Gallstones according to Chinese Medicine

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Gallstones 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 gallstones 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 gallstones is often associated with kidney stones, back pain and epigastric pain in the pattern “Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder”.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of gallstones we’ve identified two 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 gallstones.

Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause gallstones

In Chinese Medicine gallstones is a symptom for the pattern "Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

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

Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

According to Chinese medicine, gallstones or kidney stones are a form of Phlegm.

In addition to gallstones, other symptoms associated with Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder include kidney stones, back pain and epigastric pain.

Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder is often treated with Si Ni San, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Si Ni 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: "Regulates Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder here

Two herbal formulas that might help with gallstones

Pai Shi Tang

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Discharge Gallstones. Clear Damp-Heat. Facilitate urination.

Why might Pai Shi Tang help with gallstones?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder' of which gallstones is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm In Kidneys Or Gallbladder include kidney stones, back pain and epigastric pain.

Read more about Pai Shi Tang here

Si Ni San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Regulates Liver and Spleen. Eliminates Internal Heat.

Why might Si Ni San help with gallstones?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder' of which gallstones is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm In Kidneys Or Gallbladder include kidney stones, back pain and epigastric pain.

Read more about Si Ni San here

Acupuncture points used for gallstones

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat gallstones

Why might Turmeric (Jiang Huang) help with gallstones?

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

Turmeric is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood and unblocks Stasis. Facilitates the movement of Qi and eases pain. Clears the meridians, expels Wind and moves Blood to relieve pain.

Read more about Turmeric here

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

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat gallstones as a symptom, like Si Ni San or Pai Shi Tang 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 Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with gallstones?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat gallstones as a symptom, like Si Ni San or Pai Shi Tang 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 Chicken Gizzard Skin (Ji Nei Jin) help with gallstones?

Because it is a herb specifically indicated to treat gallstones as can be seen on Chicken Gizzard Skin's page.

Chicken Gizzard Skins is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Bladder, the Spleen, the Stomach and the Small intestine.

Its main actions are: Improves digestion and unblocks Food Stagnation. Dissolves stones in the urinary or biliary tract.

Read more about Chicken Gizzard Skins here

Why might Turmeric Tuber (Yu Jin) help with gallstones?

Because it is a herb specifically indicated to treat gallstones as can be seen on Turmeric Tuber's page.

Turmeric Tubers is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood, breaks Stasis and reduces associated pain. Regulates the Liver and relieves patterns of Stagnant Qi with pain. Clears the Heart and Cools the Blood. Relieves Stagnation and clears Heat in the Liver and Gallbladder. Relieves jaundice.

Read more about Turmeric Tubers here