Chest distention according to Chinese Medicine

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Chest distention 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 chest distention 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 chest distention is often associated with nausea, poor appetite and constipation in the pattern “Liver Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause chest distention.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause chest distention

In Chinese Medicine chest distention 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.

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 chest distention, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include nausea, poor appetite 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

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 chest distention, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include nausea, poor appetite and dizziness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Menopausal Syndrome or Morning Sickness.

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 Fire insulting the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

In addition to chest distention, other symptoms associated with Liver Fire insulting the Lungs include bitter taste in the mouth, constipation and dizziness.

Liver Fire insulting the Lungs 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 insulting the Lungs here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Damp-Phlegm

Damp-Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

In addition to chest distention, other symptoms associated with Damp-Phlegm include nausea, fatigue and oily skin.

Damp-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 Damp-Phlegm 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 chest distention, other symptoms associated with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire include bitter taste in the mouth, constipation and dizziness.

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 chest distention

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 chest distention?

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

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

Read more about Xiao Yao San 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 chest distention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire' of which chest distention is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire can contribute to many health issues, including Spontaneous Flow Of Breast Milk.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Source date: Qing Dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and relieves acute conditions of the Gallbladder. Relieves acute Damp-Heat syndromes. Resolves Phlegm. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang help with chest distention?

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

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

Read more about Hao Qin Qing Dan 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 chest distention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Fire insulting the Lungs' of which chest distention is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Fire Insulting The Lungs include bitter taste in the mouth, constipation and dizziness.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan 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 chest distention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Phlegm' of which chest distention is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp-Phlegm include nausea, fatigue and oily skin.

Read more about Er Chen Tang here

Acupuncture points used for chest distention

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat chest distention

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with chest distention?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chest distention as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi 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 chest distention?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chest distention as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang 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 chest distention?

Because Cape Jasmine Fruit is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chest distention as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Long Dan Xie Gan Tang 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 chest distention?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chest distention as a symptom, like Er Chen 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 Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) help with chest distention?

Because Tangerine Peel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chest distention as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Wen Dan Tang for instance.

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