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 poor appetite, vertigo and irregular menstruation in the pattern “Blood Deficiency with disharmony of Liver and Spleen”.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of anemia we’ve identified that a herbal formula called Xiao Yao San can help treat the patterns behind the symptom.

Blood Deficiency with disharmony of Liver and Spleen, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause anemia

In Chinese Medicine anemia is a symptom for the pattern "Blood Deficiency with disharmony of Liver and Spleen". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

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

Blood Deficiency with disharmony of Liver and Spleen

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to anemia, other symptoms associated with Blood Deficiency with disharmony of Liver and Spleen include poor appetite, vertigo and irregular menstruation.

Blood Deficiency with disharmony of Liver and Spleen is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Blood Deficiency with disharmony of Liver and Spleen here

A herbal formula that might help with anemia

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 anemia?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Deficiency with disharmony of Liver and Spleen' of which anemia is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Blood Deficiency With Disharmony Of Liver And Spleen include poor appetite, vertigo and irregular menstruation.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat anemia

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with anemia?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat anemia and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat anemia as a symptom (such as Xiao Yao San 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 anemia?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat anemia and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat anemia as a symptom (such as Xiao Yao San 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 Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with anemia?

Because it is a key herb in Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Blood Deficiency with disharmony of Liver and Spleen' (a pattern with anemia as a symptom)

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here

Why might Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao) help with anemia?

Because it is a herb specifically indicated to treat anemia as can be seen on Donkey-Hide Gelatin's page.

Donkey-Hide Gelatin is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies and nourishes Blood. Stops bleeding. Moistens and lubricates Yin.

Read more about Donkey-Hide Gelatin here

Why might Fleeceflower Root (He Shou Wu) help with anemia?

Because it is a herb specifically indicated to treat anemia as can be seen on Fleeceflower Root's page.

Fleeceflower Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Nourishes the Liver, Kidneys and Essence. Tonifies the Blood. Moistens the Intestines. The raw form of this herb is used for Fire and toxicity.

Read more about Fleeceflower Roots here