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”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause heart pain.

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

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause heart pain

In Chinese Medicine heart pain 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 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

Chinese Plums (Wu Mei) is the king ingredient for Wu Mei Wan, a formula used for Terminal Yin stage

Terminal Yin stage

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

In addition to heart pain, other symptoms associated with Terminal Yin stage include feeling of energy rising to the chest, cold limbs and diarrhea.

Terminal Yin stage is often treated with Wu Mei Wan, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Chinese Plums - Wu Mei - as a key herb). Wu Mei Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that expel parasites", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Organs".

Read more about Terminal Yin stage here

Three herbal formulas that might help with heart pain

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Why might Xue Fu Zhu Yu 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 Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

Wu Mei Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Organs. Drains Heat. Calms roundworms. Drains the Liver. Calms the Stomach.

Why might Wu Mei Wan help with heart pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Terminal Yin stage' of which heart pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Terminal Yin Stage include feeling of energy rising to the chest, cold limbs and diarrhea.

Read more about Wu Mei Wan 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

Acupuncture points used for heart pain

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 Xue Fu Zhu Yu 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 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 Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang or Dang Gui Si Ni 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 Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang 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 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 Chai Hu Shu Gan San or Dang Gui Si Ni Tang 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 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 Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang or Chai Hu Shu Gan San 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