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

Kidney Yin Deficiency

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

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can be caused by prolonged overwork, excessive sexual activity, chronic long term illnesses, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Kidney Yang tonics herbs, smoking and Kidney depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar, and fruit juices.

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

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome, Prolonged Periods or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency here

Mulberry Leaves (Sang Ye) is the king ingredient for Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang, a formula used for Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire

Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire

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

In addition to dry mouth, other symptoms associated with Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire include dry throat, dry cough and fever.

Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire is often treated with Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Mulberry Leaves - Sang Ye - as a key herb). Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang 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 dryness".

Read more about Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire 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 dry mouth, other symptoms associated with Empty-Heat or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and insomnia.

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

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 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which dry mouth is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Yu Nu Jian here

Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang

Source date: 1658 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears dryness. Moistens the Lungs.

Why might Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang help with dry mouth?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Dry-Heat Or Dry-Fire include dry throat, dry cough and fever.

Read more about Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang 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 or Fire caused by Yin Deficiency' of which dry mouth is a symptom.

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

Read more about Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang 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 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 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 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 Shen Ling Bai Zhu 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