What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux, commonly experienced as a burning sensation in the chest or throat, occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. This discomfort, often referred to as heartburn, can be accompanied by sour burping and regurgitation of stomach contents. It's a symptom that can significantly affect daily life, urging many to seek relief.

TCM's Interpretation of Acid Reflux

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a holistic view on acid reflux, attributing it to imbalances within the body's energy pathways. Unlike Western medicine, which often targets the symptoms directly, TCM looks to the root causes of these imbalances, including Qi Stagnation, Heat accumulation, and Qi Rebellion. Understanding the underlying pattern is vital in TCM to tailor an effective treatment strategy.

Identifying the Causes of Acid Reflux in TCM

Acid reflux in TCM can emerge from several disharmonies, notably Qi Stagnation and Heat. Qi Stagnation, particularly of the Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach, leads to symptoms like belching, irritability, and a craving for sour foods.

On the other hand, Heat patterns, such as Stomach Heat or Fire, manifest as sour regurgitation, thirst for cold drinks, and mouth ulcers. TCM delves into these patterns to restore balance and alleviate symptoms.

TCM Solutions for Acid Reflux

To address acid reflux, TCM employs a variety of formulas and herbs designed to harmonize the Stomach, move Qi, and clear Heat. Yue Ju Wan and Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang are recommended for Qi Stagnation, promoting the smooth flow of Qi and alleviating the discomfort associated with acid reflux.

For Heat patterns, Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang purges Heat accumulation, providing relief from the fiery symptoms. These treatments are customized based on the individual's specific TCM diagnosis, ensuring a targeted approach to healing.

Acupoint Therapy for Acid Reflux

TCM also utilizes acupoint therapy as a complementary treatment for acid reflux. Points along the Stomach, Bladder, and Directing Vessel meridians, such as Burong ST-19, Ganshu BL-18, and Juque REN-14, are selected for their ability to harmonize the Middle Burner, invigorate Qi and Blood, and subdue Rebellious Qi. This method enhances the effectiveness of herbal treatments and addresses the multifaceted nature of acid reflux.

Through its comprehensive understanding and multifaceted treatment strategies, TCM offers valuable insights and relief for those suffering from acid reflux. By emphasizing balance and harmony within the body, TCM provides a deeply rooted solution to this pervasive condition, showcasing the enduring wisdom of traditional practices in addressing modern health challenges.

Root Causes of Acid Reflux in TCM

Explore below more details about what might cause Acid reflux according to TCM.

  • By Syndrome
  • By Organ
  • Stomach
  • Liver
Detailed description of the cause

Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation in TCM is like having a traffic jam in your body's energy system. Qi, the vital life force that flows through your body, is supposed to move smoothly to maintain health and balance. But with Qi Stagnation, this flow gets blocked or slowed down, like cars stuck on a highway. This can lead to symptoms like feeling stressed, emotional mood swings, and physical discomfort, often described as a feeling of fullness or tightness, especially in the chest or abdomen. It's as though the body's internal energy circulation is disrupted, causing various issues. TCM sees this as an energy flow problem, different from modern medicine's focus on specific physiological processes.... see more

Qi Stagnation Patterns That Can Lead to Acid Reflux

Common Symptoms: Belching Depression Irritability Lack Of Appetite Abdominal Distention Upper Abdominal Distension Xerostomia Craving For Sour Foods

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Qi Stagnation Acid reflux, General fullness, Moving pain, Depression, Irritability, Mood swings, Sighing Yue Ju Wan
Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach Acid reflux, Belching, Abdominal distention, Upper abdominal distension, Depression, Irritability, Xerostomia, Lack of appetite, Craving for sour foods, Dry throat, Vomiting undigested food... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Zuo Jin Wan
Detailed description of the cause

Qi Rebellion

Rebellious Qi in TCM is a bit like having a rebel inside your body. Qi, which is the vital energy flowing through your body, is supposed to move in certain directions to keep everything in balance and working well. But with Rebellious Qi, this energy decides to go the opposite way. Think of it like a river flowing upstream instead of downstream. This can cause various issues like heartburn, coughing, or even headaches. It's as if the body's natural flow is disrupted, creating a kind of internal chaos. TCM focuses on correcting this flow, restoring order and balance.... see more

