Anemia according to Chinese Medicine

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Anemia 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 anemia 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 anemia is often associated with shortness of breath, weak voice and pale face in the pattern “Lung Qi Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause anemia.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of anemia we’ve identified four 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 anemia.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause anemia

In Chinese Medicine anemia is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Lung Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

The Lungs govern Qi and respiration. In case of Lung Qi Deficiency, Qi's protecting, dispersing and descending function can not be performed properly.

In addition to anemia, other symptoms associated with Lung Qi Deficiency include shortness of breath, weak voice and pale face.

Lung Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Lung Qi Deficiency here

Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi) is the king ingredient for Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang, a formula used for Empty-Cold

Empty-Cold

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

In addition to anemia, other symptoms associated with Empty-Cold include palpitations, poor appetite and shortness of breath.

Empty-Cold is often treated with Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Milkvetch Roots - Huang Qi - as a key herb). Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm the middle and dispel cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies the Middle Burner (Spleen and Stomach)".

Read more about Empty-Cold here

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

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Qi Deficiency is one of the most commonly seen TCM pattern. It is caused by unhealthy diet such as fat raw or cold food, bad eating habit, emotional stress or damp environment. It is the central pattern to all other Spleen disharmonies, because many other Deficiency patterns derive from it.

In addition to anemia, other symptoms associated with Spleen Qi Deficiency include poor appetite, fatigue and weak voice.

Spleen Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Spleen Qi Deficiency here

Four herbal formulas that might help with anemia

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with anemia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency' of which anemia is a symptom.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies the Middle Burner (Spleen and Stomach). Tonifies Qi. Relieves spasmodic pain.

Why might Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang help with anemia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Empty-Cold' of which anemia is a symptom.

Read more about Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang here

Da Jian Zhong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies Middle Burner Deficiency. Directs rebellious Qi downward. Relieves pain.

Why might Da Jian Zhong Tang help with anemia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Empty-Cold' of which anemia is a symptom.

Read more about Da Jian Zhong Tang here

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with anemia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen Qi Deficiency' of which anemia is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

Acupuncture points used for anemia

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat anemia

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with anemia?

Because it is a key herb in Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency' (a pattern with anemia as a symptom)

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with anemia?

Because it is a key herb in Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency' (a pattern with anemia as a symptom)

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with anemia?

Because it is a key herb in Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency' (a pattern with anemia as a symptom)

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with anemia?

Because it is a key herb in Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency' (a pattern with anemia as a symptom)

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

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 Milkvetch Root (Huang Qi) help with anemia?

Because it is a key herb in Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Empty-Cold' (a pattern with anemia as a symptom)

Milkvetch Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Wei Qi and stops perspiration. Tonifies the Spleen Qi and the Yang Qi of the Earth Element. Tonifies the Qi and Blood. Expels pus and assists in the healing of wounds. Helps to regulate water metabolism in the body and reduce edema.

Read more about Milkvetch Roots here