Symptom families: Edema-associated Concerns, Legs disorders and Symptoms

Parent symptom: Edema

What is Leg Edema?

Leg edema is characterized by the accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the lower extremities, leading to noticeable swelling and discomfort. This condition can be a symptom of various underlying health issues, ranging from chronic venous insufficiency to heart failure.

The terms such as "Oedema of legs" and "swelling in the legs" are often used interchangeably to describe this condition, underscoring the body's inability to properly manage fluid balance.

How does TCM View Leg Edema?

Traditional Chinese Medicine interprets leg edema as an imbalance in the body’s vital energies, specifically concerning the Kidney, Spleen, and Bladder meridians, which are believed to govern fluid metabolism. TCM practitioners view this condition as a manifestation of underlying disharmonies such as Yang Deficiency, or Phlegm accumulation.

Unlike Western medicine, which often focuses on symptom management, TCM aims to identify and correct the root cause of the edema, restoring balance and promoting the body's natural healing processes.

Root Causes of Leg Edema in TCM

In the framework of TCM, leg edema is commonly attributed to Yang Deficiency within the Kidney and Spleen systems or to the accumulation of Phlegm-Dampness. Yang Deficiency leads to a diminished metabolic fire, resulting in the body's inability to transform and transport fluids adequately. This can manifest as coldness, weakness, and swelling in the legs.

Phlegm and Dampness, on the other hand, represent the stagnation of fluids within the body, contributing to swelling and a sensation of heaviness. Treatment strategies in TCM, therefore, focus on tonifying Yang, strengthening the Spleen, and resolving Dampness to alleviate leg edema.

Explore below more details about what might cause Leg edema according to TCM.

  • By Syndrome
  • By Organ
  • Yang Deficiency
  • Phlegm
  • Dampness
  • Kidney
  • Spleen
Detailed description of the cause

Yang Deficiency

Yang deficiency in TCM refers to a state where the body's Yang energy, which is responsible for warmth, activity, and function, is weakened or diminished. This pattern of disharmony often arises from chronic illness, aging, or inherent constitutional weakness. Symptoms of Yang deficiency are typically associated with cold and sluggishness, such as a feeling of coldness, cold extremities, pale complexion, low energy or fatigue, and a desire for warmth. Digestive issues like poor appetite, loose stools, and water retention can also be indicative of Yang deficiency.... see more

Yang Deficiency Patterns That Can Lead to Leg Edema

Common Symptoms: Lower Back Pain Weak And Cold Knees Chills Weak Legs Bright Pale Face Erectile Dysfunction Premature Ejaculation Oligospermia

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Kidney and Spleen Yang Deficiency Oedema of legs, Lower back pain, Weak and cold knees, Back cold sensation, Chills, Weak legs, Bright pale face, Erectile dysfunction, Premature ejaculation, Oligospermia, Watery ejaculate, Low sex drive, Generalized fatigue, General weakness, Clear urination, Nocturia, Apathy, Leg edema, Female infertility, Diarrhea, Depression, Lack of appetite, Slight abdominal distention, Desire to lie down... see more Li Zhong Wan
Kidney Yang Deficiency Oedema of legs, Lower back pain, Dizziness, Tinnitus, Weak and cold knees, Lower back coldness, Chills, Weak legs, Bright pale face, Generalized fatigue, General weakness, Leg edema, Female infertility, Diarrhea, Depression, Erectile dysfunction, Premature ejaculation, Oligospermia, Low sex drive, Pale and abudant urination... see more Ba Wei Di Huang Wan | You Gui Wan | Er Xian Tang | Shen Qi Wan | Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan | Tu Si Zi Wan
Detailed description of the cause

Phlegm

In TCM "Phlegm" as a pattern of disharmony is a complex concept that extends beyond the physical manifestation of mucus. It represents a pathological factor that can disrupt the flow of Qi (vital energy) and blood, leading to various health issues. Phlegm in TCM is seen as a sticky, turbid substance arising from the body's inability to metabolize fluids properly, often due to a dysfunction of the spleen. It's not only associated with respiratory problems like cough and congestion but also with systemic issues. Symptoms can include a feeling of heaviness, mental cloudiness, dizziness, and in some cases, the formation of lumps or masses. Phlegm can even be "invisible," contributing to emotional disturbances like depression or stress. ... see more

