Irritable bowel syndrome according to Chinese Medicine

ibs redirects here

Irritable bowel syndrome 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 irritable bowel syndrome 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 irritable bowel syndrome is often associated with difficulty swallowing and stuffiness of chest and diaphragm in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-phlegm”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause irritable bowel syndrome.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of irritable bowel syndrome we’ve identified three 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 irritable bowel syndrome.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause irritable bowel syndrome

In Chinese Medicine irritable bowel syndrome is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Qi-Phlegm

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

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Also often called "plum-stone" or "plum-pit" syndrome, the main characteristic of Qi-Phlegm is a feeling of swelling in the throat and a swallowing difficulty. It typically originates from emotional problems and it appears and disappears according to mood swings.

In addition to irritable bowel syndrome, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-phlegm include difficulty swallowing and stuffiness of chest and diaphragm.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/qi-phlegm is often treated with Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang 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: "Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm".

Read more about Qi-Phlegm here

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

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Qi Deficiency is one of the most commonly seen TCM pattern. It is caused by unhealthy diet such as fat raw or cold food, bad eating habit, emotional stress or damp environment. It is the central pattern to all other Spleen disharmonies, because many other Deficiency patterns derive from it.

In addition to irritable bowel syndrome, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-qi-deficiency include poor appetite, pale complexion and weak voice.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-qi-deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi 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".

Read more about Spleen Qi Deficiency here

Three herbal formulas that might help with irritable bowel syndrome

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Why might Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang help with irritable bowel syndrome?

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

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang here

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with irritable bowel syndrome?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-qi-deficiency' of which irritable bowel syndrome is a symptom.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with irritable bowel syndrome?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/spleen-qi-deficiency' of which irritable bowel syndrome is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat irritable bowel syndrome

Why might Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with irritable bowel syndrome?

Because it is a key herb in Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Qi-Phlegm' (a pattern with irritable bowel syndrome as a symptom)

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Houpu Magnolia Bark (Hou Pu) help with irritable bowel syndrome?

Because it is a key herb in Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Qi-Phlegm' (a pattern with irritable bowel syndrome as a symptom)

Houpu Magnolia Bark is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Moves Rebellious Qi downward, dries Dampness and relieves Food Stagnation. Transforms Phlegm and redirects Rebellious Qi of the Lung.

Read more about Houpu Magnolia Bark here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with irritable bowel syndrome?

Because it is a key herb in Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Qi-Phlegm' (a pattern with irritable bowel syndrome as a symptom)

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

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 Perilla Leaf (Zi Su Ye) help with irritable bowel syndrome?

Because it is a key herb in Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Qi-Phlegm' (a pattern with irritable bowel syndrome as a symptom)

Perilla Leaves is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Promotes the circulation of Spleen and Stomach Qi. Calms a restless fetus. Detoxifies seafood poisoning

Read more about Perilla Leaves here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with irritable bowel syndrome?

Because it is a key herb in Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Qi-Phlegm' (a pattern with irritable bowel syndrome as a symptom)

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