Epigastric pain according to Chinese Medicine

TCM Education Center > Symptoms list > Epigastric pain

Epigastric pain 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 pain 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 pain is often associated with constipation, dry mouth and bleeding gums in the pattern “Stomach Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause epigastric pain.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of epigastric pain we’ve identified four 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 pain.

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause epigastric pain

In Chinese Medicine epigastric pain is a symptom for 4 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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 epigastric pain, other symptoms associated with Stomach Yin Deficiency include constipation, dry mouth and bleeding gums.

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

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

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

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red centre

Stomach Fire indicates a true Excess of Heat in the Stomach, creating symptoms such as mouth ulcers, bad breath, intense thirst and gum bleeding. Stomach Fire can be the result of excessive intake of hot, spicy, greasy and deep fried foods or other factors such as alcohol, tobacco and sugar.

In addition to epigastric pain, other symptoms associated with Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat include constipation, dry mouth and bleeding gums.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is associated with health issues such as Mastitis, Breast Engorgement or Morning Sickness.

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is often treated with Qing Wei San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Goldthread Rhizomes - Huang Lian - as a key herb). Qing Wei San belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Drains Stomach Fire".

Read more about Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat here

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

Stomach Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple

In addition to epigastric pain, other symptoms associated with Stomach Blood Stagnation include vomiting, nausea and vomiting of blood.

Stomach Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Stomach Blood Stagnation 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 pain, other symptoms associated with Phlegm Heat in the Lungs include chest 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

Four herbal formulas that might help with epigastric pain

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 epigastric pain?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Stomach Yin Deficiency include constipation, dry mouth and bleeding gums.

Read more about Yi Wei Tang here

Qing Wei San

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Drains Stomach Fire. Cools the Blood. Nourishes the Yin.

Why might Qing Wei San help with epigastric pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat' of which epigastric pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Stomach Fire Or Stomach Heat include constipation, dry mouth and bleeding gums.

Read more about Qing Wei San here

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Why might Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang help with epigastric pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Blood Stagnation' of which epigastric pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Stomach Blood Stagnation include vomiting, nausea and vomiting of blood.

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu 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 pain?

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

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

Read more about Xiao Xian Xiong Tang here

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

Why might Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang) help with epigastric pain?

Because Unprepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric pain as a symptom, like Yi Wei Tang or Qing Wei San for instance.

Unprepared Rehmannia is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat by Cooling Blood. Tonifies Yin by promoting Fluid production. Soothes the Heart by calming Blazing Fire. Cools and nourishes.

Read more about Unprepared Rehmannia here

Why might Dwarf Lilyturf Root (Mai Dong) help with epigastric pain?

Because Dwarf Lilyturf Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric pain as a symptom, like Mai Men Dong Tang or Yi Wei 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 Goldthread Rhizome (Huang Lian) help with epigastric pain?

Because Goldthread Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric pain as a symptom, like Qing Wei San or Xiao Xian Xiong Tang for instance.

Goldthread Rhizomes is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Lower Burner. Eliminates Fire toxicity especially when there is associated Dampness. Acts as a sedative by eliminating Heart Fire. Eliminates Stomach Fire. Expel parasites

Read more about Goldthread Rhizomes here

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

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric pain as a symptom, like Mai Men Dong Tang or Xue Fu Zhu Yu 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with epigastric pain?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat epigastric pain as a symptom, like Qing Wei San or Xue Fu Zhu Yu 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