Excessive hunger according to Chinese Medicine

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Excessive hunger 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 excessive hunger 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 excessive hunger is often associated with dry stools, bleeding gums and constipation in the pattern “Stomach Heat or Fire”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause excessive hunger.

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

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause excessive hunger

In Chinese Medicine excessive hunger is a symptom for 3 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 Heat or Fire

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 excessive hunger, other symptoms associated with Stomach Heat or Fire include dry stools, bleeding gums and constipation.

Stomach Heat or Fire is often treated with Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Rhubarb - Da Huang - as a key herb). Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that purge heat accumulation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Removes Heat and Dryness in the Lower Burner".

Read more about Stomach Heat or Fire here

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 excessive hunger, other symptoms associated with Stomach Yin Deficiency include dry stools, bleeding gums and constipation.

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

Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat

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

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

In addition to excessive hunger, other symptoms associated with Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat include palpitations, anxiety and bitter taste in the mouth.

Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat is often treated with Wen Dan Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Wen Dan 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: "Clears Hot-Phlegm".

Read more about Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat here

Four herbal formulas that might help with excessive hunger

Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Removes Heat and Dryness in the Lower Burner. Removes constipation.

Why might Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang help with excessive hunger?

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

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

Read more about Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang here

Shen Ling Bai Zhu San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Augments the Qi. Strengthens the Spleen. Leaches out Dampness. Stops diarrhea.

Why might Shen Ling Bai Zhu San help with excessive hunger?

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

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

Read more about Shen Ling Bai Zhu San here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with excessive hunger?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat' of which excessive hunger is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Stagnation In Gallbladder And Stomach With Phlegm Heat include palpitations, anxiety and bitter taste in the mouth.

Read more about Wen Dan 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 excessive hunger?

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

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

Read more about Qing Wei San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat excessive hunger

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with excessive hunger?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat excessive hunger as a symptom, like Shen Ling Bai Zhu San or Mai Men Dong 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

Why might Dwarf Lilyturf Root (Mai Dong) help with excessive hunger?

Because Dwarf Lilyturf Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat excessive hunger 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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with excessive hunger?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat excessive hunger as a symptom, like Shen Ling Bai Zhu San or Mai Men Dong 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 Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with excessive hunger?

Because it is a key herb in Wen Dan Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Qi Stagnation in Gallbladder and Stomach with Phlegm Heat' (a pattern with excessive hunger as a symptom)

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 Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with excessive hunger?

Because it is a key herb in Shen Ling Bai Zhu San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Stomach Yin Deficiency' (a pattern with excessive hunger as a symptom)

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