Congestive heart failure according to Chinese Medicine

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Congestive heart failure factsheet

In Chinese Medicine, congestive heart failure can be associated with nine so-called "patterns of disharmony". Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted. It is not equivalent to the Western concept of "disease", as a matter of fact here congestive heart failure can be caused by nine different patterns.

To understand whether someone's congestive heart failure might be caused by a given pattern, one needs to look for signs and symptoms associated with the pattern beyond what one might typically experience from congestive heart failure alone. For instance when congestive heart failure is caused by the pattern Phlegm, patients also experience symptoms such as chest pressure, nausea, dizziness and feeling of heaviness. Similarly, patients with Phlegm typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, thick coating.

We've listed below a description of the nine patterns associated with congestive heart failure so that you can start to get an understanding of the various possibilities according to Chinese Medicine.

Once identified, patterns are often treated using herbal formulas. Drinking herbal infusions is the most common remedy in Chinese Medicine, together with acupuncture. Here we detail below five formulas that can help treat the various patterns associated with congestive heart failure, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The nine "patterns of disharmony" associated with congestive heart failure

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the key herb for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

Recommended herbal formulas: Er Chen Tang, Liu Jun Zi Tang, Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, Wen Dan Tang, Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang, Xing Su San, Wu Ling San

Symptoms: Lumps Nausea Nodules Dizziness Chest pressure Feeling of heaviness Numbness in the limbs

Phlegm has a great importance in Chinese Medicine as it is both a condition in and of itself as well as a cause for other diseases.

The main cause for the formation of Phlegm is Spleen Deficiency since the Spleen rules the transformation and transportation of Body Fluids. If this function is impaired, Body Fluids accumulates and change into Phlegm. 

The Lungs and Kidneys may also be involved since they each play a role in handling body Fluids: the Lungs disperse and descend Body Fluids while the Kidneys transform and excrete them. Again, if they fail to perform those roles, Body Fluids will accumulate and become Phlegm.

That being said, the Spleen malfunction is the fundamental reason behind the formation of Phlegm and, as such, treatments will focus on it first and foremost.

There are two broad types of Phlegm: so-called "Substantial Phlegm" and "Non-Substantial Phlegm". Simply put, Substantial Phlegm can be seen, such as sputum in the Lungs and throat. Non-Substantial Phlegm is more hidden and will manifest itself into, for instance, kidney stones, gallstones or arthritic bone deformities.

Phlegm can further be categorized according to its nature: there is Damp-Phlegm, Phlegm-Heat, Cold-Phlegm, etc. 

Lastly, there is a type of Phlegm called "Phlegm-Fluids". It is very similar to Dampness and is very watery and thin. It can be heard splashing in the body, found usually in the Stomach, Intestines, hypochondrium, limbs or above the diaphragm.

Read more about Phlegm here

The Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Spleen Deficiency with Dampness

Congestive heart failure might be due to Spleen Deficiency with Dampness if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as edema, general sensation of heaviness, diarrhea and urinary difficulty.

Read more about Spleen Deficiency with Dampness here

The Triple Burner is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Triple Burner in Chinese Medicine

Phlegm in the Lower Burner

Congestive heart failure might be due to Phlegm in the Lower Burner if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as throbbing pulsations just below the umbilicus, vomiting frothy saliva, vertigo and shortness of breath.

Read more about Phlegm in the Lower Burner here

The Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Tooth-marked, Swollen

Recommended herbal formula: Zhen Wu Tang

Symptoms: Edema Coughing Vomiting Dizziness Loose stools Palpitations Urinary difficulty Heavy sensation in the head Abdominal pain that worsens with cold Deep aching and heaviness in the extremities

Congestive heart failure might be due to Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as abdominal pain that worsens with cold, urinary difficulty, deep aching and heaviness in the extremities and dizziness. Similarly, patients with Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency typically exhibit deep (Chen) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Read more about Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency here

Exterior Cold invading the Interior

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Zhen Wu Tang

Symptoms: Dizziness Unsteadiness Generalized twitching Palpitations in the epigastrium Sweating that doesnt reduce fever

