Belching according to Chinese Medicine

Belching 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 belching 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 belching is often associated with vomiting, insomnia and headaches in the pattern “Rebellious Qi”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause belching.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause belching

In Chinese Medicine belching 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.

Inula Flowers (Xuan Fu Hua) is the king ingredient for Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, a formula used for Rebellious Qi

Rebellious Qi

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red sides

Rebellious Qi is when Qi flows in the wrong direction. For instance, if one suffers from a rebellious Stomach Qi (a common case), the normal downward flow of Stomach Qi is disrupted and it goes upward instead. This may result in nausea, vomiting, belching or hiccupping.

In addition to belching, other symptoms associated with Rebellious Qi include vomiting, insomnia and headaches.

Rebellious Qi is often treated with Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Inula Flowers - Xuan Fu Hua - as a key herb). Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang belongs to the category of "formulas for a rebellious qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi".

Read more about Rebellious Qi here

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 belching, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, poor appetite and vomiting.

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation.

In addition to belching, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, depression and constipation.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

Liver Qi Stagnation 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 Liver Qi Stagnation here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi and Blood Stagnation

Qi and Blood Stagnation

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

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red, Red sides

In addition to belching, other symptoms associated with Qi and Blood Stagnation include dizziness, hot flushes and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi and Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Absence Of Menstruation or Menopausal Syndrome.

Qi and Blood Stagnation 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 Qi and Blood Stagnation here

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

Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to belching, other symptoms associated with Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency include dizziness, poor appetite and vomiting.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Spontaneous Flow Of Breast Milk.

Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency is often treated with Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Milkvetch Roots - Huang Qi - as a key herb). Bu Zhong Yi Qi 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 of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner)".

Read more about Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with belching

Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi. Expectorant, treats hiccups.

Why might Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang help with belching?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Rebellious Qi' of which belching is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Rebellious Qi include vomiting, insomnia and headaches.

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang here

Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Source date: Ming dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation. Tonifies Spleen. Clears Deficient Heat. Nourishes the blood.

Why might Jia Wei Xiao Yao San help with belching?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi and Blood Stagnation' of which belching is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi and Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Why might Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang help with belching?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Spleen And Stomach Qi Deficiency include dizziness, poor appetite and vomiting.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Why might Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang help with belching?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang here

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Why might Yue Ju Wan help with belching?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which belching is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, depression and constipation.

Read more about Yue Ju Wan here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat belching

Why might Inula Flower (Xuan Fu Hua) help with belching?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat belching and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat belching as a symptom (such as Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang for instance).

Inula Flowers is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Moves Stagnant Phlegm in the Lungs. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi of the Lungs and Stomach.

Read more about Inula Flowers here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with belching?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat belching as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or Bu Zhong Yi 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 Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with belching?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat belching as a symptom, like Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang or Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang for instance.

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

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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with belching?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat belching as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang for instance.

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

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 Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with belching?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat belching as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang for instance.

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

Conditions associated with belching

Menopausal syndrome Morning sickness