Irregular menstruation according to Chinese Medicine

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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 dizziness, poor appetite and sticky vaginal discharge in the pattern “Damp-Heat”. As you will see below, we have in record five 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 five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause irregular menstruation

In Chinese Medicine irregular menstruation 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.

Korean Mint (Huo Xiang) is the king ingredient for Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Soggy (Ru)

In addition to irregular menstruation, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include dizziness, poor appetite and sticky vaginal discharge.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Heat is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Intermenstrual Bleeding or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Damp-Heat is often treated with Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Korean Mint - Huo Xiang - as a key herb). Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San belongs to the category of "formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Damp-Heat here

Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi) is the king ingredient for Wen Jing Tang, a formula used for Cold in the Uterus

Cold in the Uterus

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Soggy (Ru)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

There are two types of cold patterns: Full Cold or Empty Cold. Full cold refers to actual Cold Evil invading the Uterus and Dampness Stagnation often come along with this Full pattern. Empty cold is the result of Yang Deficiency, especially the Spleen and Kidney Yang.

In addition to irregular menstruation, other symptoms associated with Cold in the Uterus include abdominal pain, dark clots in menstrual blood and infertility.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Cold in the Uterus is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps or Late Menstruation.

Cold in the Uterus is often treated with Wen Jing Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Cinnamon Twigs - Gui Zhi - as a key herb). Wen 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: "Warms the Uterus and vessels".

Read more about Cold in the Uterus 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 infertility.

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

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 depression, irritability 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 and Blood Stagnation

Qi and Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red, Red sides

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

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 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 and 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 'Damp-Heat' of which irregular menstruation is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Why might Wen Jing 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.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi and Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Wen Jing Tang 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 'Cold in the Uterus' of which irregular menstruation is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Cold In The Uterus include abdominal pain, dark clots in menstrual blood and infertility.

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.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Blood Stagnation include abdominal pain, dark clots in menstrual blood and infertility.

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang 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 irregular menstruation?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

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

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

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irregular menstruation and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom (such as Xiao Yao San 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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with irregular menstruation?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irregular menstruation and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom (such as 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

Why might Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with irregular menstruation?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irregular menstruation and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom (such as Shao 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

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with irregular menstruation?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irregular menstruation and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom (such as 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 Coco-Grass Rhizome (Xiang Fu) help with irregular menstruation?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irregular menstruation and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irregular menstruation as a symptom (such as Chai Hu Shu Gan San for instance).

Coco-Grass Rhizomes is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter, Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Liver and the Sanjiao.

Its main actions are: Unblocks Stagnant Liver Qi and relieves pain. Regulates the Liver and Spleen. Assists the regulation of menses and relieves pain.

Read more about Coco-Grass Rhizomes here