Ascites according to Chinese Medicine

ascites from cirrhosis and cirrhosis with ascites redirect here

Ascites 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 ascites 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 ascites is often associated with edema and loose stools in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-yang-deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause ascites.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of ascites 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 ascites.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause ascites

In Chinese Medicine ascites is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Spleen Yang Deficiency

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

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Yang Deficiency often develops from Spleen Qi Deficiency, but it is more extensive and severe with additional Cold symptoms, such as cold feeling and cold limbs. The causes are similar to these of Spleen Qi Deficiency, along with surplus consumption of cold, raw foods and drinks and overexposure to cold damp environments and climates.

In addition to ascites, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-yang-deficiency include edema and loose stools.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-yang-deficiency is often treated with Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Zhen Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and transform water and dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys".

Read more about Spleen Yang Deficiency here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to ascites, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm include dizziness, vertigo and vomiting.

From a Western Medicine standpoint /tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Menopausal Syndrome or Morning Sickness.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

Five herbal formulas that might help with ascites

Zhen Wu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys. Eliminates Dampness.

Why might Zhen Wu Tang help with ascites?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-yang-deficiency' of which ascites from cirrhosis is a symptom.

Read more about Zhen Wu Tang here

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Why might Er Chen Tang help with ascites?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm' of which ascites is a symptom.

Read more about Er Chen 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 ascites?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm' of which ascites is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Dries and dissolves Phlegm. Strengthens the Spleen. Smoothes the Liver and calms Liver Wind (antispasmodic).

Why might Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang help with ascites?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm' of which ascites is a symptom.

Read more about Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with ascites?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm' of which ascites is a symptom.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Acupuncture points used for ascites

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat ascites

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

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat ascites as a symptom, like Wu Pi Yin or Wu Ling San for instance.

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 Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with ascites?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat ascites as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Zhen Wu Tang for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here

Why might Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) help with ascites?

Because it is a key herb in Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' (a pattern with ascites as a symptom)

Tangerine Peel is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs.

Read more about Tangerine Peel here

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

Because it is a key herb in Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Spleen Yang Deficiency' (a pattern with ascites 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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with ascites?

Because it is a key herb in Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Spleen Yang Deficiency' (a pattern with ascites as a symptom)

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

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