Qi Rebellion Patterns That Can Lead to Acid Reflux

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach Sour regurgitation, Irritability, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac pain, Hypochondriac distention, Upper abdominal oppression, Acid reflux, Hiccups, Belching, Nausea or vomiting, Sighing, Weak limbs... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang | Si Mo Tang | Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang | Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Heat

In TCM "Heat" signifies an excess of Yang energy, leading to an imbalance where heat predominates over the body's cool Yin aspects. This condition is metaphorically akin to an internal over-heating. Symptoms indicative of Heat can include feelings of warmth, fever, sweating, irritability, red face, thirst with a preference for cold drinks, and a rapid pulse. The tongue may appear red with a yellow coating. Unlike the common interpretation of heat in terms of temperature, in TCM, it represents a state of hyperactivity or inflammation in the body.... see more

Heat Patterns That Can Lead to Acid Reflux

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Stomach Heat or Fire Sour regurgitation, Upper abdominal burning pain, Excessive thirst, Craving for cold beverages, Restlessness, Dry stools, Xerostomia, Mouth ulcers, Acid reflux, Nausea, Vomiting after eating, Excessive hunger, Halitosis, Feeling hot, Acne... see more Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang | Qing Wei San | Xie Huang San | Fei Er Wan | Hua Ban Tang
Detailed description of the cause

Stomach

In TCM the Stomach is regarded as the "sea of nourishment," pivotal for digesting food and transforming it into Qi and blood. It works closely with the Spleen to distribute these essential nutrients throughout the body. When the Stomach is out of balance or malfunctions in TCM, it often leads to digestive problems such as bloating, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, or a feeling of fullness. There may also be issues like acid reflux or a sour taste in the mouth. Emotionally, an imbalanced Stomach can contribute to excessive worry and overthinking, reflecting the TCM belief that physical and emotional well-being are deeply interconnected.... see more

Stomach Patterns That Can Lead to Acid Reflux

Common Symptoms: Belching Irritability Upper Abdominal Distension Xerostomia Lack Of Appetite Nausea Halitosis Abdominal Distention

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Food Stagnation in the Stomach Sour regurgitation, Epigastric fullness and pain relieved by vomiting, Nausea, Vomiting of sour fluids, Halitosis, Acid reflux, Belching, Insomnia, Alternating diarrhea and constipation, Lack of appetite, Abdominal pain due to overeating... see more Bao He Wan | Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan | Gua Di San
Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach Sour regurgitation, Irritability, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac pain, Hypochondriac distention, Upper abdominal oppression, Acid reflux, Hiccups, Belching, Nausea or vomiting, Sighing, Weak limbs... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang | Si Mo Tang | Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang | Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang
Stomach Heat or Fire Sour regurgitation, Upper abdominal burning pain, Excessive thirst, Craving for cold beverages, Restlessness, Dry stools, Xerostomia, Mouth ulcers, Acid reflux, Nausea, Vomiting after eating, Excessive hunger, Halitosis, Feeling hot, Acne... see more Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang | Qing Wei San | Xie Huang San | Fei Er Wan | Hua Ban Tang
Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach Acid reflux, Belching, Abdominal distention, Upper abdominal distension, Depression, Irritability, Xerostomia, Lack of appetite, Craving for sour foods, Dry throat, Vomiting undigested food... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Zuo Jin Wan
Detailed description of the cause

Liver

In TCM the Liver is viewed as the organ responsible for the smooth flow of Qi, Blood, and emotions throughout the body. It plays a key role in regulating mood, storing blood, supporting digestion, and ensuring the health of tendons and eyes. When the Liver malfunctions or is imbalanced in TCM, it can lead to a range of issues such as irritability, mood swings, menstrual irregularities, eye problems, and muscular stiffness or pain. A malfunctioning Liver in TCM reflects not only physical disturbances but also emotional and mental disharmony, emphasizing the holistic approach of TCM in addressing health and wellness.... see more

