Morning sickness according to Chinese Medicine

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy and NVP redirect here

Morning sickness factsheet

Chinese name: 孕吐

Pinyin name: Yùn Tù

Possible causes and remedies:

Despite its name as 'morning sickness', the condition can appear at any time of the day. However the symptoms are more obvious in the morning after waking up. It is called 孕吐 (Yun Tu) in Chinese, which literally means 'vomiting during pregnancy'. The symptoms aren't only reduced to vomiting though: they also include nausea, poor and picky appetite, epigastric distension, a desire for sour foods, etc. 

Morning sickness often appears during the first 3 months of pregnancy. However, it can continue beyond the first trimester or even last until birth-giving for some severe cases.  Its intensity largely depends on the pre-existing status of the patient's Stomach, Spleen, Liver, Penetrating Vessel and Heart

As you can see below we've detailed for you the four "patterns of disharmony" associated with morning sickness. 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 morning sickness can be explained by four 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 nine formulas that can help treat the various patterns that cause morning sickness, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The four "patterns of disharmony" associated with morning sickness

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms (Fu Ling) is the key herb for Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formulas: Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang, Xiao Ban Xia Tang

Symptoms: Vertigo Vomiting Dizziness Clear mucus Chest pressure

Phlegm is a frequent cause of Morning sickness.  A typical symptom is that the women affected will tend to vomit clear Body Fluids such as mucus.

Pregnant women often have Spleen and Stomach Deficiency, impacting their body's ability to transform and transport Body Fluids. Dampness accumulates and forms Phlegm in the Stomach. This obstructs the movement of Qi and provokes vomiting and nausea as well as a sensation of chest fullness and pressure. The Phlegm also prevents the clear Yang from rising and turbid Yin from descending, which is what's causing the symptoms of dizziness or vertigo which are frequent in this pattern. 

The treatment principle is to tonifying the Stomach and Spleen, subdue rebellious Qi and resolve Phlegm. 

Read more about Phlegm here

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

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

Pulse type(s): Overflowing (Hong)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formulas: Yu Nu Jian, Wen Dan Tang

Symptoms: Thirst Red eyes Red face Dry mouth Dry throat Constipation Bleeding gums Swelling gums Vomiting of food

Morning sickness due to Stomach Heat or Fire is comparatively severe. Affected women may vomit frequently and this can last beyond the first trimester of the pregnancy. Due to the Full Heat or Fire, they often feel thirsty and have a strong desire for chilled drinks (which they sometimes cannot ingest without vomiting afterwards).

The cause here is because many pregnant women have Internal Heat, which settles down in the Stomach and cause nausea and vomiting. 

The treatment principle is to clear Stomach Heat, harmonize the Stomach and stop vomiting.

Read more about Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat here

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

Stomach Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formulas: Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang, Er Chen Tang, Mai Men Dong Tang

Symptoms: Tiredness Dry mouth Depression Poor appetite Feeling of cold Nausea or vomiting

There are two types of Stomach Deficiency that can lead to morning sickness: Stomach Qi Deficiency with Empty Cold and Stomach Yin Deficiency with Empty Heat. The latter one is more common among older women.

Qi is a Yang element (which is naturally Hot), so a Qi Deficiency results in Cold symptoms such as a feeling of cold. In contrast Yin Deficiency normally causes Heat symptoms such as feeling of heat in the evening, malar flush or night sweats.

Despite causing fairly different symptoms, the pathology behind how both patterns cause morning sickness is quite similar. It is largely due to a Blood and Qi disorder within the Penetrating Vessel and the Uterus where some profound changes take place during the first trimester. The disharmony causes Qi to rebel and ascend upward to the Stomach through the Channels. 

The Stomach controls descending Qi: when Qi rebels upwards in the Stomach it causes nausea or vomiting. Any Stomach Deficiency, whether it is a Qi or Yin Deficiency, will impair the Stomach's Qi controlling function. 

The treatment principle for Stomach Qi Deficiency is to strengthen and harmonize the Stomach, tonify the Spleen as well as warm the Middle Burner. Formulas such as Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang or Er Chen Tang are recommended. 

The treatment principle for Stomach Yin Deficiency is to nourish Stomach Yin, repair the Stomach Qi-descending function and stop vomiting. Formulas such as Mai Men Dong Tang are recommended. 

Read more about Stomach Deficiency here

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

Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick coating

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formulas: Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, Zuo Jin Wan

Symptoms: Belching Dry mouth Depression Dry throat Acid reflux Irritability Poor appetite Vomiting of food Abdominal distension Epigastric distension Desire for sour foods

Compared to Stomach Deficiency, morning sickness due to Liver Qi Stagnation is much more severe. Affected women may vomit food and drinks right after ingesting them. The frequent vomiting can last beyond the first 3 months of pregnancy. It is more common among women who have pre-existing Liver Qi issues. Emotional stress such as anger, resentment or frustration are the main reasons for Liver issues. 

Like with Stomach Deficiency, Blood and Qi disharmony in the Penetrating Vessel is the fundamental cause of this disease. Rebellious Qi from the Vessel ascends and battles with Stagnant Liver Qi. Both Qi invades the Stomach through connected Channels and this causes nausea and vomiting. 

One of Liver Qi's function is to assist the Stomach and the Spleen to ripen and digest foods and drinks. This function is largely impaired when there is Liver Qi Stagnation. Also, the Stomach Qi may ascend instead of descending. This worsen the nausea and vomiting symptoms. 

The treatment principle is to pacify the Liver, move Qi, eliminate Stagnation, harmonize the Stomach, subdue rebellious Qi and stop vomiting.

Read more about Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach here

The nine herbal formulas that might help with morning sickness

Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Warms and transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Strengthens the Spleen. Resolves Dampness.

Why might Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang help with morning sickness?

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

Read more about Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang here

Yu Nu Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Drains Heat from the Stomach. Nourishes Yin.

Why might Yu Nu Jian help with morning sickness?

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

Read more about Yu Nu Jian here

Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1675 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Spleen and Stomach Qi. Removes Dampness. Moves Qi. Alleviates pain.

Why might Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang help with morning sickness?

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

Read more about Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi 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 morning sickness?

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

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang here

Xiao Ban Xia Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Alleviates and removes thin mucus. Directs rebellious Qi downward. Stops vomiting. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Xiao Ban Xia Tang help with morning sickness?

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

Read more about Xiao Ban Xia Tang here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with morning sickness?

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

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Why might Er Chen Tang help with morning sickness?

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

Read more about Er Chen Tang here

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 morning sickness?

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

Read more about Mai Men Dong Tang here

Zuo Jin Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver Heat. Directs Rebellious Qi downward. Stops vomiting.

Why might Zuo Jin Wan help with morning sickness?

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

Read more about Zuo Jin Wan here