Costochondritis according to Chinese Medicine

Costochondritis 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 costochondritis 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 costochondritis is often associated with chest pain, hypochondriac pain and palpitations in the pattern “Pericardium Blood Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause costochondritis.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of costochondritis we’ve identified three 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 costochondritis.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause costochondritis

In Chinese Medicine costochondritis 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.

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

Pericardium Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Knotted (Jie), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple

In addition to costochondritis, other symptoms associated with Pericardium Blood Stagnation include chest pain, hypochondriac pain and palpitations.

Pericardium Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu 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: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Pericardium Blood Stagnation here

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

Stomach Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple

In addition to costochondritis, other symptoms associated with Stomach Blood Stagnation include epigastric pain, nausea and vomiting.

Stomach Blood Stagnation is often treated with Shi Xiao San, a herbal formula made of 2 herbs (including Cattail Pollen - Pu Huang - as a key herb). Shi Xiao San 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: "Invigorates Blood".

Read more about Stomach Blood Stagnation here

Three herbal formulas that might help with costochondritis

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Why might Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang help with costochondritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Blood Stagnation' of which costochondritis is a symptom.

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

Shi Xiao San

Source date: 1108 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Dispels Blood Stagnation. Eases pain.

Why might Shi Xiao San help with costochondritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Blood Stagnation' of which costochondritis is a symptom.

Read more about Shi Xiao San here

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Eliminates Blood Stagnation below the diaphragm. Stops pain. Promotes Qi movement.

Why might Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang help with costochondritis?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Blood Stagnation' of which costochondritis is a symptom.

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat costochondritis

Why might Peach Kernel (Tao Ren) help with costochondritis?

Because it is a key herb in Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Blood Stagnation' (a pattern with costochondritis as a symptom)

Peach Kernels is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood and breaks up Stasis. Moistens the Intestines. Relieves coughing.

Read more about Peach Kernels here

Why might Safflower (Hong Hua) help with costochondritis?

Because it is a key herb in Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Blood Stagnation' (a pattern with costochondritis as a symptom)

Safflowers is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Stagnant Blood and regulates menses. Relieves pain caused by Blood Stasis.

Read more about Safflowers here

Why might Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with costochondritis?

Because it is a key herb in Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Blood Stagnation' (a pattern with costochondritis as a symptom)

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here

Why might Red Peony Root (Chi Shao) help with costochondritis?

Because it is a key herb in Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Blood Stagnation' (a pattern with costochondritis as a symptom)

Red Peony Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood, relieves pain and reduces swelling. Cools the Blood and the Liver.

Read more about Red Peony Roots here

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

Because it is a key herb in Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Blood Stagnation' (a pattern with costochondritis as a symptom)

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