Dark urine according to Chinese Medicine

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, restlessness and tinnitus in the pattern “Heat in the Blood”. As you will see below, we have in record four 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 four 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 four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause dark urine

In Chinese Medicine dark urine is a symptom for 4 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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, restlessness and tinnitus.

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, depression and yellow vaginal discharge.

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

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the king ingredient for Si Jun Zi Tang, a formula used for Qi Deficiency

Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Qi Deficiency simply means lack of Qi. It includes the lack of Original Qi, Nutritive Qi, Defensive Qi or the Qi that resides in Organs or Channels. It mainly manifests itself in a weakened function of Organs and a declining ability of the body to resist diseases.

In addition to dark urine, other symptoms associated with Qi Deficiency include dizziness, loose stools and tiredness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Qi Deficiency 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, restlessness and tinnitus.

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

Four herbal formulas that might help with dark urine

Qing Jing San

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears Blood-Heat. Stops bleeding.

Why might Qing Jing San 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 Qing Jing San 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

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with dark urine?

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

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

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang 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

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

Why might Mudan Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi) help with dark urine?

Because Mudan Peony Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dark urine as a symptom, like Qing Jing San or Di Gu Pi Yin for instance.

Mudan Peony Bark is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Cools the Blood, activates Blood circulation and resolves Blood stasis.

Read more about Mudan Peony Bark 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

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 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 Di Gu Pi Yin or Huai Jiao Wan 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 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