Epigastric distension according to Chinese Medicine

epigastrium distension, epigastrium fullness redirect here

Epigastric distension 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 epigastric distension 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 epigastric distension is often associated with irritability, nausea and depression in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause epigastric distension.

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

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause epigastric distension

In Chinese Medicine epigastric distension 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.

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation.

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation include irritability, nausea and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint /tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-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 Liver Qi Stagnation here

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

Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/rebellious-liver-qi-invading-the-stomach include irritability, epigastric pain and hypochondrial distention.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/rebellious-liver-qi-invading-the-stomach is often treated with Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Inula Flowers - Xuan Fu Hua - as a key herb). Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang belongs to the category of "formulas for a rebellious qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi".

Read more about Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Stomach here

Five herbal formulas that might help with epigastric distension

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Why might Chai Hu Shu Gan San help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Why might Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/rebellious-liver-qi-invading-the-stomach' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang here

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Why might Xiao Yao San help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation' of which epigastrium distension is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Yao San 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 epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation' of which epigastrium distension is a symptom.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Why might Yue Ju Wan help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation' of which epigastrium distension is a symptom.

Read more about Yue Ju Wan here

Acupuncture points used for epigastric distension

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat epigastric distension

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with epigastric distension?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Ping Wei San or Si Ni San 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 Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with epigastric distension?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang or Wen Dan Tang for instance.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with epigastric distension?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang or Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with epigastric distension?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Si Ni San or Xia Ru Yong Quan San for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with epigastric distension?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Si Mo Tang or Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang for instance.

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

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