Cirrhosis according to Chinese Medicine

ascites from cirrhosis, cirrhosis of the liver and cirrhosis with ascites redirect here

Cirrhosis 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 cirrhosis 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 cirrhosis is often associated with poor appetite, labored breathing and loose stools in the pattern “Oedema”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause cirrhosis.

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

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause cirrhosis

In Chinese Medicine cirrhosis 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.

Water Plantain (Ze Xie) is the king ingredient for Wu Ling San, a formula used for Oedema

Oedema

Pulse type(s): Hidden (Fu), Slowed-down (Huan)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Oedema manifests itself as swellings due to the retention of Body Fluids. Chinese Medicine believes that it originates from the leaking of Body Fluids from their normal pathways into the space between skin and muscles.

In addition to cirrhosis, other symptoms associated with Oedema include poor appetite, labored breathing and loose stools.

Oedema is often treated with Wu Ling San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Water Plantain - Ze Xie - as a key herb). Wu Ling San belongs to the category of "formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Promotes urination,".

Read more about Oedema here

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the king ingredient for Xiao Qing Long Tang, a formula used for Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

This is when, often due to a stagnant Qi, the Body Fluids are retained in the chest and Lungs.

In addition to cirrhosis, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm include dizziness, generalized body pain and alternating fever and chills.

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm is often treated with Xiao Qing Long Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Xiao Qing Long 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 the Exterior".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm here

Five herbal formulas that might help with cirrhosis

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 cirrhosis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Oedema' of which ascites from cirrhosis is a symptom.

Read more about Zhen Wu Tang here

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Xiao Qing Long Tang help with cirrhosis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' of which cirrhosis is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang here

Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Lungs. Transforms congested Fluids.

Why might Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang help with cirrhosis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' of which cirrhosis is a symptom.

Read more about Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang here

Wu Ling San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes urination,. Warms the Yang. Strengthens the Spleen. Promotes Qi transformation function. Drains Dampness. Clears edema.

Why might Wu Ling San help with cirrhosis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Oedema' of which ascites from cirrhosis is a symptom.

Read more about Wu Ling San here

Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Diuretic, clears Excess fluid and removes edema. Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Calms External Wind.

Why might Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang help with cirrhosis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Oedema' of which ascites from cirrhosis is a symptom.

Read more about Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat cirrhosis

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

Because it is a key herb in Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Oedema' (a pattern with cirrhosis as a symptom)

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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with cirrhosis?

Because it is a key herb in Wu Pi Yin, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Oedema' (a pattern with cirrhosis as a symptom)

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 Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang) help with cirrhosis?

Because it is a key herb in Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' (a pattern with cirrhosis as a symptom)

Dried Ginger is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and expels Cold. Restores collapse of Yang and expels Interior Cold. Warms the Lungs and assists expectoration of Cold Phlegm. Stops chronic bleeding caused by Cold.

Read more about Dried Ginger here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with cirrhosis?

Because it is a key herb in Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Oedema' (a pattern with cirrhosis as a symptom)

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with cirrhosis?

Because it is a key herb in Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Oedema' (a pattern with cirrhosis as a symptom)

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