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 two 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 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 labored breathing.

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

In Chinese Medicine labored breathing 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.

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

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

Three 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

Wu Pi Yin

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Reduces edema, diuretic. Regulates and strengthens Spleen Qi.

Why might Wu Pi Yin 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 Wu Pi Yin here

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

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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with labored breathing?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat labored breathing as a symptom, like Wu Pi Yin or Wu Ling San for instance.

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

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 Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with labored breathing?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat labored breathing as a symptom, like Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang or Wu Ling San for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes 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

Why might Ephedra (Ma Huang) help with labored breathing?

Because it is a key herb in Ding Chuan Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Wind-Cold invading the Interior with Phelgm-Heat' (a pattern with labored breathing as a symptom)

Ephedra is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Bladder and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Releases the surface through sweating. Promotes the circulation of Lung Qi and stop wheezing. Promotes urination.

Read more about Ephedra here