Irregular menstruation according to Chinese Medicine

early menstruation, early periods, chaotic periods, irregular cycles, irregular periods, unpredictable menstruation and unpredictable periods redirect here

Irregular menstruation 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 irregular menstruation 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 irregular menstruation is often associated with scanty periods, abdominal pain and depression in the pattern “Liver Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause irregular menstruation.

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

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause irregular menstruation

In Chinese Medicine irregular menstruation is a symptom for 3 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 irregular menstruation, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include scanty periods, abdominal pain 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

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a formula used for Qi And Blood Stagnation

Qi And Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

In addition to irregular menstruation, other symptoms associated with Qi And Blood Stagnation include dizziness, scanty periods and abdominal pain.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi And Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Absence Of Menstruation or Menopausal Syndrome.

Qi And Blood Stagnation 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 Qi And Blood Stagnation here

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

Liver Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple sides

Liver Blood Stagnation usually develops from Qi Stagnation, Cold and Heat. It has great influence over the Directing and Penetrating Vessels and thus the menstruation functions.

In addition to irregular menstruation, other symptoms associated with Liver Blood Stagnation include abdominal pain, dark clots in menstrual blood and painful period.

Liver Blood 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 Blood Stagnation here

Five herbal formulas that might help with irregular menstruation

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 irregular menstruation?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which irregular menstruation 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 irregular menstruation?

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

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Expels Cold and warm the menstruation Blood. Stops pain. Invigorates Blood. Dispels Blood stagnation.

Why might Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang help with irregular menstruation?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi And Blood Stagnation' of which irregular menstruation is a symptom.

Read more about Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Eliminates Blood Stagnation below the diaphragm. Stops pain. Promotes Qi movement.

Why might Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang help with irregular menstruation?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood Stagnation' of which irregular menstruation is a symptom.

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang here

Shi Xiao San

Source date: 1108 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Dispels Blood Stagnation. Eases pain.

Why might Shi Xiao San help with irregular menstruation?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood Stagnation' of which irregular menstruation is a symptom.

Read more about Shi Xiao San here

Acupuncture points used for irregular menstruation

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat irregular menstruation

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with irregular menstruation?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

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

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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with irregular menstruation?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Qing Jing 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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with irregular menstruation?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom, like Gui Pi Tang or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang 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 Mudan Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi) help with irregular menstruation?

Because Mudan Peony Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom, like Qing Jing San or Di Gu Pi Yin for instance.

Mudan Peony Bark is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Cools the Blood, activates Blood circulation and resolves Blood stasis.

Read more about Mudan Peony Bark here

Why might Goji Tree Root Bark (Di Gu Pi) help with irregular menstruation?

Because Goji Tree Root Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom, like Qing Jing San or Di Gu Pi Yin for instance.

Goji Tree Root Bark is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears Yin Deficient Heat;. Clears Lung Heat and stops cough. Cools the Blood when there is reckless movement of Blood. Drains Fire when Kidney Water is unable to control Fire.

Read more about Goji Tree Root Bark here