Epigastric distension according to Chinese Medicine

Home > Symptoms list > Epigastric distension

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, depression and insufficient or absent lactation after childbirth in the pattern “Liver Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record five 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 five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause epigastric distension

In Chinese Medicine epigastric distension 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 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 Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, depression and insufficient or absent lactation after childbirth.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

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

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include poor appetite, irritability and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

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

Phlegm Heat in the Lungs

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

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with Phlegm Heat in the Lungs include epigastric pain, constipation and bitter taste in the mouth.

Phlegm Heat in the Lungs is often treated with Xiao Xian Xiong Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Snake Gourds - Gua Lou - as a key herb). Xiao Xian Xiong Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat".

Read more about Phlegm Heat in the Lungs here

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

Phlegm-Heat in the Middle Burner

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red tip

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Heat in the Middle Burner include poor appetite and abdominal fullness.

Phlegm-Heat in the Middle Burner is often treated with Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Goldthread Rhizomes - Huang Lian - as a key herb). Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize stomach-intestines", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Reverses the flow of Rebellious Stomach Qi".

Read more about Phlegm-Heat in the Middle Burner here

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

Stomach Qi Deficiency with Phelgm

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

In addition to epigastric distension, other symptoms associated with Stomach Qi Deficiency with Phelgm include unremitting belching and regurgitation.

Stomach Qi Deficiency with Phelgm 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 Stomach Qi Deficiency with Phelgm here

Five herbal formulas that might help with epigastric distension

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 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Low Breast Milk Supply.

Read more about Yue Ju Wan 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 'Phlegm' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Low Breast Milk Supply.

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang here

Xiao Xian Xiong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Phlegm. Expands the chest. Dissipates clumps.

Why might Xiao Xian Xiong Tang help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm Heat in the Lungs' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm Heat In The Lungs include epigastric pain, constipation and bitter taste in the mouth.

Read more about Xiao Xian Xiong Tang here

Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Reverses the flow of Rebellious Stomach Qi. Relieves both Heat and Cold Stagnation in the gastrointestinal tract.

Why might Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Heat in the Middle Burner' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Heat In The Middle Burner include poor appetite and abdominal fullness.

Read more about Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang here

Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi. Expectorant, treats hiccups.

Why might Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang help with epigastric distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Qi Deficiency with Phelgm' of which epigastric distension is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Stomach Qi Deficiency With Phelgm include unremitting belching and regurgitation.

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang here

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

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 Xiao Xian Xiong Tang or Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang for instance.

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

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 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 Xia Ru Yong Quan San or Xiao Yao San for instance.

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

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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with epigastric distension?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang or Xiao Yao San 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 Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with epigastric distension?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Xia Ru Yong Quan San for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with epigastric distension?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric distension as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Xiao Yao San 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