Chills according to Chinese Medicine

Chills 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 chills 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 chills is often associated with dizziness, night sweats and hot flushes in the pattern “Kidney Yang Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause chills.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause chills

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

Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

Kidney Yang Deficiency causes Internal Cold and weakness.

In addition to chills, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yang Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and hot flushes.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yang Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yang Deficiency is often treated with Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Yang".

Read more about Kidney Yang Deficiency here

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

Kidney Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can be caused by prolonged overwork, excessive sexual activity, chronic long term illnesses, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Kidney Yang tonics herbs, smoking and Kidney depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar, and fruit juices.

In addition to chills, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and tinnitus.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome, Prolonged Periods or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency 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 chills, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, irritability and depression.

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

Exterior Cold invading the Interior

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

In addition to chills, other symptoms associated with Exterior Cold invading the Interior include dizziness, constipation and cold hands and feet.

Exterior Cold invading the Interior is often treated with Da Huang Fu Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Da Huang Fu Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and purge", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Interior".

Read more about Exterior Cold invading the Interior here

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

Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang

In addition to chills, other symptoms associated with Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang include dizziness, night sweats and hot flushes.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome.

Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang is often treated with Er Xian Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Curculigo Rhizomes - Xian Mao - as a key herb). Er Xian Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify yin and yang", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes Yin and tonifies Yang of the Kidneys".

Read more about Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang here

Five herbal formulas that might help with chills

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Why might You Gui Wan help with chills?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yang Deficiency' of which chills is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yang Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about You Gui Wan here

Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Interior. Disperses Cold. Unblocks the bowels. Alleviates pain.

Why might Da Huang Fu Zi Tang help with chills?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Exterior Cold invading the Interior' of which chills is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Exterior Cold Invading The Interior include dizziness, constipation and cold hands and feet.

Read more about Da Huang Fu Zi Tang here

Er Xian Tang

Source date: 1950 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin and tonifies Yang of the Kidneys. Clears Empty Heat. Regulates the Directing and Penetrating Vessels.

Why might Er Xian Tang help with chills?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang' of which chills is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Deficiency of both the Kidney Yin and Yang can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Er Xian Tang here

Er Zhi Wan

Source date: 1534 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Liver Yin. Nourishes Kidney Yin.

Why might Er Zhi Wan help with chills?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which chills is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Er Zhi Wan here

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Why might Xing Su San help with chills?

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

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

Read more about Xing Su San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat chills

Why might Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) help with chills?

Because Prepared Aconite is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chills as a symptom, like You Gui Wan or Da Huang Fu Zi Tang for instance.

Prepared Aconite is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Raises the collapse of Yang. Warms the meridians and relieves pain caused by Cold. Reduces Damp caused by Deficiency in Yang.

Read more about Prepared Aconite here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with chills?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chills as a symptom, like Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang or Xing Su 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with chills?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chills as a symptom, like Er Xian Tang or You Gui Wan 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 Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with chills?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chills as a symptom, like Xing Su San or Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu 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 Cinnamon Twig (Gui Zhi) help with chills?

Because it is a key herb in Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with chills as a symptom)

Cinnamon Twigs is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Adjusts the nutritive Ying and defensive Wei Qi. Relieves the Exterior through sweating. Warms and disperses Cold. Removes obstruction of Yang. Promotes the circulation of Yang Qi in the chest. Regulates and moves blood.

Read more about Cinnamon Twigs here

Conditions associated with chills

Menopausal syndrome