Gallstones according to Chinese Medicine

Gallstones factsheet

In Chinese Medicine, gallstones can be associated with two 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 gallstones can be caused by two different patterns.

To understand whether someone's gallstones 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 gallstones alone. For instance when gallstones is caused by the pattern Qi Stagnation, patients also experience symptoms such as stifling sensation in the chest and abdomen, fixed pain in the hypochondria, belching and vomiting. Similarly, patients with Qi Stagnation typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a normal (light red) tongue with thin white coating.

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

The two "patterns of disharmony" associated with gallstones

Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu) is the key herb for Yue Ju Wan, a formula used for Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

Recommended herbal formula: Yue Ju Wan

Symptoms: Belching Vomiting Acid reflux Indigestion Poor appetite Fixed pain in the hypochondria Mild coughing with copious sputum Stifling sensation in the chest and abdomen

Gallstones might be due to Qi Stagnation if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as stifling sensation in the chest and abdomen, fixed pain in the hypochondria, belching and vomiting. Similarly, patients with Qi Stagnation typically exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a normal (light red) tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Qi Stagnation 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

Gallstones 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 two herbal formulas that might help with gallstones

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Why might Yue Ju Wan help with gallstones?

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

Read more about Yue Ju Wan 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 gallstones?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Exterior Cold invading the Interior, a pattern sometimes associated with gallstones. 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