Cholecystitis according to Chinese Medicine

acute cholecystitis, biliary tract infections and chronic cholecystitis redirect here

Cholecystitis 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 cholecystitis 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 cholecystitis is often associated with irritability, poor appetite and fixed pain in the hypochondria in the pattern “Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause cholecystitis.

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

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause cholecystitis

In Chinese Medicine cholecystitis is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation

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

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red sides

Qi Stagnation refers to Qi becoming stuck or stagnant, a bit like a traffic jam on the freeway. This restricted flow of Qi can be body-wide or happen in any specific Organ.

In addition to cholecystitis, other symptoms associated with Qi Stagnation include irritability, poor appetite and fixed pain in the hypochondria.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation.

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 Qi Stagnation here

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 cholecystitis, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, headaches and poor appetite.

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

Five herbal formulas that might help with cholecystitis

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 cholecystitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Stagnation' of which biliary tract infections is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Why might Chai Hu Shu Gan San help with cholecystitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Stagnation' of which biliary tract infections is a symptom.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Si Mo Tang

Source date: 1253 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Directs rebellious Qi downward. Expands the chest and dissipates clumping.

Why might Si Mo Tang help with cholecystitis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Stagnation' of which biliary tract infections is a symptom.

Read more about Si Mo Tang 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 cholecystitis?

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

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Why might Yue Ju Wan help with cholecystitis?

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

Read more about Yue Ju Wan here

Acupuncture points used for cholecystitis

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat cholecystitis

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with cholecystitis?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cholecystitis as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Xiao Yao San for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with cholecystitis?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cholecystitis as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with cholecystitis?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cholecystitis as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Liver and the Spleen.

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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with cholecystitis?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cholecystitis as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

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 cholecystitis?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat cholecystitis as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San 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