Pyelonephritis according to Chinese Medicine

Home > List of conditions > Pyelonephritis

In Chinese Medicine, pyelonephritis can be associated with six 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 pyelonephritis can be caused by six different patterns.

To understand whether someone's pyelonephritis 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 pyelonephritis alone. For instance when pyelonephritis is caused by the pattern Blood Stagnation with Heat, patients also experience symptoms such as lower abdominal distension and pain that increases with pressure, guarding of the abdominal musculature, pain in the groin and alternating fever and chills. Similarly, patients with Blood Stagnation with Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a pale tongue with yellow coating.

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

The six "patterns of disharmony" associated with pyelonephritis

Blood Stagnation with Heat

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

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Symptoms: Pain in the groin Alternating fever and chills Guarding of the abdominal musculature Lower abdominal distension and pain that increases with pressure

Pyelonephritis might be due to Blood Stagnation with Heat if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as lower abdominal distension and pain that increases with pressure, guarding of the abdominal musculature, pain in the groin and alternating fever and chills. Similarly, patients with Blood Stagnation with Heat typically exhibit rapid (Shu) or slippery (Hua) pulses as well as a pale tongue with yellow coating.

Read more about Blood Stagnation with Heat here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the key herb for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

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

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

Recommended herbal formulas: Er Chen Tang, Liu Jun Zi Tang, Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, Wen Dan Tang, Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang, Xing Su San, Wu Ling San

Symptoms: Lumps Nausea Nodules Dizziness Chest pressure Feeling of heaviness Numbness in the limbs

Phlegm has a great importance in Chinese Medicine as it is both a condition in and of itself as well as a cause for other diseases.

The main cause for the formation of Phlegm is Spleen Deficiency since the Spleen rules the transformation and transportation of Body Fluids. If this function is impaired, Body Fluids accumulates and change into Phlegm. 

The Lungs and Kidneys may also be involved since they each play a role in handling body Fluids: the Lungs disperse and descend Body Fluids while the Kidneys transform and excrete them. Again, if they fail to perform those roles, Body Fluids will accumulate and become Phlegm.

That being said, the Spleen malfunction is the fundamental reason behind the formation of Phlegm and, as such, treatments will focus on it first and foremost.

There are two broad types of Phlegm: so-called "Substantial Phlegm" and "Non-Substantial Phlegm". Simply put, Substantial Phlegm can be seen, such as sputum in the Lungs and throat. Non-Substantial Phlegm is more hidden and will manifest itself into, for instance, kidney stones, gallstones or arthritic bone deformities.

Phlegm can further be categorized according to its nature: there is Damp-Phlegm, Phlegm-Heat, Cold-Phlegm, etc. 

Lastly, there is a type of Phlegm called "Phlegm-Fluids". It is very similar to Dampness and is very watery and thin. It can be heard splashing in the body, found usually in the Stomach, Intestines, hypochondrium, limbs or above the diaphragm.

Read more about Phlegm here

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

Spleen Deficiency with Dampness

Pyelonephritis might be due to Spleen Deficiency with Dampness if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as edema, general sensation of heaviness, diarrhea and urinary difficulty.

Read more about Spleen Deficiency with Dampness here

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

Phlegm in the Lower Burner

Pyelonephritis might be due to Phlegm in the Lower Burner if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as throbbing pulsations just below the umbilicus, vomiting frothy saliva, vertigo and shortness of breath.

Read more about Phlegm in the Lower Burner here

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

Heat in Gall Bladder

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

Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

Recommended herbal formula: Shen Qi Wan

Symptoms: Incontinence Lower back pain Urinary difficulty Lower abdominal pressure Weakness of the lower extremities Cold sensation in the lower half of the body

Pyelonephritis might be due to Kidney Yang Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as lower back pain, weakness of the lower extremities, cold sensation in the lower half of the body and lower abdominal pressure. Similarly, patients with Kidney Yang Deficiency typically exhibit empty (Xu) or weak (Ruo) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Kidney Yang Deficiency here

The four herbal formulas that might help with pyelonephritis

Wu Ling San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes urination,. Warms the Yang. Strengthens the Spleen. Promotes Qi transformation function. Drains Dampness. Clears edema.

Why might Wu Ling San help with pyelonephritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Phlegm, Spleen Deficiency with Dampness and Phlegm in the Lower Burner which are sometimes associated with pyelonephritis. 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 Wu Ling San here

Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Clears Stagnant Heat in the intestines. Reduces swelling and disperses lumps.

Why might Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang help with pyelonephritis?

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

Read more about Da Huang Mu Dan Pi 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 pyelonephritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Heat in Gall Bladder, a pattern sometimes associated with pyelonephritis. 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

Shen Qi Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and warms Kidney Yang.

Why might Shen Qi Wan help with pyelonephritis?

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

Read more about Shen Qi Wan here