Hypochondrial distention according to Chinese Medicine

Hypochondrial distention 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 hypochondrial distention 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 hypochondrial distention is often associated with irritability, epigastric distension and depression in the pattern “Liver Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause hypochondrial distention.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause hypochondrial distention

In Chinese Medicine hypochondrial distention 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 hypochondrial distention, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include irritability, epigastric distension and depression.

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

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

Rebellious Liver Qi

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

In addition to hypochondrial distention, other symptoms associated with Rebellious Liver Qi include irritability, epigastric distension and dizziness.

Rebellious Liver Qi 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 Rebellious Liver Qi here

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

Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder

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

In addition to hypochondrial distention, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder include irritability, bitter taste in the mouth and dizziness.

Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder is often treated with Yin Chen Hao Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Virgate Wormwood - Yin Chen - as a key herb). Yin Chen Hao Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears heat".

Read more about Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Chai Hu Tang, a formula used for Lesser Yang stage

Lesser Yang stage

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian), Fine (Xi)

In addition to hypochondrial distention, other symptoms associated with Lesser Yang stage include irritability, bitter taste in the mouth and blurred vision.

Lesser Yang stage is often treated with Xiao Chai Hu Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Chai Hu 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: "Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer)".

Read more about Lesser Yang stage here

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

Liver Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo)

In addition to hypochondrial distention, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Deficiency include irritability, dizziness and depression.

Liver Qi Deficiency is often treated with Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Milkvetch Roots - Huang Qi - as a key herb). Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner)".

Read more about Liver Qi Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with hypochondrial distention

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 hypochondrial distention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which hypochondriai distension 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 hypochondrial distention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Rebellious Liver Qi' of which hypochondrial distention is a symptom.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Yin Chen Hao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Clears heat. Resolves dampness. Reduces jaundice.

Why might Yin Chen Hao Tang help with hypochondrial distention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder' of which hypochondrial distention is a symptom.

Read more about Yin Chen Hao Tang here

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Why might Xiao Chai Hu Tang help with hypochondrial distention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lesser Yang stage' of which hypochondrial distention is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang here

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Why might Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang help with hypochondrial distention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Deficiency' of which hypochondrial distention is a symptom.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

Acupuncture points used for hypochondrial distention

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat hypochondrial distention

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with hypochondrial distention?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondrial distention as a symptom, like Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang or Ping Wei 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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with hypochondrial distention?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondrial distention as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Xiao Yao 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 Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with hypochondrial distention?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondrial distention 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 Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with hypochondrial distention?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondrial distention as a symptom, like Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang or Si Mo Tang for instance.

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with hypochondrial distention?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat hypochondrial distention as a symptom, like Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang or Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang for instance.

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

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