Abdominal pain according to Chinese Medicine

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Abdominal pain can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like abdominal pain here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here abdominal pain is often associated with dizziness, scanty periods and dark clots in menstrual blood in the pattern “Blood Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause abdominal pain.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of abdominal pain we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat abdominal pain.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause abdominal pain

In Chinese Medicine abdominal pain is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a formula used for Blood Stagnation

Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Wiry (Xian), Firm (Lao)

Tongue color: Reddish-Purple

Blood Stagnation, like the name indicates, is when Blood flow becomes Stagnant. It can happen in the whole body or in specific Organs.

It is one of the most important diagnostic conditions in Chinese Medicine because it is frequently the cause of intractable pain syndromes anywhere in the body.

In addition to abdominal pain, other symptoms associated with Blood Stagnation include dizziness, scanty periods and dark clots in menstrual blood.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Scanty Menstruation, Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Blood Stagnation is often treated with Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Tao He Cheng Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dispels Heat and".

Read more about Blood Stagnation here

Korean Mint (Huo Xiang) is the king ingredient for Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Soggy (Ru)

In addition to abdominal pain, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include dizziness, irregular menstruation and fatigue.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Heat is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Intermenstrual Bleeding or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Damp-Heat is often treated with Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Korean Mint - Huo Xiang - as a key herb). Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San belongs to the category of "formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Damp-Heat here

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

Bright Yang Fire in Stomach and Intestines

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua), Full (Shi)

In addition to abdominal pain, other symptoms associated with Bright Yang Fire in Stomach and Intestines include constipation, irritability and abdominal fullness.

Bright Yang Fire in Stomach and Intestines is often treated with Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Rhubarb - Da Huang - as a key herb). Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that purge heat accumulation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Removes Heat and Dryness in the Lower Burner".

Read more about Bright Yang Fire in Stomach and Intestines here

The Small Intestine is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Small Intestine in Chinese Medicine

Full-Heat in the Small Intestine

Pulse type(s): Overflowing (Hong), Rapid (Shu)

In addition to abdominal pain, other symptoms associated with Full-Heat in the Small Intestine include insomnia, scanty and dark urine and mouth ulcers.

Full-Heat in the Small Intestine is often treated with Dao Chi San, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Akebia Stems - Mu Tong - as a key herb). Dao Chi San belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears the Heart".

Read more about Full-Heat in the Small Intestine here

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

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to abdominal pain, other symptoms associated with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire include dizziness, constipation and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps or Spontaneous Flow Of Breast Milk.

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is often treated with Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including White Peony Roots - Bai Shao - as a key herb). Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Pacifies the Liver".

Read more about Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire here

Five herbal formulas that might help with abdominal pain

Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Stops bleeding.

Why might Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang help with abdominal pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation' of which abdominal pain is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Scanty Menstruation.

Read more about Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang here

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.

Why might Xiao Yao San help with abdominal pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which abdominal pain is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Intermenstrual Bleeding.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Removes Heat and Dryness in the Lower Burner. Removes constipation.

Why might Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang help with abdominal pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Bright Yang Fire in Stomach and Intestines' of which abdominal pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Bright Yang Fire In Stomach And Intestines include constipation, irritability and abdominal fullness.

Read more about Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang here

Dao Chi San

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Clears the Heart. Promotes urination.

Why might Dao Chi San help with abdominal pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Full-Heat in the Small Intestine' of which abdominal pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Full-Heat In The Small Intestine include insomnia, scanty and dark urine and mouth ulcers.

Read more about Dao Chi San here

Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Pacifies the Liver. Removes Stagnation. Drains Fire. Unblocks the Meridians.

Why might Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang help with abdominal pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire' of which abdominal pain is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang here

Acupuncture points used for abdominal pain

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat abdominal pain

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with abdominal pain?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat abdominal pain and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat abdominal pain as a symptom (such as Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang for instance).

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with abdominal pain?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat abdominal pain and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat abdominal pain as a symptom (such as Zhu Yu Zhi Xue Tang for instance).

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with abdominal pain?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat abdominal pain and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat abdominal pain as a symptom (such as Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang for instance).

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Spleen and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Coco-Grass Rhizome (Xiang Fu) help with abdominal pain?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat abdominal pain and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat abdominal pain as a symptom (such as Liang Fu Wan for instance).

Coco-Grass Rhizomes is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter, Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Liver and the Sanjiao.

Its main actions are: Unblocks Stagnant Liver Qi and relieves pain. Regulates the Liver and Spleen. Assists the regulation of menses and relieves pain.

Read more about Coco-Grass Rhizomes here

Why might Peach Kernel (Tao Ren) help with abdominal pain?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat abdominal pain and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat abdominal pain as a symptom (such as Tao Hong Si Wu Tang for instance).

Peach Kernels is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood and breaks up Stasis. Moistens the Intestines. Relieves coughing.

Read more about Peach Kernels here