Laryngitis according to Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine, laryngitis can be associated with three 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 laryngitis can be caused by three different patterns.

To understand whether someone's laryngitis 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 laryngitis alone. For instance when laryngitis is caused by the pattern Qi-Phlegm, patients also experience symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, feeling of a lump in the throat which comes and goes and stuffiness of chest and diaphragm. Similarly, patients with Qi-Phlegm typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

We've listed below a description of the three patterns associated with laryngitis 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 laryngitis, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The three "patterns of disharmony" associated with laryngitis

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the key herb for Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, a formula used for Qi-Phlegm

Qi-Phlegm

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

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Symptoms: Difficulty swallowing Stuffiness of chest and diaphragm Feeling of a lump in the throat which comes and goes

Laryngitis might be due to Qi-Phlegm if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, feeling of a lump in the throat which comes and goes and stuffiness of chest and diaphragm. Similarly, patients with Qi-Phlegm typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Qi-Phlegm here

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

Lung Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formulas: Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang, Mai Men Dong Tang

Symptoms: Insomnia Dry cough Dry mouth Tiredness Weak voice Dry throat Malar flush Night sweats Hot palms and soles Thin body lacking strength

Exterior Heat and Dryness can invade the Lungs and exhausts the Body Fluids. If it is not dealt with for a long time, it leads to Lung Yin Deficiency. Other factors can cause this pattern such as the Deficiency of Kidneys or Stomach Yin as well as prolonged Lung Qi Deficiency due to excessive smoking or use of voice. Emotional stress such as sadness and grief may also deplete Lung Qi and Yin.

Empty Heat symptoms appear if the Lung Yin Deficiency condition is not treated for a while. Patients can feel malar flush, low-grade fever as well as Heat in the palms and chest, especially in the evenings. 

The treatment principle is to tonify Lung Yin, nourish Body Fluids and clear Empty Heat if it is needed. 

Read more about Lung Yin Deficiency here

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

Stomach Yin Deficiency

The Stomach is responsible for receiving foods and drinks, ripening them and sending them to the Spleen for further digestion. Therefore, the Stomach is the origin of Body Fluids. It is also an Organ that likes Cold and Dampness which are both Yin characteristics. Stomach Yin Deficiency harms the Organ's functions and cause Dryness and Heat. As a result, symptoms such as thirst, dry stools, dry mouth and dry throat appear. 

However, this is just Empty Heat due to lacking of Yin (and not the Excess of Yang), so the feeling of Heat often only happens in the afternoons or evenings. The patients experiences thirst or hunger but there is no desire to drink or eat, or they only drink in small sips. They also prefer warm liquids and their appetite is poor. Due to lack of Body Fluids, there is constipation with dry stools. Retching and hiccups may occur as Stomach's Qi downward function is impaired. 

Unbalanced diet and bad eating habits are the major reasons for this pattern. The patients may often consume spicy and acrid foods, which deplete Stomach Fluids and Yin. Prolonged irregular eating habits also have similar negative impact, such as eating on the run, skipping meals, eating while working, having late meals or working right after eating. Finally chronic Stomach disease can also be a cause. In additional to above reasons, a high fever during an infectious disease or overconsumption of antibiotics can also lead to an acute Stomach Yin Deficiency. 

The treatment principle is to nourish Stomach Yin and Body Fluids.

Read more about Stomach Yin Deficiency here

The two herbal formulas that might help with laryngitis

Mai Men Dong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Stomach. Generates Body Fluids. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Mai Men Dong Tang help with laryngitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Lung Yin Deficiency and Stomach Yin Deficiency which are sometimes associated with laryngitis. 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 Mai Men Dong Tang here

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Why might Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang help with laryngitis?

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

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang here