Qi Stagnation

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Pattern factsheet

Chinese name: 气滞

Pinyin name: Qì Zhì

Associated TCM concepts: Qi

Related conditions: Migraine Epilepsy Depression and ten other conditions

Diagnosis

Common symptoms: Anxiety Belching Vomiting Depression Moving pain and sixteen other symptoms

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

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red sides

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.

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

Diagnosing Qi Stagnation

Qi is one of Chinese Medicine's vital subtances. Learn more about Qi 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 Qi Stagnation will tend to exhibit tight (Jin) or wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a red sides tongue with thin white coating.

Practitioners also learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Here patients with Qi Stagnation might experience symptoms like moving pain, depression, irritability and mood swings (full list here above).

Herbal formulas used to treat Qi Stagnation

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 with Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) as a principal ingredient. 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 Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Spleen.

Read more about Xiao Yao San

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 with Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) as a principal ingredient. 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 Liver Blood Stagnation or Heart Vessel obstructed.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Formula summary

Yue Ju Wan is a 5-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu) and Szechuan Lovage Roots (Chuan Xiong) as principal ingredients. Invented in 1481 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that promote Qi movement.

Besides Qi Stagnation, Yue Ju Wan is also used to treat Liver Qi Stagnation or Phlegm.

Read more about Yue Ju Wan

Wu Yao Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Pacifies the Liver. Moves Qi. Stops pain. Nourishes Liver Blood. Eliminates Stagnation.

Formula summary

Wu Yao Tang is a 9-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Lindera Roots (Wu Yao) as a principal ingredient. Invented in 1336 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that promote Qi movement.

Besides Qi Stagnation, Wu Yao Tang is also used to treat Liver Qi Stagnation or Qi and Blood Stagnation.

Read more about Wu Yao Tang

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