Rheumatoid arthritis according to Chinese Medicine

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Rheumatoid arthritis factsheet

In Chinese Medicine, rheumatoid arthritis can be associated with nine 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 rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by nine different patterns.

To understand whether someone's rheumatoid arthritis 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 rheumatoid arthritis alone. For instance when rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the pattern Wind-Damp, patients also experience symptoms such as sweating, general sensation of heaviness, edema and urinary difficulty. Similarly, patients with Wind-Damp typically exhibit floating (Fu) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thick white coating.

We've listed below a description of the nine patterns associated with rheumatoid arthritis 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 eleven formulas that can help treat the various patterns associated with rheumatoid arthritis, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The nine "patterns of disharmony" associated with rheumatoid arthritis

Stephania Roots (Fang Ji) is the key herb for Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang, a formula used for Wind-Damp

Wind-Damp

Pulse type(s): Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Symptoms: Edema Sweating Urinary difficulty General sensation of heaviness

Rheumatoid arthritis might be due to Wind-Damp if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as sweating, general sensation of heaviness, edema and urinary difficulty. Similarly, patients with Wind-Damp typically exhibit floating (Fu) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Wind-Damp here

Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp

Rheumatoid arthritis might be due to Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as swollen and painful joints that are warm to the touch and worsen at night, reduced range of motion in the affected joints, chills without sweating and weight loss. Similarly, patients with Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp typically exhibit slippery (Hua) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a tongue with thick white coating.

Read more about Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp here

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

Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen, Tooth-marked

Recommended herbal formula: Zhen Wu Tang

Symptoms: Edema Coughing Vomiting Dizziness Loose stools Palpitations Urinary difficulty Heavy sensation in the head Abdominal pain that worsens with cold Deep aching and heaviness in the extremities

Rheumatoid arthritis might be due to Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as abdominal pain that worsens with cold, urinary difficulty, deep aching and heaviness in the extremities and dizziness. Similarly, patients with Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency typically exhibit deep (Chen) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a pale tongue.

Read more about Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency here

Exterior Cold invading the Interior

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Zhen Wu Tang

Symptoms: Dizziness Unsteadiness Generalized twitching Palpitations in the epigastrium Sweating that doesnt reduce fever

Rheumatoid arthritis might be due to Exterior Cold invading the Interior if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as sweating that doesnt reduce fever, palpitations in the epigastrium, dizziness and generalized twitching. Similarly, patients with Exterior Cold invading the Interior typically exhibit deep (Chen) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Exterior Cold invading the Interior here

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

Spleen Yang Deficiency

Generally speaking, Spleen Yang Deficiency often develops from Spleen Qi Deficiency, but it is more extensive and severe. The common manifestations are these related to digestive functions such as loose stools, poor appetite, slight abdominal distension and pain after eating, gas and bloating. Since the Spleen fails to transport the Food Qi to the body, patients also suffer from general fatigue, lassitude, weak limbs, pale tongue and face. Patients prefers to lie down. 

On top of above, the Yang Deficiency also brings in additional Cold symptoms, such as a cold feeling and cold limbs. It is because Spleen Yang fails to warm the body and Organs. Therefore, the body metabolism get slower and some food are not digested properly and passes directly into the stools.

Since the Spleen fails to perform the function of transforming and transporting fluids, the circulation of Body Fluids is disturbed, causing symptoms such as Oedema, vaginal discharge and Lung mucus. The Yang Deficiency pattern is even more likely to form Dampness and Phlegm.

Read more about Spleen Yang Deficiency here

Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Deep (Chen), Minute (Wei), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Fu Zi Tang

Symptoms: No thirst Cold extremities Generalized body pain Aching bones and joints Aversion to cold (especially at the back)

Rheumatoid arthritis might be due to Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as generalized body pain, aching bones and joints, cold extremities and no thirst. Similarly, patients with Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp typically exhibit choppy (Se), deep (Chen), minute (Wei) or slow (Chi) pulses as well as a tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Yang Deficiency with Cold-Damp here

Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Slowed-down (Huan)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Recommended herbal formula: Juan Bi Tang

Symptoms: Difficulty in moving Numbness in the extremities General sensation of heaviness Stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back

Rheumatoid arthritis might be due to Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as general sensation of heaviness, numbness in the extremities, difficulty in moving and stiffness in the neck shoulder and upper back. Similarly, patients with Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency typically exhibit slowed-down (Huan) pulses as well as a tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency here

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

Painful Obstruction with Liver and Kidney Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Fine (Xi), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formula: Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Symptoms: Palpitations Aversion to cold Shortness of breath Attraction to warmth Weakness and stiffness Heavy and painful sensations in the lower back and lower extremities

Rheumatoid arthritis might be due to Painful Obstruction with Liver and Kidney Deficiency if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as heavy and painful sensations in the lower back and lower extremities, weakness and stiffness, aversion to cold and attraction to warmth. Similarly, patients with Painful Obstruction with Liver and Kidney Deficiency typically exhibit fine (Xi), slow (Chi) or weak (Ruo) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thin white coating.

Read more about Painful Obstruction with Liver and Kidney Deficiency here

Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels

Rheumatoid arthritis might be due to Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels if the condition is paired with typical pattern symptoms such as heat and pain in the joints, reduced mobility, fever and shaking chills.

Read more about Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels here

The eleven herbal formulas that might help with rheumatoid arthritis

Zhen Wu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys. Eliminates Dampness.

Why might Zhen Wu Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help with the patterns Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency, Exterior Cold invading the Interior and Spleen Yang Deficiency which are sometimes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. 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 Zhen Wu Tang here

Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Diuretic, clears Excess fluid and removes edema. Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Calms External Wind.

Why might Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

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

Read more about Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang here

Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and inflammations. Unblocks the flow of Yang Qi and promotes movement (in areas with painful obstruction). Clears Wind and Damp. Relieves pain.

Why might Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp, a pattern sometimes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. If it looks like you might suffer from Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang here

Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Meridians. Assists the Yang. Dispels Cold. Transforms Dampness.

Why might Fu Zi Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

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

Read more about Fu Zi Tang here

Juan Bi Tang

Source date: 1178 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and harmonizes the Protective and Nutritive Qi. Dispels Wind. Eliminates Dampness.

Why might Juan Bi Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency, a pattern sometimes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. If it looks like you might suffer from Painful Obstruction with Qi and Blood Deficiency, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Juan Bi Tang here

Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Key actions: Anti-rheumatic, clears Wind, Cold and Damp Stagnation. Strengthens the function of the Liver and Kidney. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Why might Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

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

Read more about Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang here

Xuan Bi Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears and resolves Damp-Heat. Unblocks the meridians. Disbands painful obstruction.

Why might Xuan Bi Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels, a pattern sometimes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. If it looks like you might suffer from Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels, this formula might help (although please seek confirmation with a professional practitioner beforehand).

Read more about Xuan Bi 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 rheumatoid arthritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat , a pattern sometimes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. 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

Wu Tou Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Warms the channels and remove obstruaction. Disperse Cold and Dampness. Warms the joints. Relieve joints pain.

Why might Wu Tou Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

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

Read more about Wu Tou Tang here

Da Fang Feng Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Key actions: Expel Wind Damp. Relieve pain. Tonify the Liver and the Kidneys. Tonify the Blood and Qi.

Why might Da Fang Feng Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

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

Read more about Da Fang Feng Tang here

Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Unblocks painful obstruction. Relieves pain. Invigorate Qi. Dispels Blood Stagnation. Unblock Channels.

Why might Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang help with rheumatoid arthritis?

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

Read more about Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang here