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 dizziness, restlessness and dry mouth 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.

Phellodendron Bark (Huang Bo) is the king ingredient for Er Miao San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to fever, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include dizziness, restlessness and dry mouth.

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 Er Miao San, a herbal formula made of 2 herbs (including Phellodendron Bark - Huang Bo - as a key herb). Er Miao San belongs to the category of "formulas that expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Expels Dampness from the Lower Burner".

Read more about Damp-Heat 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 irritability, constipation 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

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

Heat invading the Pericardium

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Reddish-Purple

In addition to fever, other symptoms associated with Heat invading the Pericardium include irritability, delirious speech and general sensation of unease.

Heat invading the Pericardium is often treated with Niu Huang Qing Xin Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Ox Gallstones - Niu Huang - as a key herb). Niu Huang Qing Xin Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and open sensory orifices", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and resolves Toxicity".

Read more about Heat invading the Pericardium 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 fever, other symptoms associated with Summer Heat include irritability, vomiting and diarrhea.

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

Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

In addition to fever, other symptoms associated with Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels include scanty and dark urine, heat and pain in the joints and reduced mobility.

Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels is often treated with Xuan Bi Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Stephania Roots - Fang Ji - as a key herb). Xuan Bi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dispel wind-damp", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears and resolves Damp-Heat".

Read more about Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels here

Five herbal formulas that might help with fever

Niu Huang Qing Xin Wan

Source date: 1568 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and resolves Toxicity. Calms the Mind. Opens up the Orifices.

Why might Niu Huang Qing Xin Wan help with fever?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Heat Invading The Pericardium include irritability, delirious speech and general sensation of unease.

Read more about Niu Huang Qing Xin Wan here

Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang

Source date: 1576 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Expel Dampness. Relieve pain. Move Qi and Blood.

Why might Qing Re Tiao Xue Tang 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 Qing Re Tiao Xue 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

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 fever?

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

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

Read more about Liu Yi San here

Xuan Bi Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears and resolves Damp-Heat. Unblocks the meridians. Disbands painful obstruction.

Why might Xuan Bi Tang help with fever?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Painful Obstruction due to Damp Heat in Channels' of which fever is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Painful Obstruction Due To Damp Heat In Channels include scanty and dark urine, heat and pain in the joints and reduced mobility.

Read more about Xuan Bi Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat fever

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 Xi Jiao Di Huang 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 Talc (Hua Shi) 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 Liu Yi San for instance).

Talc is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Bladder and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination. Expels Damp-Heat from the Urinary Bladder. Dispels Summer Heat. Dries Dampness when applied topically.

Read more about Talc here

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 Niu Huang Qing Xin Wan for instance).

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

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 Rhubarb (Da 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 Da Cheng Qi Tang for instance).

Rhubarb is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Drains Excess Heat and eliminates Dampness, especially when in the Sunlight Yang stage. Cools the Blood and stops bleeding. Invigorates Blood, breaks up Stasis and relieves pain. Clears Heat and toxins from Excess. Applied topically for Hot sores and Blood Stasis.

Read more about Rhubarb here

Why might Cinnabar (Zhu Sha) 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 Niu Huang Qing Xin Wan for instance).

Cinnabar is a Cool herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart.

Its main actions are: Calms the spirit and Heart. Stops convulsions. Clears Heat and toxins.

Read more about Cinnabar here

Conditions associated with fever

Mastitis Menstrual cramps Lupus