Irritability according to Chinese Medicine

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Irritability 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 irritability 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 irritability is often associated with depression, scanty periods and breast distention in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause irritability.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause irritability

In Chinese Medicine irritability 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.

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/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 irritability, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-stagnation include depression, scanty periods and breast distention.

From a Western Medicine standpoint /tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-stagnation is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/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

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm

Phlegm

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

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to irritability, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm include dizziness, depression and breast distention.

From a Western Medicine standpoint /tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Menopausal Syndrome or Morning Sickness.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/yin-deficiency

Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red

In the case of Yin Deficiency, the body is short in the cooling, moistening and nurturing aspects. This leads to Heat and Dryness accompanied by weakness and lack of strength and resistance. Yin becomes Deficient by over-working, lack of sleep, over-exercising, overindulgence in sex, long-term chronic diseases, internal injury due to the seven emotions, and the over-eating of dry and hot-natured foods.

In addition to irritability, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/yin-deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and dry stools.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/yin-deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Yin Deficiency here

Gastrodia Rhizomes (Tian Ma) is the king ingredient for Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin, a formula used for /tcm-education-center/patterns/interior-wind

Interior Wind

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

In addition to irritability, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/interior-wind include dizziness, insomnia and red face.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/interior-wind is often treated with Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Gastrodia Rhizomes - Tian Ma - as a key herb). Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that pacify and extinguish internal wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Calms the Liver".

Read more about Interior Wind 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 irritability, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation include depression, scanty periods and constipation.

From a Western Medicine standpoint /tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/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

Five herbal formulas that might help with irritability

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 irritability?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-stagnation' of which irritability is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with irritability?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/phlegm' of which irritability is a symptom.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with irritability?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/yin-deficiency' of which irritability is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang

Source date: Qing dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Cools the Liver. Extinguishes Wind. Increases Fluids. Relaxes the sinews.

Why might Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang help with irritability?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/interior-wind' of which irritability is a symptom.

Read more about Ling Jiao Gou Teng 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 irritability?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-qi-stagnation' of which irritability is a symptom.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Acupuncture points used for irritability

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat irritability

Why might Host-Wood Poria (Fu Shen) help with irritability?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irritability and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irritability as a symptom (such as Zhen Zhu Mu Wan for instance).

Host-Wood Poria is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Heart.

Its main actions are: Calms the Mind (Shen) and promote urination.

Read more about Host-Wood Poria here

Why might Donkey-Hide Gelatin (E Jiao) help with irritability?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irritability and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irritability as a symptom (such as E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang for instance).

Donkey-Hide Gelatin is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies and nourishes Blood. Stops bleeding. Moistens and lubricates Yin.

Read more about Donkey-Hide Gelatin here

Why might Hematite (Dai Zhe Shi) help with irritability?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irritability and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irritability as a symptom (such as Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang for instance).

Hematite is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Stomach, the Heart, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Calms the Liver, anchors uprising Yang and clears Liver Fire. Moves Qi downward. Cools the Blood, stops bleeding.

Read more about Hematite here

Why might Rice Sprout (Jing Mi) help with irritability?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irritability and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irritability as a symptom (such as Bai Hu Tang for instance).

Rice Sprouts is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Replenishes Qi and tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Eliminates thirst. Stops diarrhea.

Read more about Rice Sprouts here

Why might Calcitum (Han Shui Shi) help with irritability?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat irritability and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat irritability as a symptom (such as Zi Xue Dan for instance).

Calcitum is a Cold herb that tastes Pungent and Salty. It targets the Heart and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and drains Fire. Expels Summer-Heat. Cools Hot sores and burns. Reduces edema.

Read more about Calcitum here