Dry mouth according to Chinese Medicine

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Dry mouth 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 mouth 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 mouth is often associated with dry throat, night sweats and insomnia in the pattern “Lung Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause dry mouth.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause dry mouth

In Chinese Medicine dry mouth 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 Lungs is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

Lung Yin Deficiency

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

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Exterior Heat and Dryness invades the Lungs and exhausts the Body Fluids. It eventually leads to Lung Yin Deficiency, if not intervened for a long time.

In addition to dry mouth, other symptoms associated with Lung Yin Deficiency include dry throat, night sweats and insomnia.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Lung Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation.

Lung Yin Deficiency is often treated with Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Unprepared Rehmannia - Di Huang - as a key herb). Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that enrich yin and moisten dryness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Lung Yin Deficiency here

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

Stomach Yin Deficiency

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

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Stomach Yin Deficiency causes Dryness and Heat, which harms the Organ's ability of receiving and ripening foods and drinks. It is the result of prolonged unbalanced diet and irregular eating habits.

In addition to dry mouth, other symptoms associated with Stomach Yin Deficiency include dry throat, constipation and poor appetite.

Stomach Yin Deficiency is often treated with Mai Men Dong Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Dwarf Lilyturf Roots - Mai Dong - as a key herb). Mai Men Dong Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that enrich yin and moisten dryness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Stomach".

Read more about Stomach Yin Deficiency here

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

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

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

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red centre

Stomach Fire indicates a true Excess of Heat in the Stomach, creating symptoms such as mouth ulcers, bad breath, intense thirst and gum bleeding. Stomach Fire can be the result of excessive intake of hot, spicy, greasy and deep fried foods or other factors such as alcohol, tobacco and sugar.

In addition to dry mouth, other symptoms associated with Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat include dry throat, irritability and constipation.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is associated with health issues such as Mastitis, Breast Engorgement or Morning Sickness.

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is often treated with Qing Wei San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Goldthread Rhizomes - Huang Lian - as a key herb). Qing Wei San 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: "Drains Stomach Fire".

Read more about Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat here

Empty-Heat caused by Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Fine (Xi)

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 dry mouth, other symptoms associated with Empty-Heat caused by Yin Deficiency include night sweats, insomnia and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Empty-Heat caused by Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Lupus.

Empty-Heat 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 caused by Yin Deficiency here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi and Blood Stagnation

Qi and Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red, Red sides

In addition to dry mouth, other symptoms associated with Qi and Blood Stagnation include dizziness, insomnia and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi and Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Absence Of Menstruation or Menopausal Syndrome.

Qi and Blood 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 Qi and Blood Stagnation here

Five herbal formulas that might help with dry mouth

Mai Men Dong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Stomach. Generates Body Fluids. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Mai Men Dong Tang help with dry mouth?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Yin Deficiency' of which dry mouth is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Lung Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Mai Men Dong Tang here

Yi Wei Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Strengthen the Stomach. Creates Body Fluids.

Why might Yi Wei Tang help with dry mouth?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Stomach Yin Deficiency include dry throat, constipation and poor appetite.

Read more about Yi Wei Tang here

Yu Nu Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Drains Heat from the Stomach. Nourishes Yin.

Why might Yu Nu Jian help with dry mouth?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat' of which dry mouth is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Mastitis.

Read more about Yu Nu Jian here

Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin and clears Heat.

Why might Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang help with dry mouth?

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

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

Read more about Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang 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 dry mouth?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi and Blood Stagnation' of which dry mouth is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi and Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

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

Why might Dwarf Lilyturf Root (Mai Dong) help with dry mouth?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dry mouth and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dry mouth as a symptom (such as Mai Men Dong Tang for instance).

Dwarf Lilyturf Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Replenishes Yin Essence and promotes secretions. Lubricates and nourishes the Stomach. Soothes the Lung. Nourishes the Heart.

Read more about Dwarf Lilyturf Roots here

Why might Anemarrhena Rhizome (Zhi Mu) help with dry mouth?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dry mouth and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dry mouth as a symptom (such as Yu Nu Jian for instance).

Anemarrhena Rhizomes is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Stomach, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and Fire from the Qi level. Clears Heat and Fire from the Lung and Stomach. Clears Heat and tonifies the Yin.

Read more about Anemarrhena Rhizomes here

Why might Glehnia Root (Bei Sha Shen) help with dry mouth?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dry mouth and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dry mouth as a symptom (such as Yi Wei Tang for instance).

Glehnia Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Nourishes Lung Yin and stops cough. Nourishes Stomach Yin and generates Fluids.

Read more about Glehnia Roots here

Why might Gypsum (Shi Gao) help with dry mouth?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat dry mouth and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat dry mouth as a symptom (such as Yu Nu Jian for instance).

Gypsum is a Cold herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and drains Fire. Clears Lung Heat. Relieves thirst and restlessness. Clears Stomach Heat.

Read more about Gypsum here

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

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat dry mouth as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or He Che Da Zao Wan 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