What is Ascites?

Ascites refers to the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, often presenting as significant swelling in the abdomen. This condition can arise from various medical issues, notably liver cirrhosis, and may cause discomfort or more severe health complications.

Sub-symptoms associated with ascites include shortness of breath and complications due to liver cirrhosis. Understanding ascites is crucial for effective treatment, as it often signals underlying health problems that require attention.

How does TCM view Ascites?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches ascites not just as a singular symptom but as a manifestation of deeper imbalances within the body. TCM theory posits that ascites result from disharmonies in the body's vital energies and organ systems.

It emphasizes identifying and correcting the underlying patterns of disharmony, such as Qi Stagnation or Dampness accumulation, to treat the condition effectively. This holistic view stands in contrast to Western medicine, which often focuses on symptom management.

Causes of Ascites according to TCM

In TCM, ascites is primarily seen as a consequence of imbalances leading to Dampness accumulation and Qi Stagnation. One common cause is the Spleen's inability to transform and transport Body Fluids properly, resulting in fluid accumulation. Liver cirrhosis, another cause, is viewed as a Stagnation of Liver Qi, leading to the overflow of Dampness into the abdominal area. These underlying patterns need to be identified to tailor a treatment that addresses both the symptom and its root cause.

TCM Herbal Formulas for Ascites

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), ascites is often associated with patterns like Oedema and Wind-Damp, Greater Yang Accumulation of Water, Damp-Cold etc. These patterns underscore an imbalance in the body's fluid metabolism. The Oedema and Wind-Damp pattern signifies the body's failure to manage fluids, commonly linked to weakened Spleen function. This is crucial in TCM for fluid transformation and transportation.

Greater Yang Accumulation of Water indicates an imbalance in Yang energy, typically related to Kidney and Bladder functions, leading to water retention. Damp-Cold suggests an excess of cold and damp qualities, disrupting normal fluid circulation and metabolic processes.

TCM focuses on restoring balance and proper fluid metabolism to alleviate ascites symptoms and address underlying disharmonies. This holistic approach targets not just the symptoms but the root cause, preventing recurrence and promoting overall well-being.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address ascites, organized by formula type.

  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that drive out excess water
  • Formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness
  • Formulas that expel dampness
  • Formulas that warm and transform water and dampness

Acupoints for Ascites

Acupuncture, a crucial component of TCM, involves stimulating specific points to address various health issues, including ascites. For instance, Pianli LI-6, located on the Large Intestine Channel, is used for its ability to regulate water passages and expel Wind and clear Heat. This acupoint, situated 3 cun above Yangxi LI-5, along the line joining Yangxi LI-5 and Quchi LI-11, is instrumental in managing the symptoms of ascites, complementing the herbal treatment to provide a holistic approach.

See more details below about Pianli LI-6, an acupoint used to address ascites.

  • By Meridian
  • Large Intestine Channel
Pianli LI-6

Pianli LI-6

3 cun above Yangxi LI-5, on the line joining Yangxi LI-5 and Quchi LI-11.

TCM Herbs for Ascites

Explore below some TCM herbs used to address ascites, organized by herb category.

  • By Herb Category
  • Cathartic herbs that drain downward
  • Herbs that drain dampness
  • Herbs that clear heat and relieve toxicity
  • Herbs that clear heat and purge fire and/or clear summer heat
  • Herbs that clear heat and dry dampness
  • Tonic herbs for qi deficiency
  • Aromatic herbs that transform dampness
  • Herbs that cool the blood
  • Herbs that warm the interior and/or expel cold
  • Laxative herbs that drain downward

"Cathartic herbs that drain downward" recommended for ascites

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Kansui Roots (Gan Sui) Shi Zao Tang | Zhou Che Wan
Genkwa Flowers (Yuan Hua) Shi Zao Tang | Zhou Che Wan
Morning Glory Seeds (Qian Niu Zi) Yu Gong San

"Herbs that drain Dampness" recommended for ascites

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Water Plantain (Ze Xie) Wei Ling Tang | Wu Ling San
Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling) Wu Pi Yin
Ginger Peel (Sheng Jiang Pi) Wu Pi Yin