Emaciation according to Chinese Medicine

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Emaciation 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 emaciation 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 emaciation is often associated with night sweats, five palm heat and malar flush in the pattern “Collapse of Yin”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause emaciation.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause emaciation

In Chinese Medicine emaciation 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.

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Da Bu Yin Wan, a formula used for Collapse of Yin

Collapse of Yin

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

In addition to emaciation, other symptoms associated with Collapse of Yin include night sweats, five palm heat and malar flush.

Collapse of Yin is often treated with Da Bu Yin Wan, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Da Bu Yin 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: "Enriches the Yin".

Read more about Collapse of Yin 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 emaciation, other symptoms associated with Blood Deficiency include dizziness, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

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

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a formula used for Yin Deficiency

Yin Deficiency

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

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red

In the case of Yin Deficiency, the body is short in the cooling, moistening and nurturing aspects. This leads to Heat and Dryness accompanied by weakness and lack of strength and resistance. Yin becomes Deficient by over-working, lack of sleep, over-exercising, overindulgence in sex, long-term chronic diseases, internal injury due to the seven emotions, and the over-eating of dry and hot-natured foods.

In addition to emaciation, other symptoms associated with Yin Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and night sweats.

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 Yin Deficiency here

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

Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency

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

In addition to emaciation, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and tinnitus.

Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency is often treated with Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Xian Chang Shou 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: "Treats Yin Deficiency of the Lungs and Kidneys".

Read more about Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency here

Empty-Heat caused by Yin Deficiency

In addition to emaciation, other symptoms associated with Empty-Heat caused by Yin Deficiency include insomnia, night sweats and fatigue.

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

Five herbal formulas that might help with emaciation

Da Bu Yin Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Enriches the Yin. Directs fire downward.

Why might Da Bu Yin Wan help with emaciation?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Collapse of Yin' of which emaciation is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Collapse Of Yin include night sweats, five palm heat and malar flush.

Read more about Da Bu Yin Wan 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 emaciation?

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

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

Read more about Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang 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 emaciation?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Blood Deficiency include dizziness, amenorrhea and scanty periods.

Read more about Si Wu Tang here

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with emaciation?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Yin Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and night sweats.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan

Source date: 1615 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Treats Yin Deficiency of the Lungs and Kidneys.

Why might Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan help with emaciation?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency' of which emaciation is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney And Lung Yin Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and tinnitus.

Read more about Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat emaciation

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

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat emaciation as a symptom, like Da Bu Yin Wan or Si Wu 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with emaciation?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat emaciation as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang 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 Yam (Shan Yao) help with emaciation?

Because Yam is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat emaciation as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan for instance.

Yam is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Tonifies the Lung Qi and nourishes the Lung Yin. Nourishes the Kidneys and consolidates Jing.

Read more about Yam here

Why might Houpu Magnolia Bark (Hou Pu) help with emaciation?

Because Houpu Magnolia Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat emaciation as a symptom, like Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang or Ma Zi Ren Wan for instance.

Houpu Magnolia Bark is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Moves Rebellious Qi downward, dries Dampness and relieves Food Stagnation. Transforms Phlegm and redirects Rebellious Qi of the Lung.

Read more about Houpu Magnolia Bark here

Why might Anemarrhena Rhizome (Zhi Mu) help with emaciation?

Because Anemarrhena Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat emaciation as a symptom, like Da Bu Yin Wan or Qing Hao Bie Jia Tang 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