Dark urine according to Chinese Medicine

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Dark urine 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 dark urine 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 dark urine is often associated with dizziness, tinnitus and red face in the pattern “Liver Fire Blazing”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause dark urine.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause dark urine

In Chinese Medicine dark urine 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.

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

Liver Fire Blazing

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

In addition to dark urine, other symptoms associated with Liver Fire Blazing include dizziness, tinnitus and red face.

Liver Fire Blazing is often treated with Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Chinese Gentian - Long Dan Cao - as a key herb). Long Dan Xie Gan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder".

Read more about Liver Fire Blazing here

Water Buffalo Horns (Shui Niu Jiao) is the king ingredient for Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, a formula used for Heat in the Blood

Heat in the Blood

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu)

Tongue color: Red

Heat in the Blood (or Blood-Heat) refers to a condition whereby Heat, as a so-called "Pernicious Influence", entered the Blood. This invasion tends to accelerate Blood flow (leading to a faster pulse) and to manifest itself in various types of bleeding as well as other symptoms.

In addition to dark urine, other symptoms associated with Heat in the Blood include dizziness, tinnitus and restlessness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Heat in the Blood is associated with health issues such as Early Menstruation, Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Heat in the Blood is often treated with Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Water Buffalo Horns - Shui Niu Jiao - as a key herb). Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear nutritive-level heat", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats severe fevers and Heat in the Blood system".

Read more about Heat in the Blood 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 dark urine, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include sticky vaginal discharge, irritability and constipation.

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

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

Kidney Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Empty (Xu), Weak (Ruo), Floating (Fu)

Tongue color: Pale, Red

In addition to dark urine, other symptoms associated with Kidney Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and restlessness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Abnormal Uterine Bleeding.

Kidney Deficiency is often treated with You Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). You Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that warm yang and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang".

Read more about Kidney Deficiency here

Phellodendron Bark (Huang Bo) is the king ingredient for Er Miao San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to dark urine, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include dizziness, restlessness and sticky vaginal discharge.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Heat is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Intermenstrual Bleeding or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Damp-Heat is often treated with Er Miao San, a herbal formula made of 2 herbs (including Phellodendron Bark - Huang Bo - as a key herb). Er Miao San belongs to the category of "formulas that expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Expels Dampness from the Lower Burner".

Read more about Damp-Heat here

Five herbal formulas that might help with dark urine

Dang Gui Long Hui Wan

Source date: 1172 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Drains Liver and Gallbladder Fire Excess.

Why might Dang Gui Long Hui Wan help with dark urine?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Fire Blazing' of which dark urine is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Fire Blazing include dizziness, tinnitus and red face.

Read more about Dang Gui Long Hui Wan here

Di Gu Pi Yin

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Stops bleeding.

Why might Di Gu Pi Yin help with dark urine?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat in the Blood' of which dark urine is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Heat in the Blood can contribute to many health issues, including Early Menstruation.

Read more about Di Gu Pi Yin 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 dark urine?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

Liang Di Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin. Cools Blood. Stop bleeding.

Why might Liang Di Tang help with dark urine?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Deficiency' of which dark urine is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Uterine Bleeding.

Read more about Liang Di Tang here

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Long Dan Xie Gan Tang help with dark urine?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which dark urine is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Intermenstrual Bleeding.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat dark urine

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with dark urine?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dark urine as a symptom, like Dang Gui Long Hui Wan or Di Gu Pi Yin for instance.

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

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 dark urine?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dark urine as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or Qing Jing San 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

Why might Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang) help with dark urine?

Because Unprepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dark urine as a symptom, like Liang Di Tang or Di Gu Pi Yin for instance.

Unprepared Rehmannia is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat by Cooling Blood. Tonifies Yin by promoting Fluid production. Soothes the Heart by calming Blazing Fire. Cools and nourishes.

Read more about Unprepared Rehmannia here

Why might Baikal Skullcap Root (Huang Qin) help with dark urine?

Because Baikal Skullcap Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dark urine as a symptom, like Long Dan Xie Gan Tang or Xie Xin Tang for instance.

Baikal Skullcap Roots is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Spleen, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Lung and the Small intestine.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat and Dampness. Clears Upper Burner Heat, especially of the Lung. Clears Heat and stops reckless movement of Blood. Clears pathogenic Heat which is upsetting the fetus. Cools the Liver, reducing Liver Yang rising syndrome.

Read more about Baikal Skullcap Roots here

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

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dark urine as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or Liu Jun Zi Tang 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