Conjunctivitis according to Chinese Medicine

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In Chinese Medicine, conjunctivitis can be associated with twelve 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 conjunctivitis can be caused by twelve different patterns.

To understand whether someone's conjunctivitis 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 conjunctivitis alone. For instance when conjunctivitis is caused by the pattern Heat and Blood Stagnation in the Lower Burner, patients also experience symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, night fever, delirious speech and irritability. Similarly, patients with Heat and Blood Stagnation in the Lower Burner typically exhibit choppy (Se) or full (Shi) pulses.

We've listed below a description of the twelve patterns associated with conjunctivitis 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 nine formulas that can help treat the various patterns associated with conjunctivitis, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The twelve "patterns of disharmony" associated with conjunctivitis

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

Heat and Blood Stagnation in the Lower Burner

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Full (Shi)

Recommended herbal formula: Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Symptoms: Thirst Amenorrhea Night fever Irritability Dysmenorrhea Restlnessness Delirious speech Lower abdominal pain

Conjunctivitis might be due to Heat and Blood Stagnation in the Lower Burner if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, night fever, delirious speech and irritability. Similarly, patients with Heat and Blood Stagnation in the Lower Burner typically exhibit choppy (Se) or full (Shi) pulses.

Read more about Heat and Blood Stagnation in the Lower Burner here

Blood Stagnation with Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Symptoms: Pain in the groin Alternating fever and chills Guarding of the abdominal musculature Lower abdominal distension and pain that increases with pressure

Conjunctivitis might be due to Blood Stagnation with Heat if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as lower abdominal distension and pain that increases with pressure, guarding of the abdominal musculature, pain in the groin and alternating fever and chills. Similarly, patients with Blood Stagnation with Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a pale tongue with yellow coating.

Read more about Blood Stagnation with Heat here

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

Conjunctivitis 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

Conjunctivitis 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

Exterior Cold invading the Interior

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Symptoms: Chills Constipation Abdominal pain Low-grade fever Hypochondriac pain Cold hands and feet

Conjunctivitis might be due to Exterior Cold invading the Interior if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, hypochondriac pain and chills. Similarly, patients with Exterior Cold invading the Interior typically exhibit tight (Jin) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Exterior Cold invading the Interior here

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

Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Tight (Jin)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Symptoms: Coughing Dizziness Headaches Depression Moving pain Listlessness Hypochondrium fullness

Conjunctivitis might be due to Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as coughing, hypochondrium fullness, dizziness and headaches. Similarly, patients with Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation typically exhibit empty (Xu) or tight (Jin) pulses as well as a normal (light red), pale tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation here

Exterior Cold invading with Interior Heat from Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

Recommended herbal formula: Da Qing Long Tang

Symptoms: Thirst Irritability Generalized body pain Severe fever and chills without sweating

Conjunctivitis might be due to Exterior Cold invading with Interior Heat from Stagnation if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as severe fever and chills without sweating, generalized body pain, thirst and irritability. Similarly, patients with Exterior Cold invading with Interior Heat from Stagnation typically exhibit tight (Jin) or floating (Fu) pulses.

Read more about Exterior Cold invading with Interior Heat from Stagnation here

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the key herb for Da Qing Long Tang, a formula used for Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs

Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick white coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

Recommended herbal formula: Da Qing Long Tang

Symptoms: Thirst Irritability Absence of sweating Feeling of heaviness Generalized body pain Alternating fever and chills Superficial edema in the extremities

Conjunctivitis might be due to Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as feeling of heaviness, generalized body pain, superficial edema in the extremities and alternating fever and chills. Similarly, patients with Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs typically exhibit tight (Jin) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, thick white coating.

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs here

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

Recommended herbal formula: Xiao Qing Long Tang

Symptoms: Wheezing No thirst Absence of sweating Generalized body pain Alternating fever and chills General sensation of heaviness Stifling sensation in the chest Coughing of copious thin and white sputum

Conjunctivitis might be due to Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as alternating fever and chills, absence of sweating, wheezing and stifling sensation in the chest. Similarly, patients with Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm typically exhibit tight (Jin) or floating (Fu) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm here

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

Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder

Conjunctivitis might be due to Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as fixed pain in the hypochondria, headaches, dizziness and red and sore eyes. Similarly, patients with Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder typically exhibit full (Shi) pulses as well as a red tongue with yellow coating.

Read more about Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder here

Honeysuckle Flowers (Jin Yin Hua) is the key herb for Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin, a formula used for Toxic Heat

Toxic Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formula: Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin

Symptoms: Boils Sores Erythema Swellings Carbuncles

Conjunctivitis might be due to Toxic Heat if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as boils, carbuncles, erythema and swellings. Similarly, patients with Toxic Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu) pulses as well as a red tongue with yellow coating.

Read more about Toxic Heat here

The nine herbal formulas that might help with conjunctivitis

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 conjunctivitis?

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 conjunctivitis. 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

Da Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Promotes sweating. Releases the Exterior. Clears Interior Heat.

Why might Da Qing Long Tang help with conjunctivitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Exterior Cold invading with Interior Heat from Stagnation and Phlegm-Fluids in the limbs which are sometimes associated with conjunctivitis. 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 Da Qing Long Tang here

Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dispels Heat and. Eliminates Blood Stagnation.

Why might Tao He Cheng Qi Tang help with conjunctivitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Heat and Blood Stagnation in the Lower Burner, a pattern sometimes associated with conjunctivitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Heat and Blood Stagnation in the Lower Burner, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Tao He Cheng Qi Tang here

Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Clears Stagnant Heat in the intestines. Reduces swelling and disperses lumps.

Why might Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang help with conjunctivitis?

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

Read more about Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang here

Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Interior. Disperses Cold. Unblocks the bowels. Alleviates pain.

Why might Da Huang Fu Zi Tang help with conjunctivitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Exterior Cold invading the Interior, a pattern sometimes associated with conjunctivitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Exterior Cold invading the Interior, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Da Huang Fu Zi Tang here

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Why might Xiao Chai Hu Tang help with conjunctivitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation, a pattern sometimes associated with conjunctivitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang here

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Xiao Qing Long Tang help with conjunctivitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm, a pattern sometimes associated with conjunctivitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang here

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Long Dan Xie Gan Tang help with conjunctivitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder, a pattern sometimes associated with conjunctivitis. If it looks like you might suffer from Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang here

Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Resolves Toxicity. Cools the Blood. Reduces swelling.

Why might Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin help with conjunctivitis?

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

Read more about Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin here