Dizziness according to Chinese Medicine

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Dizziness 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 dizziness 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 dizziness is often associated with tinnitus, back pain and frequent urination in the pattern “Kidney Qi Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause dizziness.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause dizziness

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

Kidney Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo)

Characterised by frequent urination as the most distinguishing symptom. Kidney Qi Deficiency can be a precursor of Heart Qi Deficiency.

In addition to dizziness, other symptoms associated with Kidney Qi Deficiency include tinnitus, back pain and frequent urination.

Kidney Qi Deficiency is often treated with Qing E Wan, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Eucommia Bark - Du Zhong - as a key herb). Qing E 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 Reinforces Kidney Yang".

Read more about Kidney Qi Deficiency here

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Si Wu Tang, a formula used for Blood Deficiency

Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

Someone has a Deficiency of Blood when their entire body, a part of body or a particular Organ is insufficiently nourished by Blood.

This can be caused by blood-loss, a lack of of Spleen Qi (responsible to produce Blood) or congealed Blood which prevents new Blood from forming.

In addition to dizziness, other symptoms associated with Blood Deficiency include insomnia, scanty periods and blurred vision.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Blood Deficiency is often treated with Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Si Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Restores and nourishes Blood".

Read more about Blood Deficiency here

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

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to dizziness, other symptoms associated with Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Blood Deficiency include insomnia, scanty periods and blurred vision.

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Blood Deficiency is often treated with E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Donkey-Hide Gelatin - E Jiao - as a key herb). E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that pacify and extinguish internal wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes Yin".

Read more about Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Blood Deficiency here

Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

When Yin Deficiency lasts for a long it may lead to Interior Heat

In addition to dizziness, other symptoms associated with Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency include insomnia, tinnitus and night sweats.

Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency is often treated with Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Softshell Turtle Shells - Bie Jia - as a key herb). Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from deficiency", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin and clears Heat".

Read more about Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency here

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

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat

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

Tongue coating: Thick coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Stiff

The invasion of Exterior Wind-Heat leads to this pattern and it then transforms to Interior Wind and Heat.

In addition to dizziness, other symptoms associated with Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat include convulsions, coma and paralysis.

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat is often treated with Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Gastrodia Rhizomes - Tian Ma - as a key herb). Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that pacify and extinguish internal wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Calms the Liver".

Read more about Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat here

Five herbal formulas that might help with dizziness

Qing E Wan

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Warms and Reinforces Kidney Yang.

Why might Qing E Wan help with dizziness?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Qi Deficiency include tinnitus, back pain and frequent urination.

Read more about Qing E Wan here

Da Bu Yuan Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Yin and Blood. Nourishes Qi and Yang.

Why might Da Bu Yuan Jian help with dizziness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Deficiency' of which dizziness is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Blood Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Late Menstruation.

Read more about Da Bu Yuan Jian here

E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang

Source date: the Qing dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin. Nourishes Blood. Calms the Liver. Extinguishes Wind.

Why might E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang help with dizziness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Blood Deficiency' of which dizziness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Wind Agitating Internally Due To Liver Blood Deficiency include insomnia, scanty periods and blurred vision.

Read more about E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang here

Huang Lian E Jiao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Enriches the Yin. Causes Fire to descend. Eliminates irritability. Calms the spirit.

Why might Huang Lian E Jiao Tang help with dizziness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency' of which dizziness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Empty-Heat Or Fire Caused By Yin Deficiency include insomnia, tinnitus and night sweats.

Read more about Huang Lian E Jiao Tang here

Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin

Source date: 1958 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Calms the Liver. Extinguishes wind. Invigorates the blood. Clears heat. Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys.

Why might Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin help with dizziness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat' of which dizziness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Wind Agitating Internally Due To Extreme Heat include convulsions, coma and paralysis.

Read more about Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat dizziness

Why might Eucommia Bark (Du Zhong) help with dizziness?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dizziness and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dizziness as a symptom (such as Qing E Wan for instance).

Eucommia Bark is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys. Calms ascendant Liver Yang (hypertension/high blood pressure). Calms a restless fetus.

Read more about Eucommia Bark here

Why might Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao) help with dizziness?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dizziness and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dizziness as a symptom (such as E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang for instance).

Donkey-Hide Gelatin is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies and nourishes Blood. Stops bleeding. Moistens and lubricates Yin.

Read more about Donkey-Hide Gelatin here

Why might Gambir Stem And Thorn (Gou Teng) help with dizziness?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dizziness and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dizziness as a symptom (such as Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin for instance).

Gambir Stems And Thorns is a Cool herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Calms Liver Wind and relieves spasms. Clears Liver Heat and sedates Liver Yang.

Read more about Gambir Stems And Thorns here

Why might Abalone Shell (Shi Jue Ming) help with dizziness?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dizziness and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dizziness as a symptom (such as Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin for instance).

Abalone Shells is a Cold herb that tastes Salty. It targets the Kidney, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and calms ascending Liver Yang. Clears Liver Heat that is obstructing the vision.

Read more about Abalone Shells here

Why might Chinese Gentian (Long Dan Cao) help with dizziness?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dizziness and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dizziness as a symptom (such as Long Dan Xie Gan Tang for instance).

Chinese Gentian is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Liver and Gallbladder Meridians. Clears Liver-Fire. Clears Liver-Wind.

Read more about Chinese Gentian here