Fever according to Chinese Medicine

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Fever 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 fever 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 fever is often associated with aversion to cold, dizziness and headaches in the pattern “Damp-Heat”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause fever.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause fever

In Chinese Medicine fever 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.

Korean Mint (Huo Xiang) is the king ingredient for Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Soggy (Ru)

In addition to fever, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include aversion to cold, dizziness and headaches.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Heat is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Intermenstrual Bleeding or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Damp-Heat is often treated with Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Korean Mint - Huo Xiang - as a key herb). Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San belongs to the category of "formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Damp-Heat here

Honeysuckle Flowers (Jin Yin Hua) is the king ingredient for Yin Qiao San, a formula used for Toxic-Heat

Toxic-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu)

In addition to fever, other symptoms associated with Toxic-Heat include constipation, sore throat and coughing.

Toxic-Heat is often treated with Yin Qiao San, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Honeysuckle Flowers - Jin Yin Hua - as a key herb). Yin Qiao San belongs to the category of "external formulas for external disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Wind Heat".

Read more about Toxic-Heat here

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

Wind-Cold invading the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

Tongue shape: Partially swollen

In addition to fever, other symptoms associated with Wind-Cold invading the Lungs include aversion to cold, headaches and shortness of breath.

Wind-Cold invading the Lungs is often treated with Ma Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Ma Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases exterior cold".

Read more about Wind-Cold invading the Lungs 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)

In addition to fever, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs include dizziness, insomnia and coughing.

Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs 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 Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs here

Water Buffalo Horns (Shui Niu Jiao) is the king ingredient for Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, a formula used for Excess-Heat

Excess-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Tight (Jin), Full (Shi)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Reddish-Purple

In addition to fever, other symptoms associated with Excess-Heat include constipation, irritability and scanty and dark urine.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Excess-Heat is associated with health issues such as Lupus.

Excess-Heat is often treated with Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Water Buffalo Horns - Shui Niu Jiao - as a key herb). Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear nutritive-level heat", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats severe fevers and Heat in the Blood system".

Read more about Excess-Heat here

Five herbal formulas that might help with fever

Lian Po Yin

Source date: 1862 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Dampness. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Why might Lian Po Yin help with fever?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which fever is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Lian Po Yin here

Huang Lian Jie Du Tang

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Drains Fire. Resolves Toxin.

Why might Huang Lian Jie Du Tang help with fever?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Toxic-Heat' of which fever is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Toxic-Heat include constipation, sore throat and coughing.

Read more about Huang Lian Jie Du Tang here

Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Treats severe fevers and Heat in the Blood system. Removes Blood Stagnation.

Why might Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang help with fever?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Excess-Heat' of which fever is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Excess-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Lupus.

Read more about Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang here

Ma Huang Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Releases exterior cold. Treats wheezing.

Why might Ma Huang Tang help with fever?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Wind-Cold invading the Lungs' of which fever is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Cold Invading The Lungs include aversion to cold, headaches and shortness of breath.

Read more about Ma Huang Tang here

Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Lung Qi. Clears Heat. Calms wheezing by directing rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang help with fever?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Heat In The Lungs include dizziness, insomnia and coughing.

Read more about Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang here

Acupuncture points used for fever

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat fever

Why might Goldthread Rhizome (Huang Lian) help with fever?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat fever and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat fever as a symptom (such as Lian Po Yin for instance).

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

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 Ephedra (Ma Huang) help with fever?

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

Ephedra is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Bladder and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Releases the surface through sweating. Promotes the circulation of Lung Qi and stop wheezing. Promotes urination.

Read more about Ephedra here

Why might Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang) help with fever?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat fever and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat fever as a symptom (such as Qing Re Tiao Xue 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 Gypsum (Shi Gao) help with fever?

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

Gypsum is a Cold herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Lung and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and drains Fire. Clears Lung Heat. Relieves thirst and restlessness. Clears Stomach Heat.

Read more about Gypsum here

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with fever?

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

Conditions associated with fever

Menstrual cramps Mastitis Lupus