Bitter taste in the mouth according to Chinese Medicine

Home > Symptoms list > Bitter taste in the mouth

Bitter taste in the mouth 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 bitter taste in the mouth 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 bitter taste in the mouth is often associated with dizziness, irritability and scanty periods in the pattern “Qi And Blood Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause bitter taste in the mouth.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of bitter taste in the mouth 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 bitter taste in the mouth.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause bitter taste in the mouth

In Chinese Medicine bitter taste in the mouth 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.

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a formula used for Qi And Blood Stagnation

Qi And Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

In addition to bitter taste in the mouth, other symptoms associated with Qi And Blood Stagnation include dizziness, irritability and scanty periods.

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 Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Qi And Blood Stagnation here

Korean Mint (Huo Xiang) is the king ingredient for Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Soggy (Ru)

In addition to bitter taste in the mouth, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include dizziness, feeling of heaviness and feeling of heat.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Heat is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Intermenstrual Bleeding or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Damp-Heat is often treated with Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Korean Mint - Huo Xiang - as a key herb). Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San belongs to the category of "formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Damp-Heat here

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

Liver Fire Blazing

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

In addition to bitter taste in the mouth, other symptoms associated with Liver Fire Blazing include dizziness, red face and irritability.

Liver Fire Blazing is often treated with Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Chinese Gentian - Long Dan Cao - as a key herb). Long Dan Xie Gan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder".

Read more about Liver Fire Blazing here

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

Damp-Heat in the Liver

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

This pattern is caused by excessive Heat in the Liver and Dampness due to Spleen Deficiency. Dampness can cause the formation of Phlegm.  Patients often have a feeling of fullness. It is often caused by bad diet and lifestyle, hot and damp environment and emotional stress such as anger.

In addition to bitter taste in the mouth, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat in the Liver include feeling of heaviness, dark urine and fever.

Damp-Heat in the Liver is often treated with Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Chinese Gentian - Long Dan Cao - as a key herb). Long Dan Xie Gan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder".

Read more about Damp-Heat in the Liver here

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

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to bitter taste in the mouth, other symptoms associated with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire include dizziness, red face and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps or Spontaneous Flow Of Breast Milk.

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is often treated with Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including White Peony Roots - Bai Shao - as a key herb). Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Pacifies the Liver".

Read more about Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire here

Five herbal formulas that might help with bitter taste in the mouth

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 bitter taste in the mouth?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi And Blood Stagnation' of which bitter taste in the mouth is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi And Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

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 bitter taste in the mouth?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which bitter taste in the mouth is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Pacifies the Liver. Removes Stagnation. Drains Fire. Unblocks the Meridians.

Why might Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire' of which bitter taste in the mouth is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang here

Dang Gui Long Hui Wan

Source date: 1172 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Drains Liver and Gallbladder Fire Excess.

Why might Dang Gui Long Hui Wan help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Fire Blazing' of which bitter taste in the mouth is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Fire Blazing include dizziness, red face and irritability.

Read more about Dang Gui Long Hui Wan here

Yin Chen Hao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Clears heat. Resolves dampness. Reduces jaundice.

Why might Yin Chen Hao Tang help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat in the Liver' of which bitter taste in the mouth is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp-Heat In The Liver include feeling of heaviness, dark urine and fever.

Read more about Yin Chen Hao Tang here

Acupuncture points used for bitter taste in the mouth

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat bitter taste in the mouth

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bitter taste in the mouth as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or Xiao Yao San 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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bitter taste in the mouth as a symptom, like Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang or Jia Wei 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bitter taste in the mouth as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or Xiao Yao San 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bitter taste in the mouth as a symptom, like Dang Gui Long Hui Wan or 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 Cape Jasmine Fruit (Zhi Zi) help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because Cape Jasmine Fruit is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bitter taste in the mouth as a symptom, like Yin Chen Hao Tang or Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San for instance.

Cape Jasmine Fruits is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Lung and the Sanjiao.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and calms spirit. Drains Damp-Heat affecting the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears Heat in the Blood and stops bleeding. Anti-inflammatory.

Read more about Cape Jasmine Fruits here

Conditions associated with bitter taste in the mouth

Menstrual cramps Early menstruation Spontaneous flow of breast milk