Labored breathing according to Chinese Medicine

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Labored breathing 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 labored breathing 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 labored breathing is often associated with in the pattern “Oedema”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause labored breathing.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause labored breathing

In Chinese Medicine labored breathing 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.

Water Plantain (Ze Xie) is the king ingredient for Wu Ling San, a formula used for Oedema

Oedema

Pulse type(s): Slowed-down (Huan), Hidden (Fu)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Oedema manifests itself as swellings due to the retention of Body Fluids. Chinese Medicine believes that it originates from the leaking of Body Fluids from their normal pathways into the space between skin and muscles.

Oedema is often treated with Wu Ling San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Water Plantain - Ze Xie - as a key herb). Wu Ling San belongs to the category of "formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Promotes urination,".

Read more about Oedema here

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

Kidneys failing to receive Qi

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Tight (Jin), Weak (Ruo)

In addition to labored breathing, other symptoms associated with Kidneys failing to receive Qi include shortness of breath on exertion, weak breath and chronic cough.

Kidneys failing to receive Qi is often treated with You Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). You Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that warm yang and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang".

Read more about Kidneys failing to receive Qi here

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

Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium

Pulse type(s): Overflowing (Hong), Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

In addition to labored breathing, other symptoms associated with Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium include red face, palpitations and bitter taste in the mouth.

Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium is often treated with Wen Dan Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Wen Dan 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: "Clears Hot-Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium here

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

Pericardium Fire

Pulse type(s): Overflowing (Hong), Rapid (Shu), Full (Shi)

In addition to labored breathing, other symptoms associated with Pericardium Fire include red face, palpitations and bitter taste in the mouth.

Pericardium Fire is often treated with Xie Xin Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Rhubarb - Da Huang - as a key herb). Xie Xin Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and resolve toxicity", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Drains Fire".

Read more about Pericardium Fire here

Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat

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

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat is often treated with Ding Chuan Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Ginkgo Nuts - Bai Guo - as a key herb). Ding Chuan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas for a rebellious qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Lung Heat".

Read more about Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat here

Five herbal formulas that might help with labored breathing

Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Diuretic, clears Excess fluid and removes edema. Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Calms External Wind.

Why might Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang help with labored breathing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Oedema' of which labored breathing is a symptom.

Read more about Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang here

Ding Chuan Tang

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears Lung Heat. Expectorant for asthma.

Why might Ding Chuan Tang help with labored breathing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat' of which labored breathing is a symptom.

Read more about Ding Chuan Tang here

Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Directs rebellious Qi downward. Arrests wheezing. Stops coughing. Warms and transforms Phlegm-Cold.

Why might Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang help with labored breathing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidneys failing to receive Qi' of which labored breathing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidneys Failing To Receive Qi include shortness of breath on exertion, weak breath and chronic cough.

Read more about Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

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

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with labored breathing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm Fire harassing the Pericardium' of which labored breathing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm Fire Harassing The Pericardium include red face, palpitations and bitter taste in the mouth.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Xie Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Drains Fire. Resolves Toxicity. Dries Dampness.

Why might Xie Xin Tang help with labored breathing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Fire' of which labored breathing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Pericardium Fire include red face, palpitations and bitter taste in the mouth.

Read more about Xie Xin Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat labored breathing

Why might Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) help with labored breathing?

Because Tangerine Peel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat labored breathing as a symptom, like Wen Dan Tang or Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang for instance.

Tangerine Peel is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Spleen and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs.

Read more about Tangerine Peel here

Why might Bamboo Shaving (Zhu Ru) help with labored breathing?

Because Bamboo Shaving is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat labored breathing as a symptom, like Wen Dan Tang or Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang for instance.

Bamboo Shavings is a Cool herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Gallbladder, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs. Clears Heat in the Stomach and stops vomiting. Cools the Blood and stops bleeding.

Read more about Bamboo Shavings here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with labored breathing?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat labored breathing as a symptom, like Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang or Ding Chuan Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

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 Goldthread Rhizome (Huang Lian) help with labored breathing?

Because Goldthread Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat labored breathing as a symptom, like Xie Xin Tang or Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang for instance.

Goldthread Rhizomes is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Lower Burner. Eliminates Fire toxicity especially when there is associated Dampness. Acts as a sedative by eliminating Heart Fire. Eliminates Stomach Fire. Expel parasites

Read more about Goldthread Rhizomes here

Why might Mulberry Bark (Sang Bai Pi) help with labored breathing?

Because Mulberry Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat labored breathing as a symptom, like Wu Pi Yin or Ding Chuan Tang for instance.

Mulberry Bark is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears heat from the lung, relieves asthma and induce urination to disperse swelling

Read more about Mulberry Bark here