Bad breath according to Chinese Medicine

Bad breath 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 bad breath 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 bad breath is often associated with watery milk, no feeling of distension of the breasts and fatigue in the pattern “Phlegm”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause bad breath.

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

We’ve also selected below the four medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat bad breath.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause bad breath

In Chinese Medicine bad breath 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.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for 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 bad breath, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include watery milk, no feeling of distension of the breasts and fatigue.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

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

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

Dryness in Large Intestine

Pulse type(s): Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale, Red

In addition to bad breath, other symptoms associated with Dryness in Large Intestine include constipation, dry stools and dry mouth.

Dryness in Large Intestine is often treated with Zeng Ye Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Ningpo Figwort Roots - Xuan Shen - as a key herb). Zeng Ye Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that enrich yin and moisten dryness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes Yin and Essence".

Read more about Dryness in Large Intestine here

Two herbal formulas that might help with bad breath

Zeng Ye Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin and Essence. Lubricates Dryness.

Why might Zeng Ye Tang help with bad breath?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Dryness in Large Intestine' of which bad breath is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Dryness In Large Intestine include constipation, dry stools and dry mouth.

Read more about Zeng Ye Tang here

Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Source date: 1817 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Resolves Dampness and Phlegm.

Why might Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan help with bad breath?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which bad breath is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Low Breast Milk Supply.

Read more about Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan here

The four Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat bad breath

Why might Ningpo Figwort Root (Xuan Shen) help with bad breath?

Because it is a key herb in Zeng Ye Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Dryness in Large Intestine' (a pattern with bad breath as a symptom)

Ningpo Figwort Roots is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Stomach, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Expels true or Internal Heat and cools the Blood. Tonifies the Yin. Reduces inflammations and drains Fire toxicity. Reduces hard nodules, especially associated with the lymph.

Read more about Ningpo Figwort Roots here

Why might Coco-Grass Rhizome (Xiang Fu) help with bad breath?

Because it is a key herb in Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with bad breath as a symptom)

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 Black Atractylodes Rhizome (Cang Zhu) help with bad breath?

Because it is a key herb in Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with bad breath as a symptom)

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

Its main actions are: Dries Damp and tonifies the Spleen. Relieves the Exterior for invasion of Wind-Cold-Damp. Relieves Wind-Damp painful obstruction. Dries Damp for either Damp-Cold or Damp-Heat when combined with the correct herbs. Clears the eyes and improves sight.

Read more about Black Atractylodes Rhizomes here

Why might Eupatorium Herb (Pei Lan) help with bad breath?

Because it is a herb specifically indicated to treat bad breath as can be seen on Eupatorium Herb's page.

Eupatorium Herbs is a Neutral herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Transforms Dampness that obstructs the Stomach (Middle Warmer). Invigorates the function of the Spleen and improves appetite. Relieves Summer Heat.

Read more about Eupatorium Herbs here