Scanty menstruation according to Chinese Medicine

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Scanty menstruation factsheet

Chinese name: 月经过少

Pinyin name: Yuè Jīng Guò Shǎo

Possible causes and remedies:

Scanty periods refers to a situation where menstrual bleeding is very light in volume - like small drips - or when periods last during less than 3 days. It often comes along delayed menstruation as they shares similar causes. The fundamental reasons for this problem is due to some form of Blood Deficiency or blood flow being blocked somehow.

Typically this tends to be an issue that rarely leads to a doctor's visit in and of itself. However if patients have other symptoms, scanty menstruation can help diagnose the right pattern. When women approach their mid to late 40s, it is normal to see the menstrual blood volume starting to decrease. 

As you can see below we've detailed for you the four "patterns of disharmony" associated with scanty menstruation. 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 scanty menstruation 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 ten formulas that can help treat the various patterns that cause scanty menstruation, depending on which pattern fits your profile.

The four "patterns of disharmony" associated with scanty menstruation

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the key herb for Ren Shen Zi Xie Tang, a formula used for Blood Deficiency

Blood Deficiency

Blood Deficiency is an obvious pattern for scanty periods. It is often due to a malfunction of the Spleen which is the base of Blood making. Spleen rules transformation and transportation of food Essences (nutrition), Qi, and Body Fluids and their distribution to other Zang Organs. Unhealthy or poor diet can hurt the Spleen Qi and impair its function. For example, a diet lacking in Blood-creating ingredients can cause Blood Deficiency. This is the reason some vegans sometimes have scanty menstruation or even no period at all when they don't pay attention to find protein substitute to replace meat or other non-veggie ingredients. 

Blood Deficiency can also be a result of prolonged chronic diseases or severe haemorrhages, such as menorrhagia or during birth giving. Finally, long-term use of the contraceptive pill may also cause this pattern. This is the reason it is more seen in younger girls or women.

The treatment principle is to nourish Blood, support the Spleen and boost Spleen Qi. It is also important to regulate the periods and fill the Sea of blood as well as the Penetrating and Directing Vessels. Women should also adopt a more nutritious diet with Blood-nourishing ingredients like red meat, eggs, spinach, mushrooms or carrots. 

Compared with other patterns, Blood Deficiency is the easiest one to solve. However, if it is caused by an over consumption of contraceptive pills, it may take many months or even a year for the period volume to recover.

Read more about Blood Deficiency here

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the key herb for Tao Hong Si Wu Tang, a formula used for Blood Stagnation

Blood Stagnation

Blood Stagnation in the Uterus can be caused by traumas and abdominal surgery, especially due to the adhesions formed after repeated operations. Another cause is when emotional stress leads to Liver Qi stagnation which itself can lead to Liver Blood Stagnation if the situation becomes chronic. 

Blood Stagnation can also be caused by internal Cold in the Uterus. It is a common reason for young school girls who have scanty period because they do sport outdoor on cold and damp days and don't wear enough clothes to keep adequately warm. 

The treatment principle is to invigorate Blood, eliminate Stagnation and regulate the periods. The patients should also make sure to have regular, gentle exercise to move Qi and Blood. 

Read more about Blood Stagnation here

Coco-Grass Rhizomes (Xiang Fu) is the key herb for Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Recommended herbal formulas: Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Symptoms: Fatigue Obesity Moodiness Depression Overweight Scanty periods Chest fullness Sore and weak limbs Feeling of heaviness Brown vaginal discharge Excessive vaginal discharge

Dampness weakens the Spleen and it can become Phlegm if it is left untreated for a long time. Over-consumption of greasy fried foods or dairy food are typically the main underlying causes.

When Phlegm accumulates in the Uterus, the Directing and Penetrating Vessels are obstructed and this leads to scanty periods. Often patients suffering from this pattern tend to be overweight or obese. It is because Phlegm impairs the Spleen's functions and thus food and drinks can not be transformed to food Qi and Body Fluids appropriately. As a rule of thumb, Chinese Medicine practitioners see that overly thin women with scanty periods will often have Blood Deficiency while overweight ones are more due to Phlegm and Dampness.