Phlegm Patterns That Can Lead to Leg Edema

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Oedema Oedema of legs, Abdominal edema, Ankle edema, Facial edema, Foot edema, Oedema of hands, Leg edema, Ocular swelling, Abdominal distention... see more Shen Qi Wan | Wu Ling San | Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang | Ping Wei San | Wu Pi Yin | Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang | Zhen Wu Tang | Yu Gong San | Zhou Che Wan
Detailed description of the cause

Dampness

"Dampness" in TCM is a concept that describes a pattern of disharmony where the body accumulates excess moisture. Imagine the heavy, sticky feeling you get on a very humid day; that's similar to what dampness feels like internally. It can manifest as a sense of heaviness, bloating, sluggishness, or even a foggy mind. This condition is often thought to arise from environmental factors like living in a damp place, dietary habits that promote moisture in the body, or internal imbalances that hinder the body's ability to process fluids properly. In TCM, dampness can obstruct the normal flow of energy and fluids in the body, leading to various symptoms.... see more

Dampness Patterns That Can Lead to Leg Edema

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Oedema Oedema of legs, Abdominal edema, Ankle edema, Facial edema, Foot edema, Oedema of hands, Leg edema, Ocular swelling, Abdominal distention... see more Shen Qi Wan | Wu Ling San | Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang | Ping Wei San | Wu Pi Yin | Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang | Zhen Wu Tang | Yu Gong San | Zhou Che Wan
Detailed description of the cause

Kidney

In TCM the Kidneys are regarded as the body's most fundamental reservoir of Essence, known as Jing, which influences growth, reproduction, and aging. They are not just organs for filtering blood, but a holistic system governing vital life forces. When the Kidneys malfunction in TCM, it can manifest as a variety of health issues, such as chronic fatigue, reproductive problems, imbalances in fluid metabolism leading to edema or dryness, lower back pain, and a sense of fear or insecurity.... see more

Kidney Patterns That Can Lead to Leg Edema

Common Symptoms: Lower Back Pain Weak And Cold Knees Chills Weak Legs Bright Pale Face Erectile Dysfunction Premature Ejaculation Oligospermia

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Kidney and Spleen Yang Deficiency Oedema of legs, Lower back pain, Weak and cold knees, Back cold sensation, Chills, Weak legs, Bright pale face, Erectile dysfunction, Premature ejaculation, Oligospermia, Watery ejaculate, Low sex drive, Generalized fatigue, General weakness, Clear urination, Nocturia, Apathy, Leg edema, Female infertility, Diarrhea, Depression, Lack of appetite, Slight abdominal distention, Desire to lie down... see more Li Zhong Wan
Kidney Yang Deficiency Oedema of legs, Lower back pain, Dizziness, Tinnitus, Weak and cold knees, Lower back coldness, Chills, Weak legs, Bright pale face, Generalized fatigue, General weakness, Leg edema, Female infertility, Diarrhea, Depression, Erectile dysfunction, Premature ejaculation, Oligospermia, Low sex drive, Pale and abudant urination... see more Ba Wei Di Huang Wan | You Gui Wan | Er Xian Tang | Shen Qi Wan | Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan | Tu Si Zi Wan
Detailed description of the cause

Spleen

In TCM the Spleen plays a vital role in digestion and transformation, converting food into energy and nutrients, and overseeing the distribution of Qi and Blood. It's also crucial in maintaining the health of muscles and limbs and ensuring the blood remains within the vessels. When the Spleen malfunctions in TCM, it can lead to a variety of issues such as digestive disorders, fatigue, weak muscles, bloating, and a feeling of heaviness. It can also cause a pale complexion, poor appetite, and a tendency to bruise easily. Emotionally, a Spleen imbalance is often associated with excessive worry or overthinking, reflecting its role in the interplay between physical and mental health.... see more

Spleen Patterns That Can Lead to Leg Edema

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Kidney and Spleen Yang Deficiency Oedema of legs, Lower back pain, Weak and cold knees, Back cold sensation, Chills, Weak legs, Bright pale face, Erectile dysfunction, Premature ejaculation, Oligospermia, Watery ejaculate, Low sex drive, Generalized fatigue, General weakness, Clear urination, Nocturia, Apathy, Leg edema, Female infertility, Diarrhea, Depression, Lack of appetite, Slight abdominal distention, Desire to lie down... see more Li Zhong Wan

TCM Herbal Formulas for Leg Edema

To address leg edema, TCM employs a variety of herbal formulas based on the identified underlying patterns. For Yang Deficiency, formulations like Li Zhong Wan and Ba Wei Di Huang Wan are prescribed to warm the body and reinforce the Kidney and Spleen's ability to manage fluids.