Liver Patterns That Can Lead to Acid Reflux

Common Symptoms: Belching Upper Abdominal Distension Irritability Abdominal Distention Depression Xerostomia Lack Of Appetite Craving For Sour Foods

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach Sour regurgitation, Irritability, Upper abdominal pain, Upper abdominal distension, Hypochondriac pain, Hypochondriac distention, Upper abdominal oppression, Acid reflux, Hiccups, Belching, Nausea or vomiting, Sighing, Weak limbs... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang | Si Mo Tang | Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang | Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang
Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach Acid reflux, Belching, Abdominal distention, Upper abdominal distension, Depression, Irritability, Xerostomia, Lack of appetite, Craving for sour foods, Dry throat, Vomiting undigested food... see more Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang | Zuo Jin Wan

TCM Herbal Formulas for Acid Reflux

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address acid reflux, organized by cause and by formula type.

  • By Cause
  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that promote qi movement
  • Formulas that reduce food accumulation and transform stagnation
  • Formulas for a rebellious qi
  • Formulas that clear heat from the organs
  • Formulas that tonify qi
  • Formulas that clear heat
  • Formulas that induce vomiting
  • Formulas that purge heat accumulation
  • Formulas that clear heat from qi and blood

All Formulas Recommended for Acid Reflux Caused by Qi Stagnation

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach
Zuo Jin Wan Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach
Yue Ju Wan Qi Stagnation

All Formulas Recommended for Acid Reflux Caused by Qi Rebellion

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Si Mo Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach

All Formulas Recommended for Acid Reflux Caused by Heat

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang Stomach Heat or Fire
Qing Wei San Stomach Heat or Fire
Xie Huang San Stomach Heat or Fire
Fei Er Wan Stomach Heat or Fire
Hua Ban Tang Stomach Heat or Fire

All "formulas that promote qi movement" recommended for acid reflux

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach, Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach... see more
Yue Ju Wan Qi Stagnation
Si Mo Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach

All "formulas that reduce food accumulation and transform stagnation" recommended for acid reflux

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Bao He Wan Food Stagnation in the Stomach
Zhi Shi Dao Zhi Wan Food Stagnation in the Stomach
Fei Er Wan Stomach Heat or Fire

All "formulas for a rebellious qi" recommended for acid reflux

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach
Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach

All "formulas that clear heat from the organs" recommended for acid reflux

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Qing Wei San Stomach Heat or Fire
Xie Huang San Stomach Heat or Fire

Acupoints for Acid Reflux

Explore below some acupoints used to address acid reflux, organized by meridian.

  • By Meridian
  • Stomach Channel
  • Bladder Channel
  • Directing Vessel
  • Pericardium Channel
  • Kidney Channel
Burong ST-19

Burong ST-19

2 cun below the sternocostal angel and 6 cun above the umbilicus, 2 cun lateral to the anterior midline.

Chengman ST-20

Chengman ST-20

5 cun above the umbilicus and 2 cun lateral to the anterior midline, or 1 cun below Burong ST-19.

Liangqiu ST-34

Liangqiu ST-34

2 cun above the upper-lateral border of the patella, on a line between the upper lateral patellar border and the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS).

Geshu BL-17

Geshu BL-17

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 7th thoracic vertebra (T7).

Ganshu BL-18

Ganshu BL-18

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 9th thoracic vertebra (T9).

Weishu BL-21

Weishu BL-21

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 12th thoracic vertebra (T12).

Zhongwan REN-12

Zhongwan REN-12

On the midline of the abdomen, 4 cun above the umbilicus and 4 cun below the sternocostal angle.

Shangwan REN-13

Shangwan REN-13

On the midline of the abdomen, 5 cun above the umbilicus and 3 cun below the sternocostal angle.

Juque REN-14

Juque REN-14

On the midline of the abdomen, 6 cun above the umbilicus and 2 cun below the sternocostal angle.

Neiguan P-6

Neiguan P-6

2 cun above Daling P-7 on the transverse crease of the wrist, between the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis muscle.

Youmen KID-21

Youmen KID-21

6 cun above the umbilicus and 2 cun below the sternocostal angle, 0.5 cun lateral to the anterior midline.