Mastitis according to Chinese Medicine

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Mastitis factsheet

Chinese name: 乳腺炎

Pinyin name: Rǔ Xiàn Yán

Possible causes and remedies:

Mastitis is very close to the Chinese disease called Breast Carbuncle (Ru Yong, 乳痈). Its main features are clogged milk ducts and heaviness, heat, hardness, boil, swelling, pain, redness and nodules or lumps in the breasts.

If it is untreated after a few days, milk blisters or abscesses can appear and crack open with a sticky pus discharge. Fever often comes along in this situation. 

Mastitis can often go away with herbs treatment or on its own. However, if the nursing mother has fever over 38.5C (101.3F) for more than 24 hours, she needs to see a doctor. Antibiotic needs to be used to treat the breast inflammation and infection. 

As you can see below we've detailed for you the three "patterns of disharmony" associated with mastitis. 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 a Western condition, as a matter of fact here mastitis can be explained by three different patterns.

Each of those patterns can be treated with one or several herbal formulas. Drinking herbal infusions is the most common remedy in Chinese Medicine, together with acupuncture. It is the Chinese Medicine equivalent to drugs, apart that it's 100% natural!

In total we detail below three formulas that can help treat the various patterns that cause mastitis, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The three "patterns of disharmony" associated with mastitis

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

If a nursing mother is easily impacted by anger and her emotions are repressed, her Qi will rebel upwards and stagnate in the Liver, which connects to the nipples through the Liver Channel. This leads the milk ducts or nipple orifices to clog, milk cannot come out and thus forms lumps or nodules in the breasts. The nursing mother feels swelling and hardness in the breasts and a strong sharp pain during breastfeeding. Sometimes, only one of the breasts' nipples are clogged and it leads to an uneven milk supply. 

If Liver Qi does not flow properly for a while and it is left untreated, it accumulates toxic Heat that can transform into blisters, abscesses and pus discharge. Fever often comes along in this situation.  

The formula Unblock Nursing Tea is recommended because it contains herbs ideally suited to fight this pattern. The treatment principle is to invigorate Qi and Blood (Unblock Nursing Tea contains the herbs Dong Quai and Platycodon which are ideal for this), to expel Heat and toxins (DandelionsHoneysuckle flowers and Chrysanthemum flower), pacify the Liver (Goji berries) and clear pus (Angelica root).

Another important point is that during breastfeeding, the nursing mother is recommended to massage the breast lumps or nodules to soften them. As home remedies, she can apply hot pad right before the feeding to speed up the milk flow and apply cold pad to ease pain when necessary. She is highly encouraged to breastfeed or pump more often so as to ease the breast engorgement and clogged milk duct.

Read more about Liver Qi Stagnation here

Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi) is the key herb for Tuo Li Xiao Du San, a formula used for Blow Breast (Chui Ru)

Blow Breast (Chui Ru)

It is easy for cracks to appear on the breast or the nipple skin if the breasts or nipples get irritated due to incorrect baby sucking technique or unsuitable feeding position. Cracks then leave the mother vulnerable to bacteria (e.g. Staphylococcus aureusfrom) passed from the baby's mouth and nose to the mother's breast or nipples. It causes infections and as a result, worsen the cracks. Sometimes there are also white stick spots, blisters or abscess appear in nipples or breasts.

This is how Western medicine explains the pathology of puerperal mastitis and it ties remarkably well with TCM's 'Blow Breast' (Chui Ru, 吹乳) theory. It literally means that feeding baby blows on the breast and transmits Toxic Heat to it, often because the baby has Phlegm stagnating in the diaphragm which produces the Heat. With the Heat, the breast becomes engorged, hot, painful and hard. As a vicious circle, Qi and Blood stagnate, breast ducts clog and the milk does not flow. The mother is thirsty and feels a lot of pain on her breasts. If untreated, sticky pus discharge appears, fever comes along and this becomes full blown mastitis.

Unblock Nursing Tea is a suitable formula for Blow Breast because it contains herbs that invigorate Qi and Blood (Dong Quai and Platycodon), expel Heat and Toxins (DandelionsHoneysuckle flowers and Chrysanthemum flowers) and clear pus (Angelica root). 

Read more about Blow Breast (Chui Ru) here

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

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

If the nursing mother doesn't follow a suitable diet and consumes excessive amounts of hot and greasy food after birth giving, the heavy-to-digest food brews in the Stomach and it creates toxins and Heat.

The breast belongs to the Stomach channel (also called Bright Yang channel), so the toxic Heat will naturally flow from the Stomach to the breasts. It clogs milk ducts and creates heaviness, heat, hardness, boil, swelling, pain, redness and nodules or lumps in the breasts. When this situation is not treated properly, it can lead to blisters, abscess and pus discharge. Fever often comes along. 

Unblock Nursing Tea is a suitable formula for this pattern because it contains herbs that expel toxins and Heat like DandelionsHoneysuckle flowers and Chrysanthemum flowers.

Read more about Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat here

The three herbal formulas that might help with mastitis

Unblock Nursing Tea

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Alleviates milk blockages and uneven supply issues*

Rating: from 123 customer reviews

Why might Unblock Nursing Tea help with mastitis?

Designed by Me & Qi's expert practitioners, Unblock Nursing Tea gathers all the herbs necessary to tackle the three patterns behind mastitis. A 100% natural and vegan product, Unblock Nursing Tea is composed solely of the 12 herbs listed in its ingredients.

Read more about Unblock Nursing Tea here

Gua Lou San

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Remove breast carbuncle (mastitis) after birth giving.

Why might Gua Lou San help with mastitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Liver Qi Stagnation and Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat which are sometimes associated with mastitis. 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 Gua Lou San here

Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Source date: 1548 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Draws out toxicity. Expels pus from the interior. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Why might Tuo Li Xiao Du San help with mastitis?

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

Read more about Tuo Li Xiao Du San here