Chills according to Chinese Medicine

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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 cold limbs, feeling of cold and diarrhea in the pattern “Lesser Yin Cold Transformation”. 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.

Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) is the king ingredient for Si Ni Tang, a formula used for Lesser Yin Cold Transformation

Lesser Yin Cold Transformation

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

In addition to chills, other symptoms associated with Lesser Yin Cold Transformation include cold limbs, feeling of cold and diarrhea.

Lesser Yin Cold Transformation is often treated with Si Ni Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Si Ni Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that rescue devastated yang", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Rescues devastated Yang".

Read more about Lesser Yin Cold Transformation here

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

Wind-Cold invading the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

Tongue shape: Partially swollen

In addition to chills, other symptoms associated with Wind-Cold invading the Lungs include headaches, aversion to cold and fever.

Wind-Cold invading the Lungs is often treated with Ma Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Ma Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases exterior cold".

Read more about Wind-Cold invading the Lungs here

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the king ingredient for Ma Huang Tang, a formula used for Exterior-Cold

Exterior-Cold

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

In addition to chills, other symptoms associated with Exterior-Cold include aversion to cold, fever and loose stools.

Exterior-Cold is often treated with Ma Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Ma Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases exterior cold".

Read more about Exterior-Cold here

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

Spleen Yang Deficiency

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

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Yang Deficiency often develops from Spleen Qi Deficiency, but it is more extensive and severe with additional Cold symptoms, such as cold feeling and cold limbs. The causes are similar to these of Spleen Qi Deficiency, along with surplus consumption of cold, raw foods and drinks and overexposure to cold damp environments and climates.

In addition to chills, other symptoms associated with Spleen Yang Deficiency include cold limbs, poor appetite and loose stools.

Spleen Yang Deficiency is often treated with Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Zhen Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and transform water and dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys".

Read more about Spleen Yang Deficiency here

Honeysuckle Flowers (Jin Yin Hua) is the king ingredient for Yin Qiao San, a formula used for Wind-Heat

Wind-Heat

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

In addition to chills, other symptoms associated with Wind-Heat include headaches, aversion to cold and fever.

Wind-Heat is often treated with Yin Qiao San, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Honeysuckle Flowers - Jin Yin Hua - as a key herb). Yin Qiao San belongs to the category of "external formulas for external disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Wind Heat".

Read more about Wind-Heat here

Five herbal formulas that might help with chills

Si Ni Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Rescues devastated Yang. Warms the Middle Burner. Stops diarrhea.

Why might Si Ni Tang help with chills?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lesser Yin Cold Transformation' of which chills is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Lesser Yin Cold Transformation include cold limbs, feeling of cold and diarrhea.

Read more about Si Ni Tang here

Ma Huang Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Releases exterior cold. Treats wheezing.

Why might Ma Huang Tang help with chills?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Wind-Cold invading the Lungs' of which chills is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Cold Invading The Lungs include headaches, aversion to cold and fever.

Read more about Ma Huang Tang here

Gui Zhi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Releases pathogens from the muscle layer. Regulates the Nutritive and Protective Qi.

Why might Gui Zhi Tang help with chills?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Exterior-Cold include aversion to cold, fever and loose stools.

Read more about Gui Zhi Tang here

Zhen Wu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys. Eliminates Dampness.

Why might Zhen Wu Tang help with chills?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Spleen Yang Deficiency include cold limbs, poor appetite and loose stools.

Read more about Zhen Wu Tang here

Yin Qiao San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Wind Heat. Clears Heat. Resolves Toxicity.

Why might Yin Qiao San help with chills?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Heat include headaches, aversion to cold and fever.

Read more about Yin Qiao San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat chills

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with chills?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chills as a symptom, like Si Ni Tang or Ma Huang 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 chills?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chills as a symptom, like Gui Zhi Tang or Ge Gen 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 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 Si Ni Tang or Zhen Wu 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 Platycodon Root (Jie Geng) help with chills?

Because Platycodon Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chills as a symptom, like Yin Qiao San or Sang Ju Yin for instance.

Platycodon Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Lung.

Its main actions are: Opens the Lungs and smoothes the flow of Lung Qi. Expels Phlegm and pus from the Lungs and throat, can be used for either Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat according to the other herbs in the formula. Directs the actions of other herbs to the Upper Warmer.

Read more about Platycodon Roots here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with chills?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat chills as a symptom, like Gui Zhi Tang or Ge Gen Tang 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

Conditions associated with chills

Menopausal syndrome