Jaundice according to Chinese Medicine

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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 inability to digest fats, feeling of heaviness and dull-yellow complexion in the pattern “Dampness in the Gallbladder”. As you will see below, we have in record two 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 two 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 two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause jaundice

In Chinese Medicine jaundice 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.

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 Dampness in the Gallbladder include inability to digest fats, feeling of heaviness and dull-yellow complexion.

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 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 Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder include fever, dizziness and inability to digest fats.

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

Two herbal formulas that might help with jaundice

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 'Dampness in the Gallbladder' of which jaundice is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Dampness In The Gallbladder include inability to digest fats, feeling of heaviness and dull-yellow complexion.

Read more about San Ren Tang here

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 'Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder' of which jaundice is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp-Heat In The Gallbladder include fever, dizziness and inability to digest fats.

Read more about Yin Chen Hao Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat jaundice

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 Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

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

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 Spleen, the Stomach and the Liver.

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 Apricot Seed (Xing 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)

Apricot Seeds is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Large intestine and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Stops cough and wheezing caused by either Heat or Cold. Lubricates the Intestines and relieves constipation.

Read more about Apricot Seeds here

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 Gentian Root (Qin Jiao) help with jaundice?

Because it is a herb specifically indicated to treat jaundice as can be seen on Gentian Root's page.

Gentian Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Stomach and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Clears either acute or chronic, Cold or Hot Wind-Damp conditions. Clears Heat from Yin Deficiency. Lubricates the Intestines and promotes bowel movements.

Read more about Gentian Roots here