Itching according to Chinese Medicine

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Itching 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 itching 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 itching is often associated with dizziness, night sweats and tinnitus in the pattern “Heat in the Blood”.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of itching we’ve identified four 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 itching.

Heat in the Blood, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause itching

In Chinese Medicine itching is a symptom for the pattern "Heat in the Blood". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

Water Buffalo Horns (Shui Niu Jiao) is the king ingredient for Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, a formula used for Heat in the Blood

Heat in the Blood

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu)

Tongue color: Red

Heat in the Blood (or Blood-Heat) refers to a condition whereby Heat, as a so-called "Pernicious Influence", entered the Blood. This invasion tends to accelerate Blood flow (leading to a faster pulse) and to manifest itself in various types of bleeding as well as other symptoms.

In addition to itching, other symptoms associated with Heat in the Blood include dizziness, night sweats and tinnitus.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Heat in the Blood is associated with health issues such as Early Menstruation or Abnormal Uterine Bleeding.

Heat in the Blood is often treated with Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Water Buffalo Horns - Shui Niu Jiao - as a key herb). Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear nutritive-level heat", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats severe fevers and Heat in the Blood system".

Read more about Heat in the Blood here

Four herbal formulas that might help with itching

Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Treats severe fevers and Heat in the Blood system. Removes Blood Stagnation.

Why might Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang help with itching?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat in the Blood' of which itching is a symptom.

Read more about Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang here

Gu Jing Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin . Clears Heat. Stops bleeding. Stabilizes the menses.

Why might Gu Jing Wan help with itching?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat in the Blood' of which itching is a symptom.

Read more about Gu Jing Wan here

Shi Hui San

Source date: 1348g

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Cools the Blood and . Stops bleeding. Clears Heat and drains Fire.

Why might Shi Hui San help with itching?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat in the Blood' of which itching is a symptom.

Read more about Shi Hui San here

Bai He Di Huang Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Moistens the Lungs. Enriches the Body Fluids. Clears Heat and cools the Blood .

Why might Bai He Di Huang Tang help with itching?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat in the Blood' of which itching is a symptom.

Read more about Bai He Di Huang Tang here

Acupuncture points used for itching

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat itching

Why might Mudan Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi) help with itching?

Because Mudan Peony Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat itching as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang 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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with itching?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat itching as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Yin or Dang Gui Di Huang Yin 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with itching?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat itching as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Yin or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

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 Yam (Shan Yao) help with itching?

Because Yam is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat itching as a symptom, like Qi Ju Di Huang Wan or Zuo Gui Yin for instance.

Yam is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Tonifies the Lung Qi and nourishes the Lung Yin. Nourishes the Kidneys and consolidates Jing.

Read more about Yam here

Why might Goji Berry (Gou Qi Zi) help with itching?

Because Goji Berry is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat itching as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Yin or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan for instance.

Goji Berries is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Yin of the Liver and Yin of the Kidneys. Brightens the eyes. Moistens the Lungs.

Read more about Goji Berries here