For conditions marked by Phlegm-Dampness, Shen Qi Wan is utilized to strengthen Yang and promote diuresis, thereby reducing edema. These herbs are selected for their specific properties that align with the therapeutic goals of warming, drying, or tonifying the body's energies.

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

  • By Cause
  • By Formula Type
  • Yang Deficiency
  • Phlegm
  • Dampness
  • Formulas that warm yang and tonify
  • Formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness
  • Formulas that warm and transform water and dampness
  • Formulas that drive out excess water
  • Formulas that warm the middle and dispel cold
  • Formulas that nourish yin and tonify
  • Formulas that tonify yin and yang
  • Formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach

All Formulas Recommended for Leg Edema Caused by Yang Deficiency

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Shen Qi Wan Kidney Yang Deficiency
Li Zhong Wan Kidney and Spleen Yang Deficiency
Ba Wei Di Huang Wan Kidney Yang Deficiency
You Gui Wan Kidney Yang Deficiency
Er Xian Tang Kidney Yang Deficiency
Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan Kidney Yang Deficiency
Tu Si Zi Wan Kidney Yang Deficiency

All Formulas Recommended for Leg Edema Caused by Phlegm

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Shen Qi Wan Oedema
Wu Ling San Oedema
Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang Oedema
Ping Wei San Oedema
Wu Pi Yin Oedema
Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang Oedema
Zhen Wu Tang Oedema
Yu Gong San Oedema
Zhou Che Wan Oedema

All Formulas Recommended for Leg Edema Caused by Dampness

Formula Patterns Suitable For
Shen Qi Wan Oedema
Wu Ling San Oedema
Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang Oedema
Ping Wei San Oedema
Wu Pi Yin Oedema
Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang Oedema
Zhen Wu Tang Oedema
Yu Gong San Oedema
Zhou Che Wan Oedema

All "formulas that warm yang and tonify" recommended for leg edema

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Shen Qi Wan Kidney Yang Deficiency, Oedema
You Gui Wan Kidney Yang Deficiency
Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan Kidney Yang Deficiency
Tu Si Zi Wan Kidney Yang Deficiency

All "formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness" recommended for leg edema

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Wu Ling San Oedema
Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang Oedema
Wu Pi Yin Oedema

All "formulas that warm and transform water and dampness" recommended for leg edema

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang Oedema
Zhen Wu Tang Oedema

All "formulas that drive out excess water" recommended for leg edema

Formula Patterns Suitable For (if applicable)
Yu Gong San Oedema
Zhou Che Wan Oedema

Acupoints for Leg Edema

TCM acupuncture involves the stimulation of specific points along the body's meridians to correct imbalances and restore health. For leg edema, points such as Sanjiaoshu BL-22 and Yinlingquan SP-9 are targeted to regulate the Triple Burner, enhance the Spleen's function in managing fluids, and facilitate urination.

Additionally, Yangchi TB-4 and Tiaokou ST-38 are utilized to further support the regulation of body fluids and address the systemic imbalances contributing to edema. Through the strategic selection of these acupoints, TCM practitioners aim to encourage the body's natural mechanisms for fluid management and reduce the symptoms of leg edema.

Explore below some acupoints used to address leg edema, organized by meridian.

  • By Meridian
  • Bladder Channel
  • Triple Burner Channel
  • Spleen Channel
  • Stomach Channel
Sanjiaoshu BL-22

Sanjiaoshu BL-22

1.5 cun lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the 1st lumbar vertebra.

Yangchi TB-4

Yangchi TB-4

At the junction of the ulna carpal bones of the wrist dorsum, in the depression lateral to the tendon of extensor digitorum and extensor digiti minimi muscle.

Yinlingquan SP-9

Yinlingquan SP-9

On the lower border of the medial condyle of the tibia, in the depression between the posterior border of the tibia and gastrocnemius muscle.

Tiaokou ST-38

Tiaokou ST-38

8 cun below Dubi ST-35, midway between Dubi ST-35 and Jiexi ST-41, one middle finger-width from the anterior crest of the tibia.