolerability.

Shi (使药 shǐ yào) - Envoy Herbs

Serving as envoy or messenger herbs, the Shi herbs have a unique role in directing the actions of the formula to specific parts of the body, enhancing its absorption, and ensuring precise distribution. They act as guides, ensuring that the therapeutic effects of the formula reach the intended target or organ system.

Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi and the Advantages of True Herbal Formulas

Transitioning to the benefits, the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system provides a structured approach to creating balanced and effective herbal formulas. Using this system, we carefully select and combine herbs from each category based on the goal of the formula—the desired outcome. This categorization ensures that the formula addresses the primary pattern of disharmony while considering secondary aspects and potential interactions.

Precision and Targeted Therapy

The precision of the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system ensures that herbs are categorized and combined effectively, allowing formulas to target the primary pattern of disharmony while addressing secondary aspects and underlying causes.

Minimization of Potential Harm

Assistant (Zuo) and envoy (Shi) herbs are crucial in mitigating potential side effects from potent herbs, enhancing the overall safety of herbal treatments.

Enhanced Synergy

Chen herbs work synergistically with Jun herbs, leading to more profound and lasting results, especially in complex health conditions.

Holistic Approach

Aligning with the core principles of herbal medicine, this system facilitates the development of formulas that consider the patient's overall constitution and specific needs, promoting a more effective and efficient treatment.

Balanced Therapeutic Effects

The Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system emphasizes balance within herbal formulas. The inclusion of herbs with different functions ensures that the formula does not overemphasize one aspect of treatment at the expense of others. This balance is particularly critical when using adaptogenic and tonic herbs, as incorrect formulation or usage of these herbs can exacerbate underlying pathologies and deficiencies.

This tailored approach can lead to more effective and efficient formulas and treatments.

Western Herbalism, Western Formulas, and the use of Single Herbs

In contrast to Western herbalism, where single herbs or combinations of similar herbs are often used for specific actions, the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system offers several distinct advantages:

  • Diversity of Actions: While Western herbalism often employs single herbs or combinations of similar herbs for their specific actions, the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system provides a more comprehensive approach. It allows for a greater diversity of actions within a single formula, addressing multiple aspects of a patient's condition simultaneously.
  • Tailored Formulations: Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi formulas are highly individualized, with herbs carefully chosen to match the patient's unique diagnosis and constitution. In Western herbalism, while herbs are selected based on their specific actions, the formulation approach may be less structured and personalized.
  • Safety and Side Effect Management: The inclusion of assistant (Zuo) and envoy (Shi) herbs in Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi formulas enhances safety by managing potential side effects. In Western herbalism, the emphasis may be on single herbs or simple combinations, which may require more careful consideration of potential adverse effects.
  • Emphasis on Balance: The Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system places a strong emphasis on balance and harmony within a formula. Western herbalism, while effective in its own right, may focus more on individual actions of herbs without always considering the need for overall balance.

Precision and Efficacy With Adaptogenic and Tonic Herbs

Adaptogenic and tonic herbs are potent in their actions, but they require careful handling to avoid potential pitfalls. Incorrect formulation or usage can inadvertently exacerbate underlying health issues and imbalances in patients.

When working with these powerful herbs, it's crucial to recognize that:

  • The Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safe and effective use of adaptogenic and tonic herbs.
  • These herbs, celebrated for their ability to restore vitality and resilience, demand meticulous formulation to achieve optimal therapeutic outcomes while avoiding potential complications.

By leveraging the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi framework, we navigate the complexities of these herbs, ensuring that our formulations harness their benefits while safeguarding against unintended consequences.


At RAW Forest Foods, our dedication to the Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi system is more than a commitment to traditional methodologies; it's a testament to our belief in the timeless wisdom of Classical Chinese Medicine. By integrating these traditional principles with modern practices, we continue to offer our customers herbal products that are not only effective and safe but also deeply rooted in a rich herbalist tradition.

This fusion of the old and new exemplifies our ongoing journey to honor the heritage of herbal medicine while meeting the needs of contemporary health and wellness.