Feeling of distension according to Chinese Medicine

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Feeling of 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 feeling of 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 feeling of distension is often associated with depression, irritability and irregular menstruation in the pattern “Liver Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause feeling of distension.

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

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause feeling of distension

In Chinese Medicine feeling of distension 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 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 feeling of distension, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include depression, irritability and irregular menstruation.

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

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 feeling of distension, other symptoms associated with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire include depression, irritability and irregular menstruation.

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

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red sides

Qi Stagnation refers to Qi becoming stuck or stagnant, a bit like a traffic jam on the freeway. This restricted flow of Qi can be body-wide or happen in any specific Organ.

In addition to feeling of distension, other symptoms associated with Qi Stagnation include depression, irritability and frequent sighing.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation.

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 Qi Stagnation here

Four herbal formulas that might help with feeling of distension

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Why might Xiao Yao San help with feeling of distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which feeling of distension is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Qi Stagnation include depression, irritability and irregular menstruation.

Read more about Xiao Yao San 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 feeling of distension?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Stagnant Liver-Qi Turning Into Fire include depression, irritability and irregular menstruation.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

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 feeling of distension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Stagnation' of which feeling of distension is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Stagnation include depression, irritability and frequent sighing.

Read more about Yue Ju Wan here

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San

Source date: 2002 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver Fire from Stagnant Liver Qi.

Why might Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San help with feeling of distension?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Stagnant Liver-Qi Turning Into Fire include depression, irritability and irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat feeling of distension

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with feeling of distension?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat feeling of distension as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here

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

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat feeling of 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

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with feeling of distension?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat feeling of distension as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San 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 Cape Jasmine Fruit (Zhi Zi) help with feeling of distension?

Because Cape Jasmine Fruit is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat feeling of distension as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Yue Ju Wan for instance.

Cape Jasmine Fruits is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Lung and the Sanjiao.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and calms spirit. Drains Damp-Heat affecting the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears Heat in the Blood and stops bleeding. Anti-inflammatory.

Read more about Cape Jasmine Fruits here

Why might Mudan Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi) help with feeling of distension?

Because Mudan Peony Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat feeling of distension as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

Mudan Peony Bark is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Cools the Blood, activates Blood circulation and resolves Blood stasis.

Read more about Mudan Peony Bark here