Pneumonia according to Chinese Medicine

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Pneumonia factsheet

In Chinese Medicine, pneumonia can be associated with eight 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 pneumonia can be caused by eight different patterns.

To understand whether someone's pneumonia 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 pneumonia alone. For instance when pneumonia is caused by the pattern Heat in Gall Bladder, patients also experience symptoms such as mild chills alternating with pronounced fever, bitter taste in the mouth, stifling sensation in the chest and spitting up bitter or sour fluids. Similarly, patients with Heat in Gall Bladder typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a red tongue with thick coating, yellow coating.

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

The eight "patterns of disharmony" associated with pneumonia

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

Heat in Gall Bladder

Pneumonia might be due to Heat in Gall Bladder if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as mild chills alternating with pronounced fever, bitter taste in the mouth, stifling sensation in the chest and spitting up bitter or sour fluids. Similarly, patients with Heat in Gall Bladder typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a red tongue with thick coating, yellow coating.

Read more about Heat in Gall Bladder here

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

Phlegm Heat in the Lungs

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

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

Recommended herbal formula: Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Symptoms: Clump Phlegm Chest pain Constipation Epigastric pain Clumping in the chest Bitter taste in the mouth Epigastric focal distention Focal distention of the chest Coughing of copious thick yellow sputum

Pneumonia might be due to Phlegm Heat in the Lungs if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as constipation, bitter taste in the mouth, coughing of copious thick yellow sputum and chest pain. Similarly, patients with Phlegm Heat in the Lungs typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a tongue with sticky coating, yellow coating.

Read more about Phlegm Heat in the Lungs here

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

Wind-Heat entering the Lungs

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

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formula: Wei Jing Tang

Symptoms: Slight fever Mild chest pain Dry and scaly skin Cough with foul-smelling sputum

Pneumonia might be due to Wind-Heat entering the Lungs if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as cough with foul-smelling sputum, slight fever, mild chest pain and dry and scaly skin. Similarly, patients with Wind-Heat entering the Lungs typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a red tongue with yellow coating.

Read more about Wind-Heat entering the Lungs here

Arisaema With Bile (Dan Nan Xing) is the key herb for Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan, a formula used for Phlegm-Heat

Phlegm-Heat

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

Tongue color: Red

Recommended herbal formula: Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Symptoms: Nausea Chest fullness Focal distention Coughing and wheezing with copious thick and yellow sputum

Pneumonia might be due to Phlegm-Heat if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as focal distention, chest fullness, nausea and coughing and wheezing with copious thick and yellow sputum. Similarly, patients with Phlegm-Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a red tongue.

Read more about Phlegm-Heat 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

Pneumonia 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

Phlegm-Fluids in the chest and hypochondrium

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Shi Zao Tang

Symptoms: Vertigo Headaches Dry heaves Shortness of breath Hard focal distention in the epigastrium Cough with pain in the chest and hypochondria

Pneumonia might be due to Phlegm-Fluids in the chest and hypochondrium if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as cough with pain in the chest and hypochondria, hard focal distention in the epigastrium, dry heaves and shortness of breath. Similarly, patients with Phlegm-Fluids in the chest and hypochondrium typically exhibit deep (Chen) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids in the chest and hypochondrium here

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

Lung Yin Deficiency

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. Typical manifestations are dry cough, throat and mouth, aversion to speak as well as Hoarse voice. 

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.

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. 

Lung Yin Deficiency generally occurs in middle-aged and elderly patients as a result of overwork, irregular diet and smoking. However, it can also occur in a child after whooping cough.

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 this functions and cause Dryness and Heat. As a result, symptoms such as thirst, dry stools, dry mouth and dry throat appear. It also cause the tongue coating to fall off. 

Due to lack of Body Fluids, there is constipation with dry stools. Retching and hiccups may also occur as Stomach's Qi downward function is impaired. 

If the Yin Deficiency situation last for a long period of time, it can potentially develop Empty-Heat. It's typical manifestations are often quite mild and appears only in the afternoon or evening, such the mild fever or feeling of heat. 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.

Read more about Stomach Yin Deficiency here

The fifteen herbal formulas that might help with pneumonia

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 pneumonia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Lung Yin Deficiency and Stomach Yin Deficiency which are sometimes associated with pneumonia. 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

Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Source date: Qing Dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and relieves acute conditions of the Gallbladder. Relieves acute Damp-Heat syndromes. Resolves Phlegm. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang here

Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Phlegm. Expands the chest. Dissipates clumps.

Why might Xiao Xian Xiong Tang help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Xiao Xian Xiong Tang here

Wei Jing Tang

Source date: 627 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Clears heat from the Lungs. Transforms Phlegm. Drives out Blood-Stagnation. Discharges pus.

Why might Wei Jing Tang help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Wei Jing Tang here

Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan

Source date: 1584 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Phlegm. Directs Rebellious Qi downwards. Stops coughing.

Why might Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan 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 pneumonia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation, a pattern sometimes associated with pneumonia. 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

Shi Zao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Purges and drives out Phlegm-Fluids.

Why might Shi Zao Tang help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Shi Zao Tang here

Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang

Source date: Qing dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Cools the Liver. Extinguishes Wind. Increases Fluids. Relaxes the sinews.

Why might Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang here

Ma Huang Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Releases exterior cold. Treats wheezing.

Why might Ma Huang Tang help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Ma Huang Tang here

Bei Mu Gua Lou San

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Moistens the Lungs. Clears Heat. Regulates Qi. Resolve Phlegm.

Why might Bei Mu Gua Lou San help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Bei Mu Gua Lou San here

Yin Qiao San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Wind Heat. Clears Heat. Resolves Toxicity.

Why might Yin Qiao San help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Yin Qiao San here

Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Releases the Exterior. Drains Heat.

Why might Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang here

Sang Ju Yin

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Wind. Stops coughing by invigorating Lung Qi. Clears Heat.

Why might Sang Ju Yin help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Sang Ju Yin here

Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang

Source date: 1658 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears dryness. Moistens the Lungs.

Why might Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang here

Huang Lian Jie Du Tang

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Drains Fire. Resolves Toxin.

Why might Huang Lian Jie Du Tang help with pneumonia?

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

Read more about Huang Lian Jie Du Tang here