Bitter taste in the mouth according to Chinese Medicine

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, feeling of heaviness and feeling of heat in the pattern “Damp-Heat”. 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.

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

Heart Fire blazing

Pulse type(s): Overflowing (Hong), Rapid (Shu), Full (Shi), Hasty (Cu)

In addition to bitter taste in the mouth, other symptoms associated with Heart Fire blazing include red face, anxiety and palpitations.

Heart Fire blazing is often treated with Xie Xin Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Rhubarb - Da Huang - as a key herb). Xie Xin Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and resolve toxicity", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Drains Fire".

Read more about Heart Fire blazing here

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

Damp-Heat invading the Spleen

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

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

Damp-Heat invading the Spleen is often treated with Lian Po Yin, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Goldthread Rhizomes - Huang Lian - as a key herb). Lian Po Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat".

Read more about Damp-Heat invading the Spleen here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Chai Hu Tang, a formula used for Half Exterior Half Interior

Half Exterior Half Interior

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

In addition to bitter taste in the mouth, other symptoms associated with Half Exterior Half Interior include dizziness, anxiety and poor appetite.

Half Exterior Half Interior is often treated with Xiao Chai Hu Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Chai Hu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize lesser yang-warp disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer)".

Read more about Half Exterior Half Interior here

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

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' of which bitter taste in the mouth is a symptom.

Read more about Yin Chen Hao Tang here

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Long Dan Xie Gan Tang 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.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang here

Zi Xue Dan

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 17 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Opens the sensory orifices. Controls spasms and convulsions. Extinguishes Wind.

Why might Zi Xue Dan help with bitter taste in the mouth?

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

Read more about Zi Xue Dan here

Lian Po Yin

Source date: 1862 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Dampness. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Why might Lian Po Yin help with bitter taste in the mouth?

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

Read more about Lian Po Yin here

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Why might Xiao Chai Hu Tang help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Half Exterior Half Interior' of which bitter taste in the mouth is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu 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 Feng Yin Tang or Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

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 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 Er Chen Tang or Jia Wei Xiao Yao 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 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

Why might Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bitter taste in the mouth as a symptom, like Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang or Wen Dan Tang for instance.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Baikal Skullcap Root (Huang Qin) help with bitter taste in the mouth?

Because Baikal Skullcap Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat bitter taste in the mouth as a symptom, like Gan Lu Xiao Du Dan or Long Dan Xie Gan Tang for instance.

Baikal Skullcap Roots is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Lung, the Small intestine and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat and Dampness. Clears Upper Burner Heat, especially of the Lung. Clears Heat and stops reckless movement of Blood. Clears pathogenic Heat which is upsetting the fetus. Cools the Liver, reducing Liver Yang rising syndrome.

Read more about Baikal Skullcap Roots here