Qi Stagnation

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At a glance

Preliminary reading: What is a pattern? The concept of Qi

Key attributes

Chinese name: 气滞      Pinyin name: Qì Zhì

Pattern nature: Full

Pattern hierarchy: General pattern with specific forms like Liver Qi Stagnation or Stomach Qi Stagnation

Common combinations: Qi And Blood Stagnation

Causes

Precursor patterns: Qi Deficiency Lung and Heart Qi Deficiency

Common causes: Emotional stress

Diagnosis

Common symptoms: Depression Mood swings Irritability Frequent sighing Feeling of distension and one other symptoms

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue description: Normal or slightly dark on side with white or yellow coating

Treatment

Treatment principle: Invigorate Qi movement, unblock Channels

Common formulas: Xiao Yao San Chai Hu Shu Gan San Si Mo Tang

Pathology

If the flow of Qi is impeded in any way, it becomes stuck or stagnant. This can be likened to a traffic jam on the freeway. That's why, unlike in the cases of Qi Deficiency or Qi Sinking, tonification is contraindicated: it would be like adding more cars to the traffic jam. Instead, Qi moving or regulating therapy is required.

Qi Stagnation can lead to an impairment of any of the Organs. When Qi is stagnant in the limbs or in the Channels of the body, aches and pains may result. The Liver is the main Organ affected by Qi Stagnation. However other Organs often also suffer from it, for example the Heart, Lungs, Stomach or Intestines.

In a Qi Stagnation condition, the person is usually not tired as in Qi Deficiency, but tend to experience a range of emotional symptoms: the feeling of being 'stuck', being frustrated, easily irritated, etc. The feeling of distension (i.e. feeling 'bloated'), which can affect the throat, chest, epigastrium, or abdomen, is the most characteristic and important of the symptoms of Qi Stagnation.

Stagnant Qi is an Excess condition. When Qi is Stagnant it can lead to other types of Stagnation such as Blood, Fluids or food Stagnation. Likewise, poor Blood or Body Fluids circulation can result in Qi condensing and stagnating, resulting in lumps, physical masses or tumors.

Causes

Precursor patterns: Qi Stagnation can derive from Qi Deficiency Lung and Heart Qi Deficiency

Emotional stress : Prolonged or intense emotional stress disturbs the Mind (Shen) and causes disharmony in Organs, Qi and Blood. According to TCM, all 7 emotions (Anger, Joy, Sadness, Worry, Pensiveness, Fear, and Shock) has some effect on Qi Stagnation. Out of them, Pensiveness and Worry are supposed to knot Qi the most.

Diagnosing Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin) or wiry (Xian)

Tongue description: Normal or slightly dark on side with white or yellow coating

Main symptoms: Depression Mood swings Irritability Frequent sighing Feeling of distension Moving distending pain

Diagnosis commentary: Key characteristic symptoms of this pattern are the feeling of distension, pain, and oppression as well as emotional problems such as depression, anxiety or irritability.

Treating Qi Stagnation

Treatment principle

Invigorate Qi movement, unblock Channels 

Herbal formulas used to treat Qi Stagnation

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Formula summary

Chai Hu Shu Gan San is a 7-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula. Invented in 1602, it belongs to the category of formulas that promote Qi movement.

Besides Qi Stagnation, Chai Hu Shu Gan San is also used to treat Rebellious Qi or Liver Blood Stagnation.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Formula summary

Xiao Yao San is a 6-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula. Invented in 1107 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that harmonize Liver-Spleen.

Besides Qi Stagnation, Xiao Yao San is also used to treat Liver Blood Stagnation or Liver Qi Deficiency.

Read more about Xiao Yao San

Si Mo Tang

Source date: 1253 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Directs rebellious Qi downward. Expands the chest and dissipates clumping.

Formula summary

Si Mo Tang is a 4-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula. Invented in 1253 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that promote Qi movement.

Besides Qi Stagnation, Si Mo Tang is also used to treat Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach.

Read more about Si Mo Tang

Related conditions

Late menstruation Chronic gastritis Peptic ulcers Irritable bowel syndrome Chronic hepatitis Intercostal neuralgia Migraine Epilepsy Depression Biliary tract infections Gallstones Globus hystericus Cerebral thrombosis

Special highlight: the link between late menstruation and Qi Stagnation

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the key herb for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for late menstruation caused by Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation here mainly refers to Liver Qi Stagnation which is often caused by long-term emotional stress like worry or fear. If untreated for a long period of time, it can lead to Blood Stagnation and thus the Directing (Ren Mai  任脉) and Penetrating Vessels become blocked and periods come behind schedule. 

Heart or Spleen Qi Deficiency can also be caused by these emotions and be responsible for delayed periods. Take the Spleen as example, its function is to transform and transport food and...Read more about late menstruation

Consequence patterns

Heart Vessel obstructed

Qi Stagnation often causes Blood Stagnation. Both patterns are part of the aggregated pattern of Heart Vessel obstructed. 

Blood Stagnation

When Qi Stagnates for a long period of time, it fails to move Blood, hence the Stagnation of Blood itself.