Flatulence according to Chinese Medicine

Flatulence 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 flatulence 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 flatulence is often associated with abdominal distension, irritability and abdominal pain in the pattern “Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Spleen”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause flatulence.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of flatulence we’ve identified two herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the four medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat flatulence.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause flatulence

In Chinese Medicine flatulence is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Spleen

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to flatulence, other symptoms associated with Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Spleen include abdominal distension, irritability and abdominal pain.

Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Spleen 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 Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Spleen here

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

Small Intestine Qi Pain

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to flatulence, other symptoms associated with Small Intestine Qi Pain include abdominal distension, dislike of pressure on the abdomen and borborygmi.

Small Intestine Qi Pain is often treated with Chai Hu Shu Gan San, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Chai Hu Shu Gan San belongs to the category of "formulas that promote qi movement", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood".

Read more about Small Intestine Qi Pain here

Two herbal formulas that might help with flatulence

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 flatulence?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Rebellious Liver Qi invading the Spleen' of which flatulence is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Why might Chai Hu Shu Gan San help with flatulence?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Small Intestine Qi Pain' of which flatulence is a symptom.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Acupuncture points used for flatulence

The four Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat flatulence

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with flatulence?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat flatulence as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with flatulence?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat flatulence as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

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 Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with flatulence?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat flatulence as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Chai Hu Shu Gan 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 Rhubarb (Da Huang) help with flatulence?

Because it is a key herb in Da Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern '' (a pattern with flatulence as a symptom)

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 Bright Yang stage according to the Six Stages Theory. 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