Fatigue according to Chinese Medicine

consumption, exhaustion, lethargy, low energy, sleepy, somnolence, tiredness and chronic fatigue syndrome redirect here

Fatigue 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 fatigue 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 fatigue is often associated with dizziness, poor appetite and loose stools in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause fatigue.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause fatigue

In Chinese Medicine fatigue 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.

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the king ingredient for Si Jun Zi Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-deficiency

Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Qi Deficiency simply means lack of Qi. It includes the lack of Original Qi, Nutritive Qi, Defensive Qi or the Qi that resides in Organs or Channels. It mainly manifests itself in a weakened function of Organs and a declining ability of the body to resist diseases.

In addition to fatigue, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-deficiency include dizziness, poor appetite and loose stools.

From a Western Medicine standpoint /tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-deficiency is associated with health issues such as Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Qi Deficiency here

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/yang-deficiency-or-empty-yang

Yang Deficiency or Empty Yang

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Empty (Xu), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Yang Deficiency is an Empty-Cold condition characterized by Coldness and Deficiency. It can cause a general hypoactivity of Organ functions and Oedema. Qi and Blood is more likely to stagnate. Yang Deficiency is mostly related to Spleen Yang, Kidney Yang, Heart Yang or Lung Qi. It is a result of lack of activity or exercise, excessive sex, over-exposure to cold environments and bad diet.

In addition to fatigue, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/yang-deficiency-or-empty-yang include loose stools, pale face and feeling of cold.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/yang-deficiency-or-empty-yang is often treated with Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Yang".

Read more about Yang Deficiency or Empty Yang here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-phlegm

Damp-Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

In addition to fatigue, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-phlegm include overweight, obesity and nausea.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-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 Damp-Phlegm here

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

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Qi Deficiency is one of the most commonly seen TCM pattern. It is caused by unhealthy diet such as fat raw or cold food, bad eating habit, emotional stress or damp environment. It is the central pattern to all other Spleen disharmonies, because many other Deficiency patterns derive from it.

In addition to fatigue, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-qi-deficiency include poor appetite, loose stools and pale face.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-qi-deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Spleen Qi Deficiency here

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

Spleen Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Yang Deficiency often develops from Spleen Qi Deficiency, but it is more extensive and severe with additional Cold symptoms, such as cold feeling and cold limbs. The causes are similar to these of Spleen Qi Deficiency, along with surplus consumption of cold, raw foods and drinks and overexposure to cold damp environments and climates.

In addition to fatigue, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-yang-deficiency include poor appetite, loose stools and feeling of cold.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-yang-deficiency is often treated with Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Zhen Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and transform water and dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys".

Read more about Spleen Yang Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with fatigue

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with fatigue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-deficiency' of which fatigue is a symptom.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Why might You Gui Wan help with fatigue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/yang-deficiency-or-empty-yang' of which fatigue is a symptom.

Read more about You Gui Wan here

Shen Qi Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and warms Kidney Yang.

Why might Shen Qi Wan help with fatigue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-phlegm' of which fatigue is a symptom.

Read more about Shen Qi Wan here

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with fatigue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-qi-deficiency' of which fatigue is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Why might Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang help with fatigue?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-yang-deficiency' of which fatigue is a symptom.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

Acupuncture points used for fatigue

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat fatigue

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with fatigue?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat fatigue and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat fatigue as a symptom (such as Si Jun Zi 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

Why might Jujube Date (Da Zao) help with fatigue?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat fatigue and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat fatigue as a symptom (such as Gui Zhi Tang for instance).

Jujube Dates is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach Qi. Tonifies the Blood. Calms the Shen (spirit). Moderates the actions of other herbs in formula.

Read more about Jujube Dates here

Why might Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) help with fatigue?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat fatigue and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat fatigue as a symptom (such as You Gui Wan for instance).

Prepared Aconite is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Raises the collapse of Yang. Warms the meridians and relieves pain caused by Cold. Reduces Damp caused by Deficiency in Yang.

Read more about Prepared Aconite here

Why might Eucommia Bark (Du Zhong) help with fatigue?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat fatigue and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat fatigue as a symptom (such as Qing E Wan for instance).

Eucommia Bark is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys. Calms ascendant Liver Yang (hypertension/high blood pressure). Calms a restless fetus.

Read more about Eucommia Bark here

Why might Codonopsis Root (Dang Shen) help with fatigue?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat fatigue and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat fatigue as a symptom (such as He Che Da Zao Wan for instance).

Codonopsis Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Lung Qi. Assists in the secretion of Bodily Fluids.

Read more about Codonopsis Roots here