Dampness according to Chinese Medicine

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Dampness 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 dampness 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 dampness is often associated with edema, vaginal discharge and loose stools in the pattern “Yin Excess”.

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

Yin Excess, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause dampness

In Chinese Medicine dampness is a symptom for the pattern "Yin Excess". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

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

Yin Excess

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Excess Yin is a Full Yin state pattern. Its symptoms are like those of the Cold and Damp Heat Pernicious Influences such as Edema. It is a result of over-exposure to cold environments and bad diet.

In addition to dampness, other symptoms associated with Yin Excess include edema, vaginal discharge and loose stools.

Yin Excess 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 Yin Excess here

Two herbal formulas that might help with dampness

Wu Pi Yin

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Reduces edema, diuretic. Regulates and strengthens Spleen Qi.

Why might Wu Pi Yin help with dampness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Yin Excess' of which dampness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Yin Excess include edema, vaginal discharge and loose stools.

Read more about Wu Pi Yin 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 dampness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Yin Excess' of which dampness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Yin Excess include edema, vaginal discharge and loose stools.

Read more about Wu Ling San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat dampness

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with dampness?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dampness and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dampness as a symptom (such as Wu Pi Yin for instance).

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

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 Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with dampness?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dampness and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dampness as a symptom (such as Wu Ling 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 Polyporus (Zhu Ling) help with dampness?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dampness and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dampness as a symptom (such as Wu Ling San for instance).

Polyporus is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Bladder and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and encourages urination

Read more about Polyporus here

Why might Water Plantain (Ze Xie) help with dampness?

Because it is a key herb in Wu Ling San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Yin Excess' (a pattern with dampness as a symptom)

Water Plantain is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Bladder and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Causes urination and removes Damp-Heat

Read more about Water Plantain here

Why might Mulberry Bark (Sang Bai Pi) help with dampness?

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

Mulberry Bark is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears heat from the lung, relieves asthma and induce urination to disperse swelling

Read more about Mulberry Bark here