Heart Blood Stagnation

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Pattern factsheet

Chinese name: 心脉痹阻

Pinyin name: Xīn Mài Bì Zǔ

Associated TCM concepts: Heart Blood Blood Stagnation

Related conditions: Postpartum depression


Common symptoms: Mania Delusions Chest pain Cold hands Purple lips and eleven other symptoms

Pulse type(s): Knotted (Jie)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple

This is a severe pattern that mostly derives from other Heart patterns, normally Heart Yang or Blood Deficiency, or Heart Qi Stagnation. Other than these, Heart Fire or Heart Qi Deficiency can also be the precursors. 

Prolonged emotional stress such as grief, worry, or anxiety are ultimately the cause since they harm the Heart's functions of controlling Blood and Blood vessels, which eventually leads to the patterns that are precursors to Heart Blood Stagnation. Since the Heart house the Mind (Shen), this may become a self-reinforcing loop since a disturbed Mind may in turn cause emotional stress.

Heart Blood Stagnation is characterized by palpitations, chest pressure and stiffness as well as sharp stabbing pain in the chest, which can spread to the inner area of the left arm or to the shoulder. Since the Blood doesn't flow smoothly, it reflected by the purple or dark color on lips, faces, tongue and nails. 

The treatment principle is to invigorate Blood, eliminate Stagnation, tonify and warm Heart Yang and calm the Mind.

Diagnosing Heart Blood Stagnation

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

Diagnosing a pattern in Chinese Medicine is no easy feat and should be left to professional practitioners.

In particular one has to know how to differentiate between different types of pulses and tongue coatings, shapes and colors. Here patients with Heart Blood Stagnation will tend to exhibit knotted (Jie) pulses as well as a bluish-purple tongue.

Practitioners also learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Here patients with Heart Blood Stagnation might experience symptoms like palpitations, chest pain, chest pressure and purple lips (full list here above).

Herbal formulas used to treat Heart Blood Stagnation

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Formula summary

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang is a 11-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Peach Kernels (Tao Ren), Safflowers (Hong Hua) and Szechuan Lovage Roots (Chuan Xiong) as principal ingredients. Invented in 1830 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that invigorate Blood and dispel Blood Stagnation.

Besides Heart Blood Stagnation, Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang is also used to treat Heart Vessel obstructed or Pericardium Blood Stagnation.

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Xiao Tiao Jing Tang

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Remove Blood Stagnation. Nourishes Blood. Calms the Mind.

Formula summary

Xiao Tiao Jing Tang is a 7-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with White Peony Roots (Bai Shao) and Dong Quai (Dang Gui) as principal ingredients. Invented in 1742 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that regulate Blood.

Read more about Xiao Tiao Jing Tang

Diet recommendations

Eat a balanced diet including Dang Gui, lamb and ginger soup, bone marrow soup, milk, black and adzuki beans and congee. Eat only cooked foods and do not skip meals.

Special highlight: the link between postpartum depression and Heart Blood Stagnation

White Peony Roots (Bai Shao) is the key herb for Xiao Tiao Jing Tang, a formula used for postpartum depression caused by Heart Blood Stagnation

Typical symptoms for postpartum depression caused by Heart Blood Stagnation: Mania Delusions Aggressiveness Hallucinations Suicidal thoughts Destructive thoughts Blaming oneself and others Lack of bonding with the newborn

Recommended herbal formula: Xiao Tiao Jing Tang

Heart Blood Stagnation is the most severe pattern causing postpartum depression. The Stagnant Heart Blood troubles and obstructs the Mind (which is housed in the Heart) so much that the mother become aggressive, obsessive, neurotic, phobic and/or psychotic. In some rare cases they can even develop a form of schizophrenia. They can be not only depressed but also have delusions and hallucinations as well as suicidal thoughts and dangerous ideas toward their newborn. 

As for treatment principles,...Read more about postpartum depression

Most important herbs used to treat Heart Blood Stagnation