Excessive thirst according to Chinese Medicine

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Excessive thirst 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 thirst 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 thirst is often associated with irritability, red face and feeling of heat in the pattern “Stomach Heat”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause excessive thirst.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause excessive thirst

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

Stomach Heat

Pulse type(s): Overflowing (Hong), Rapid (Shu)

In addition to excessive thirst, other symptoms associated with Stomach Heat include irritability, red face and feeling of heat.

Stomach Heat is often treated with Bai Hu Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Gypsum - Shi Gao - as a key herb). Bai Hu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear qi-level heat", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Qi-level Heat".

Read more about Stomach Heat here

Chinese Plums (Wu Mei) is the king ingredient for Wu Mei Wan, a formula used for Terminal Yin stage

Terminal Yin stage

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

In addition to excessive thirst, other symptoms associated with Terminal Yin stage include vomiting, cold limbs and diarrhea.

Terminal Yin stage is often treated with Wu Mei Wan, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Chinese Plums - Wu Mei - as a key herb). Wu Mei Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that expel parasites", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Organs".

Read more about Terminal Yin stage here

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

Fire in Stomach and Intestines

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

In addition to excessive thirst, other symptoms associated with Fire in Stomach and Intestines include irritability, constipation and dry stools.

Fire in Stomach and Intestines 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 Fire in Stomach and Intestines here

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

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Red points on the sides

This pattern develops from Liver Qi Stagnation, which creates excessive amount of Heat and then turn into Liver Fire. The Heat is more intense here.

In addition to excessive thirst, other symptoms associated with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire include irritability, dizziness and constipation.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps or Spontaneous Flow Of Breast Milk.

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is often treated with Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Mudan Peony Bark - Mu Dan Pi - as a key herb). Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that clear liver-heat", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Liver Fire from Stagnant Liver Qi".

Read more about Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire here

Talc (Hua Shi) is the king ingredient for Liu Yi San, a formula used for Summer Heat

Summer Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Soggy (Ru)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

In addition to excessive thirst, other symptoms associated with Summer Heat include fever, irritability and vomiting.

Summer Heat is often treated with Liu Yi San, a herbal formula made of 2 herbs (including Talc - Hua Shi - as a key herb). Liu Yi San belongs to the category of "formulas that dispel summer-heat and facilitate resolution of dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Summer-Heat".

Read more about Summer Heat here

Five herbal formulas that might help with excessive thirst

Bai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Clears Qi-level Heat. Drains Stomach Fire. Generates fluids. Alleviates thirst.

Why might Bai Hu Tang help with excessive thirst?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Stomach Heat include irritability, red face and feeling of heat.

Read more about Bai Hu Tang here

Wu Mei Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Organs. Drains Heat. Calms roundworms. Drains the Liver. Calms the Stomach.

Why might Wu Mei Wan help with excessive thirst?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Terminal Yin stage' of which excessive thirst is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Terminal Yin Stage include vomiting, cold limbs and diarrhea.

Read more about Wu Mei Wan here

Liu Yi San

Source date: 1172 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Clears Summer-Heat. Drains Dampness. Supplements Qi.

Why might Liu Yi San help with excessive thirst?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Summer Heat' of which excessive thirst is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Summer Heat include fever, irritability and vomiting.

Read more about Liu Yi San here

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 thirst?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Fire in Stomach and Intestines' of which excessive thirst is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Fire In Stomach And Intestines include irritability, constipation and dry stools.

Read more about Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang 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 excessive thirst?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire' of which excessive thirst is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

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

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with excessive thirst?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat excessive thirst as a symptom, like Liu Yi San or Tiao Wei Cheng 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with excessive thirst?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat excessive thirst as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or Er Chen 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 Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang) help with excessive thirst?

Because Unprepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat excessive thirst as a symptom, like Liang Di Tang or Yi Wei Tang 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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with excessive thirst?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat excessive thirst as a symptom, like Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang or Jia Wei 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with excessive thirst?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat excessive thirst as a symptom, like Dang Gui Long Hui Wan or Xuan Yu Tong Jing 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