Empty pulse according to Chinese Medicine

Empty pulse 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 empty pulse 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 empty pulse is often associated with tiredness, frequent urination and shortness of breath in the pattern “Qi Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause empty pulse.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of empty pulse we’ve identified three 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 empty pulse.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause empty pulse

In Chinese Medicine empty pulse is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the king ingredient for Si Jun Zi Tang, a formula used for Qi Deficiency

Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Qi Deficiency simply means lack of Qi. It includes the lack of Original Qi, Nutritive Qi, Defensive Qi or the Qi that resides in Organs or Channels. It mainly manifests itself in a weakened function of Organs and a declining ability of the body to resist diseases.

In addition to empty pulse, other symptoms associated with Qi Deficiency include tiredness, frequent urination and shortness of breath.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang 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: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Qi Deficiency here

Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi) is the king ingredient for Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a formula used for Qi Collapsing or Qi Sinking

Qi Collapsing or Qi Sinking

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

In a Qi Collapsing (also called 'Sinking Qi') situation, a weakened Qi is unable to perform its holding function, resulting in a prolapse of the Organs. This condition mostly applies to the Qi of the Spleen.

In addition to empty pulse, other symptoms associated with Qi Collapsing or Qi Sinking include tiredness, frequent urination and shortness of breath.

Qi Collapsing or Qi Sinking is often treated with Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Milkvetch Roots - Huang Qi - as a key herb). Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang 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: "Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner)".

Read more about Qi Collapsing or Qi Sinking here

Three herbal formulas that might help with empty pulse

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with empty pulse?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Deficiency include tiredness, frequent urination and shortness of breath.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Why might Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang help with empty pulse?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Collapsing or Qi Sinking' of which empty pulse is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Collapsing Or Qi Sinking include tiredness, frequent urination and shortness of breath.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with empty pulse?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Deficiency include tiredness, frequent urination and shortness of breath.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat empty pulse

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with empty pulse?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat empty pulse as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang for instance.

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

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 Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) help with empty pulse?

Because Tangerine Peel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat empty pulse as a symptom, like Liu Jun Zi Tang or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang for instance.

Tangerine Peel is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Spleen and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs.

Read more about Tangerine Peel here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with empty pulse?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat empty pulse as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang 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

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with empty pulse?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat empty pulse as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with empty pulse?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat empty pulse as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here