Pneumonia according to Chinese Medicine

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 seven 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

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 seven 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