Heart pain according to Chinese Medicine

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Heart pain 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 heart pain 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 heart pain is often associated with palpitations, shortness of breath and depression in the pattern “Heart Vessel obstructed”.

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

Heart Vessel obstructed, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause heart pain

In Chinese Medicine heart pain is a symptom for the pattern "Heart Vessel obstructed". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

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

Heart Vessel obstructed

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Knotted (Jie), Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to heart pain, other symptoms associated with Heart Vessel obstructed include palpitations, shortness of breath and depression.

Heart Vessel obstructed is often treated with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Heart Vessel obstructed here

Two herbal formulas that might help with heart pain

Dang Gui Si Ni Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Channels. Disperses Cold. Nourishes the Blood. Unblocks the Blood vessels.

Why might Dang Gui Si Ni Tang help with heart pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heart Vessel obstructed' of which heart pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Heart Vessel Obstructed include palpitations, shortness of breath and depression.

Read more about Dang Gui Si Ni Tang 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 heart pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heart Vessel obstructed' of which heart pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Heart Vessel Obstructed include palpitations, shortness of breath and depression.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat heart pain

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with heart pain?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat heart pain as a symptom, like Dang Gui Si Ni Tang or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

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

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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with heart pain?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat heart pain as a symptom, like Dang Gui Si Ni Tang or Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance.

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

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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with heart pain?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat heart pain as a symptom, like Dang Gui Si Ni Tang or Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with heart pain?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat heart pain as a symptom, like Chai Hu Shu Gan San or Xue Fu Zhu Yu 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 Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with heart pain?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat heart pain as a symptom, like Chai Hu Shu Gan San or Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here