Labored breathing according to Chinese Medicine

dyspnoea and rapid breath redirect here

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 shortness of breath on exertion, weak breath and chronic cough in the pattern “Kidneys failing to receive Qi”. 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 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 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.

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

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

Five herbal formulas that might help with labored breathing

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Why might You Gui Wan help with labored breathing?

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

Read more about You Gui Wan 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 difficulty in inhaling is a symptom.

Read more about Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang here

Ren Shen Ge Jie San

Source date: 1047 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies the Qi. Augments the Kidneys. Stops coughing. Arrests wheezing.

Why might Ren Shen Ge Jie San help with labored breathing?

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

Read more about Ren Shen Ge Jie San 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 rapid breath is a symptom.

Read more about Xie Xin Tang here

Zi Xue Dan

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 17 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Opens the sensory orifices. Controls spasms and convulsions. Extinguishes Wind.

Why might Zi Xue Dan help with labored breathing?

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

Read more about Zi Xue Dan 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 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 Lung and the Spleen.

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 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 Cinnabar (Zhu Sha) help with labored breathing?

Because Cinnabar is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat labored breathing as a symptom, like Zhi Bao Dan or Hui Chun Dan for instance.

Cinnabar is a Cool herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart.

Its main actions are: Calms the spirit and Heart. Stops convulsions. Clears Heat and toxins.

Read more about Cinnabar here