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 cold limbs in the pattern “Oedema”. As you will see below, we have in record four 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 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 labored breathing.

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

In Chinese Medicine labored breathing is a symptom for 4 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): Hidden (Fu), Slowed-down (Huan)

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.

In addition to labored breathing, other symptoms associated with Oedema include cold limbs.

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 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

Four herbal formulas that might help with labored breathing

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.

Other symptoms characteristic of Oedema include cold limbs.

Read more about Wu Pi Yin 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 Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder. 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

Acupuncture points used for labored breathing

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 Ping Wei San 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 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 Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang 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 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 Zhen Wu Tang or Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang 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 Cinnamon Twig (Gui Zhi) help with labored breathing?

Because Cinnamon Twig is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat labored breathing as a symptom, like Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Shen Qi Wan for instance.

Cinnamon Twigs is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Adjusts the nutritive Ying and defensive Wei Qi. Relieves the Exterior through sweating. Warms and disperses Cold. Removes obstruction of Yang. Promotes the circulation of Yang Qi in the chest. Regulates and moves blood.

Read more about Cinnamon Twigs here

Why might Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with labored breathing?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome 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.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here