Congestive heart failure might be due to Exterior Cold invading the Interior if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as sweating that doesnt reduce fever, palpitations in the epigastrium, dizziness and generalized twitching. Similarly, patients with Exterior Cold invading the Interior typically exhibit deep (Chen) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Exterior Cold invading the Interior here

The Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Spleen Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formulas: Zhen Wu Tang, Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, Yi Huang Tang

Symptoms: Edema Fatigue Cold limbs Weak Limbs Loose stools Poor appetite Feeling of cold Vagina discharge

Generally speaking, Spleen Yang Deficiency often develops from Spleen Qi Deficiency, but it is more extensive and severe, with additional Cold symptoms, such as a cold feeling and cold limbs. It is because Spleen Yang fails to warm the body and Organs. Because of that, the body metabolism get slower and some food are not digested properly and passes directly into the stools. Since the Spleen fails to perform the function of transforming and transporting fluids, the circulation of Body Fluids is disturbed, causing symptoms such as Oedema, vaginal discharge and Lung mucus.

The causes are similar to these of Spleen Qi Deficiency, along with surplus consumption of cold, raw foods and drinks and overexposure to cold damp environments and climates.

Read more about Spleen Yang Deficiency here

Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Deep (Chen), Minute (Wei), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Fu Zi Tang

Symptoms: No thirst Cold extremities Generalized body pain Aching bones and joints Aversion to cold (especially at the back)

Congestive heart failure might be due to Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as generalized body pain, aching bones and joints, cold extremities and no thirst. Similarly, patients with Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp typically exhibit choppy (Se), deep (Chen), minute (Wei) or slow (Chi) pulses as well as a tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp here

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling) is the key herb for Wu Pi Yin, a formula used for Oedema

Oedema

Pulse type(s): Slowed-down (Huan), Hidden (Fu)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Wu Pi Yin

Symptoms: Labored breathing Urinary difficulty General sensation of heaviness distention and fullness

Congestive heart failure might be due to Oedema if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as labored breathing, urinary difficulty and general sensation of heaviness distention and fullness. Similarly, patients with Oedema typically exhibit slowed-down (Huan) or hidden (Fu) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Oedema here

The Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Heart and Spleen Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Fine (Xi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Gui Pi Tang

Symptoms: Fatigue Anxiety Insomnia Menorrhagia Palpitations Forgetfulness Poor appetite Pale complexion Abnormal uterine bleeding

Congestive heart failure might be due to Heart and Spleen Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as forgetfulness, palpitations, insomnia and fatigue. Similarly, patients with Heart and Spleen Deficiency typically exhibit fine (Xi) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Heart and Spleen Deficiency here

The five herbal formulas that might help with congestive heart failure

Wu Ling San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes urination,. Warms the Yang. Strengthens the Spleen. Promotes Qi transformation function. Drains Dampness. Clears edema.

Why might Wu Ling San help with congestive heart failure?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Phlegm, Spleen Deficiency with Dampness and Phlegm in the Lower Burner which are sometimes associated with congestive heart failure. If any of these patterns look like something you might suffer from, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Wu Ling San here

Zhen Wu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys. Eliminates Dampness.

Why might Zhen Wu Tang help with congestive heart failure?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency, Exterior Cold invading the Interior and Spleen Yang Deficiency which are sometimes associated with congestive heart failure. If any of these patterns look like something you might suffer from, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Zhen Wu Tang here

Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Meridians. Assists the Yang. Dispels Cold. Transforms Dampness.

Why might Fu Zi Tang help with congestive heart failure?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp, a pattern sometimes associated with congestive heart failure. If it looks like you might suffer from Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Fu Zi Tang here

Wu Pi Yin

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Reduces edema, diuretic. Regulates and strengthens Spleen Qi.

Why might Wu Pi Yin help with congestive heart failure?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Oedema, a pattern sometimes associated with congestive heart failure. If it looks like you might suffer from Oedema, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Wu Pi Yin here

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Why might Gui Pi Tang help with congestive heart failure?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Heart and Spleen Deficiency, a pattern sometimes associated with congestive heart failure. If it looks like you might suffer from Heart and Spleen Deficiency, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Gui Pi Tang here