Patients suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) also often have scanty periods too due to Phlegm and they are often obese (although it might not necessary for all cases).

Phlegm is the most difficult scanty periods causing pattern to treat, especially for women with PCOS. It often degenerate into amenorrhoea(a total absence of menstruation) and it may takes several years to solve the condition. 

The treatment principle is to resolve Phlegm, dry Dampness, tonify the Spleen and regulate the periods. Patients should also quit dairy and greasy food which cause Dampness and Phlegm. They should also do regular exercise to increase their body metabolism. 

Read more about Phlegm here

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

Kidney-Deficiency

Kidney Yin Deficiency can be the result of hereditary weakness, overwork under stress or having too many children or abortions too close to each other. With this pattern, Body Fluids is depleted and Kidney Essence fails to fill the 'Sea of Blood' and the Penetrating and Directing Vessels. Thus periods become scanty. 

Even though the mentioned symptoms are typically caused by Kidney Yin Deficiency, this pattern name is just Kidney Deficiency. It is because Kidney Yang and Yin are interdependent and closely related. The herbal formulas typically recommended to solve this tonify both Kidney Yin and Yang. 

The treatment principle is to strengthen the Kidneys, tonify Yang and Yin, nourish Blood and Essence and regulate the periods. It is essential to nourish Blood as well because Blood Deficiency often accompanies Kidney Yang Deficiency. The patients should also make sure to avoid overwork and take adequate rest.

Read more about Kidney-Deficiency here

The ten herbal formulas that might help with scanty menstruation

Ren Shen Zi Xie Tang

Source date: 1602 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Blood.

Why might Ren Shen Zi Xie Tang help with scanty menstruation?

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

Read more about Ren Shen Zi Xie Tang here

Tao Hong Si Wu Tang

Source date: 1291 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Blood and regulates the Liver. Moves Qi and Blood in the lower abdomen. Stops pain.

Why might Tao Hong Si Wu Tang help with scanty menstruation?

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

Read more about Tao Hong Si Wu Tang here

Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Source date: 1817 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Resolves Dampness and Phlegm.

Why might Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan help with scanty menstruation?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Phlegm, a pattern sometimes associated with scanty menstruation. 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 Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan here

Dang Gui Di Huang Yin

Source date: 1640 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Blood. Tonifies Kidney and Liver Yin. Regulates the menstrual cycle.

Why might Dang Gui Di Huang Yin help with scanty menstruation?

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

Read more about Dang Gui Di Huang Yin here

Si Wu Tang

Source date: 846 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Restores and nourishes Blood. Stimulates Blood circulation.

Why might Si Wu Tang help with scanty menstruation?

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

Read more about Si Wu Tang here

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Eliminates Blood Stagnation below the diaphragm. Stops pain. Promotes Qi movement.

Why might Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang help with scanty menstruation?

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

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang here

Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Expels Cold and warm the menstruation Blood. Stops pain. Invigorates Blood. Dispels Blood stagnation.

Why might Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang help with scanty menstruation?

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

Read more about Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1575 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Resolves Damp-Phlegm. Nourishes Blood.

Why might Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang help with scanty menstruation?

Because it is a formula often recommended to help treat Phlegm, a pattern sometimes associated with scanty menstruation. 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 Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang here

Shi Quan Da Bu Tang

Source date: 1180 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies Qi. Warms and tonifies Blood.

Why might Shi Quan Da Bu Tang help with scanty menstruation?

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

Read more about Shi Quan Da Bu Tang here

He Che Da Zao Wan

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies the Kidneys. Strengthens the Directing and Penetrating Vessels. Regulates the periods.

Why might He Che Da Zao Wan help with scanty menstruation?

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

Read more about He Che Da Zao Wan here