Jaundice according to Chinese Medicine

yellow complexion, yellow face and icteric jaundice redirect here

Jaundice 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 jaundice 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 jaundice is often associated with fever, dizziness and feeling of heaviness in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-heat-in-the-gallbladder”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause jaundice.

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

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause jaundice

In Chinese Medicine jaundice 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 Gallbladder is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Gallbladder in Chinese Medicine

Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder

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

In addition to jaundice, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-heat-in-the-gallbladder include fever, dizziness and feeling of heaviness.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-heat-in-the-gallbladder is often treated with Yin Chen Hao Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Virgate Wormwood - Yin Chen - as a key herb). Yin Chen Hao Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears heat".

Read more about Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder here

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

Dampness in the Gallbladder

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

In addition to jaundice, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/dampness-in-the-gallbladder include feeling of heaviness, hypochondrium fullness and inability to digest fats.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/dampness-in-the-gallbladder is often treated with San Ren Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Apricot Seeds - Xing Ren - as a key herb). San Ren Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Damp-Heat".

Read more about Dampness in the Gallbladder here

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

Damp-Heat in the Liver

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

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

This pattern is caused by excessive Heat in the Liver and Dampness due to Spleen Deficiency. Dampness can cause the formation of Phlegm.  Patients often have a feeling of fullness. It is often caused by bad diet and lifestyle, hot and damp environment and emotional stress such as anger.

In addition to jaundice, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-heat-in-the-liver include fever, vomiting and feeling of heaviness.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-heat-in-the-liver is often treated with Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Chinese Gentian - Long Dan Cao - as a key herb). Long Dan Xie Gan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder".

Read more about Damp-Heat in the Liver here

Three herbal formulas that might help with jaundice

Yin Chen Hao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Clears heat. Resolves dampness. Reduces jaundice.

Why might Yin Chen Hao Tang help with jaundice?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-heat-in-the-gallbladder' of which yellow complexion is a symptom.

Read more about Yin Chen Hao Tang here

San Ren Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Damp-Heat. Disseminates the Qi. Facilitates the Qi mechanisms.

Why might San Ren Tang help with jaundice?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/dampness-in-the-gallbladder' of which jaundice is a symptom.

Read more about San Ren Tang here

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Long Dan Xie Gan Tang help with jaundice?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/damp-heat-in-the-liver' of which jaundice is a symptom.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang here

Acupuncture points used for jaundice

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat jaundice

Why might Cardamon Fruit (Bai Dou Kou) help with jaundice?

Because it is a key herb in San Ren Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Dampness in the Gallbladder' (a pattern with jaundice as a symptom)

Cardamon Fruits is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and transforms Dampness. Invigorates Qi to remove Stomach and Spleen Qi Stagnation due to Dampness. Encourages appetite. Settles a restless fetus, stops morning sickness and prevents miscarriage. Used with tonifying herbs to prevent cloying and Stagnation.

Read more about Cardamon Fruits here

Why might Virgate Wormwood (Yin Chen) help with jaundice?

Because it is a key herb in Yin Chen Hao Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder' (a pattern with jaundice as a symptom)

Virgate Wormwood is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Drains Damp and clears Heat, especially from the Liver and Gallbladder. Eliminates Heat and relieves the Exterior. Relieve Jaundice.

Read more about Virgate Wormwood here

Why might Lophatherum Herb (Dan Zhu Ye) help with jaundice?

Because it is a key herb in San Ren Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Dampness in the Gallbladder' (a pattern with jaundice as a symptom)

Lophatherum Herbs is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Small intestine and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and aids thirst. Aids urination and drains Damp-Heat.

Read more about Lophatherum Herbs here

Why might Tetrapanax Pith (Tong Cao) help with jaundice?

Because it is a key herb in San Ren Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Dampness in the Gallbladder' (a pattern with jaundice as a symptom)

Tetrapanax Piths is a Cool herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Removes heat, induces urination and stimulates lactation

Read more about Tetrapanax Piths here

Why might Job's Tears (Yi Yi Ren) help with jaundice?

Because it is a key herb in San Ren Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Dampness in the Gallbladder' (a pattern with jaundice as a symptom)

Job's Tears is a Cool herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Regulates water and encourages urination. Tonic to the Spleen and stops diarrhea caused by Spleen Deficiency. Reduces inflammation and eliminates pus. Dispels Wind-Damp Bi Pain. Expels Damp-Heat.

Read more about Job's Tears here