Qi and Flavor
A simple visual reference for Chinese Medicine Formulas


The qi of an herb refers to the temperature characteristic. Simply stated from the Inner Classic: Hot diseases must be cooled, cold diseases must be warmed. Classical Chinese texts also describe the qi of herbs to express thick or thin; heavy or light. Temperature characteristics are considered yang in nature.

Properties: Hot, Warm, Neutral, Cool, Cold


In Chinese herbal medicine, flavor or taste contributes to its therapeutic function. Flavor characteristics are also considered yin in nature.

ACRID: disperses and moves.

SWEET: moderates, tonifies, harmonizes, and can moisten.

BITTER: tightens, firms, drains and dries.

SOUR: drains, contracts, astringes and prevents leakage of fluids and energy

SALTY: softens and purges

BLAND: drains dampness and promote urination

About this project

Qi and Flavor is a visual reference site for Chinese Medicine Formulas illustrating the qi and flavor (temperature + taste) for the California State Board Formulas.

This site includes commentary for each formula: source, symptoms, tongue, pulse, and brief descriptions.*

This website was created by Susan Housand, an acupuncturist and herbalist in Oakland, California. Motivated by curiosity and inspired by the Complete Works of Jingyue, 1st scroll, chapter 11:

There is but one truth for the use of herbs, and it is the mastery over their qi and taste, along with the knowledge of the yin and yang, for even though there exist numerous medicinal ingredients, one will be able to grasp the essence.

This can be a tool for clinicians, CALE prep, senior level students, or anyone looking to have a visual reference guide of the taste and temperature profiles for 83 popular (CALE) TCM formulas.

* Bensky, D., V. Scheid, A. Ellis and R. Barolet, Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas and Strategies (2nd Edition), Seattle, Eastland Press, 2009.