Dry lips according to Chinese Medicine

Dry lips 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 dry lips 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 dry lips is often associated with dry skin, dry mouth and dry stools in the pattern “Body Fluids Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause dry lips.

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

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause dry lips

In Chinese Medicine dry lips is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Apricot Seeds (Xing Ren) is the king ingredient for Xing Su San, a formula used for Body Fluids Deficiency

Body Fluids Deficiency

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

Tongue shape: Cracked

If Body Fluids - all liquids in the body other than Blood - are Deficient, then this leads to many symptoms of Dryness.

In addition to dry lips, other symptoms associated with Body Fluids Deficiency include dry skin, dry mouth and dry stools.

Body Fluids Deficiency is often treated with Xing Su San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Apricot Seeds - Xing Ren - as a key herb). Xing Su San belongs to the category of "formulas that disperse dryness and moisten", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Dry-Cold".

Read more about Body Fluids Deficiency here

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

Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency

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

In addition to dry lips, other symptoms associated with Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency include dry mouth, dry stools and fatigue.

Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency is often treated with Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Shen Ling Bai Zhu San 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: "Augments the Qi".

Read more about Stomach and Spleen Yin 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 dry lips, other symptoms associated with Blood Deficiency include dizziness, dry skin and amenorrhea.

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

Five herbal formulas that might help with dry lips

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Why might Xing Su San help with dry lips?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Body Fluids Deficiency' of which dry lips is a symptom.

Read more about Xing Su San here

Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Source date: 1573 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Lung and Kidney Yin. Lubricates the Lung and clears phlegm.

Why might Bai He Gu Jin Tang help with dry lips?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Body Fluids Deficiency' of which dry lips is a symptom.

Read more about Bai He Gu Jin Tang here

Zeng Ye Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin and Essence. Lubricates Dryness.

Why might Zeng Ye Tang help with dry lips?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Body Fluids Deficiency' of which dry lips is a symptom.

Read more about Zeng Ye Tang here

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Augments the Qi. Strengthens the Spleen. Leaches out Dampness. Stops diarrhea.

Why might Shen Ling Bai Zhu San help with dry lips?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach and Spleen Yin Deficiency' of which dry lips is a symptom.

Read more about Shen Ling Bai Zhu San here

Si Wu Tang

Source date: 846 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Restores and nourishes Blood. Stimulates Blood circulation.

Why might Si Wu Tang help with dry lips?

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

Read more about Si Wu Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat dry lips

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with dry lips?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry lips as a symptom, like Shen Ling Bai Zhu San or Gui Pi Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with dry lips?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry lips as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Bai He Gu Jin Tang for instance.

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

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with dry lips?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry lips as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Bai He Gu Jin Tang for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

Why might Platycodon Root (Jie Geng) help with dry lips?

Because Platycodon Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry lips as a symptom, like Xing Su San or Bai He Gu Jin Tang for instance.

Platycodon Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Lung.

Its main actions are: Opens the Lungs and smoothes the flow of Lung Qi. Expels Phlegm and pus from the Lungs and throat, can be used for either Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat according to the other herbs in the formula. Directs the actions of other herbs to the Upper Warmer.

Read more about Platycodon Roots here

Why might Jujube Date (Da Zao) help with dry lips?

Because Jujube Date is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry lips as a symptom, like Xing Su San or Ba Zhen Tang for instance.

Jujube Dates is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach Qi. Tonifies the Blood. Calms the Shen (spirit). Moderates the actions of other herbs in formula.

Read more about Jujube Dates here