Hypochondriac pain according to Chinese Medicine

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Hypochondriac 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 hypochondriac 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 hypochondriac pain is often associated with irritability, nausea and constipation in the pattern “Liver Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause hypochondriac pain.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause hypochondriac pain

In Chinese Medicine hypochondriac pain 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.

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation.

In addition to hypochondriac pain, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, nausea and constipation.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

Liver Qi Stagnation 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 Liver Qi Stagnation here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red sides

Qi Stagnation refers to Qi becoming stuck or stagnant, a bit like a traffic jam on the freeway. This restricted flow of Qi can be body-wide or happen in any specific Organ.

In addition to hypochondriac pain, other symptoms associated with Qi Stagnation include irritability, vomiting and poor appetite.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation.

Qi Stagnation 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 Qi Stagnation here

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

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire

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

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to hypochondriac pain, other symptoms associated with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire include bitter taste in the mouth, irritability and dizziness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps or Spontaneous Flow Of Breast Milk.

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is often treated with Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including White Peony Roots - Bai Shao - as a key herb). Xuan Yu Tong Jing 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: "Pacifies the Liver".

Read more about Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire here

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

Heat in Gall Bladder

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

Tongue coating: Thick coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to hypochondriac pain, other symptoms associated with Heat in Gall Bladder include bitter taste in the mouth, nausea and epigastrium fullness.

Heat in Gall Bladder is often treated with Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Sweet Wormwood Herbs - Qing Hao - as a key herb). Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize lesser yang-warp disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and relieves acute conditions of the Gallbladder".

Read more about Heat in Gall Bladder here

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

Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder

Pulse type(s): Full (Shi)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to hypochondriac pain, other symptoms associated with Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder include bitter taste in the mouth, irritability and dizziness.

Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder is often treated with Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Chinese Gentian - Long Dan Cao - as a key herb). Long Dan Xie Gan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder".

Read more about Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder here

Five herbal formulas that might help with hypochondriac pain

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 hypochondriac pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which hypochondriac pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, nausea and constipation.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Source date: Ming dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation. Tonifies Spleen. Clears Deficient Heat. Nourishes the blood.

Why might Jia Wei Xiao Yao San help with hypochondriac pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire' of which hypochondriac pain is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire can contribute to many health issues, including Spontaneous Flow Of Breast Milk.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Source date: Qing Dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and relieves acute conditions of the Gallbladder. Relieves acute Damp-Heat syndromes. Resolves Phlegm. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang help with hypochondriac pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat in Gall Bladder' of which hypochondriac pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Heat In Gall Bladder include bitter taste in the mouth, nausea and epigastrium fullness.

Read more about Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang here

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Long Dan Xie Gan Tang help with hypochondriac pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat Excess in the Liver or Gallbladder' of which hypochondriac pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Heat Excess In The Liver Or Gallbladder include bitter taste in the mouth, irritability and dizziness.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan 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 hypochondriac pain?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Stagnation' of which hypochondriac pain is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Stagnation include irritability, vomiting and poor appetite.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

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

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

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondriac pain as a symptom, like Long Dan Xie Gan Tang or Dan Zhi Xiao Yao 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with hypochondriac pain?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondriac pain as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with hypochondriac pain?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondriac pain as a symptom, like Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang or Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here

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

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondriac pain as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao 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 hypochondriac pain?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondriac pain as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao 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