Listlessness according to Chinese Medicine

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Listlessness 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 listlessness 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 listlessness is often associated with feeling of cold, cold limbs and diarrhea in the pattern “Lesser Yin Cold Transformation”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause listlessness.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause listlessness

In Chinese Medicine listlessness 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.

Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) is the king ingredient for Si Ni Tang, a formula used for Lesser Yin Cold Transformation

Lesser Yin Cold Transformation

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

In addition to listlessness, other symptoms associated with Lesser Yin Cold Transformation include feeling of cold, cold limbs and diarrhea.

Lesser Yin Cold Transformation is often treated with Si Ni Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Si Ni Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that rescue devastated yang", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Rescues devastated Yang".

Read more about Lesser Yin Cold Transformation here

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the king ingredient for Si Jun Zi Tang, a formula used for Qi Deficiency

Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Qi Deficiency simply means lack of Qi. It includes the lack of Original Qi, Nutritive Qi, Defensive Qi or the Qi that resides in Organs or Channels. It mainly manifests itself in a weakened function of Organs and a declining ability of the body to resist diseases.

In addition to listlessness, other symptoms associated with Qi Deficiency include dizziness, loose stools and shortness of breath.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Qi Deficiency here

Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi) is the king ingredient for Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang, a formula used for Empty-Cold

Empty-Cold

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

In addition to listlessness, other symptoms associated with Empty-Cold include dizziness, scanty periods and loose stools.

Empty-Cold is often treated with Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Milkvetch Roots - Huang Qi - as a key herb). Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm the middle and dispel cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies the Middle Burner (Spleen and Stomach)".

Read more about Empty-Cold here

Coco-Grass Rhizomes (Xiang Fu) is the king ingredient for Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, a formula used for Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus

Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

In addition to listlessness, other symptoms associated with Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus include dizziness, scanty periods and loose stools.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation, Scanty Menstruation or Absence Of Menstruation.

Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus is often treated with Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Coco-Grass Rhizomes - Xiang Fu - as a key herb). Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan 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: "Resolves Dampness and Phlegm".

Read more about Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus here

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

Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Tight (Jin)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Pale

In addition to listlessness, other symptoms associated with Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation include dizziness, depression and coughing.

Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Chai Hu Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Chai Hu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize lesser yang-warp disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer)".

Read more about Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation here

Five herbal formulas that might help with listlessness

Si Ni Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Rescues devastated Yang. Warms the Middle Burner. Stops diarrhea.

Why might Si Ni Tang help with listlessness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lesser Yin Cold Transformation' of which listlessness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Lesser Yin Cold Transformation include feeling of cold, cold limbs and diarrhea.

Read more about Si Ni Tang here

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with listlessness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Deficiency' of which listlessness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Deficiency include dizziness, loose stools and shortness of breath.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Why might Xiao Chai Hu Tang help with listlessness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation' of which listlessness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Lung Qi Deficiency And Liver Qi Stagnation include dizziness, depression and coughing.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang here

Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies the Middle Burner (Spleen and Stomach). Tonifies Qi. Relieves spasmodic pain.

Why might Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang help with listlessness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Empty-Cold' of which listlessness is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Empty-Cold include dizziness, scanty periods and loose stools.

Read more about Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang here

Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1575 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Resolves Damp-Phlegm. Nourishes Blood.

Why might Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang help with listlessness?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus' of which listlessness is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Phlegm in the Uterus can contribute to many health issues, including Late Menstruation.

Read more about Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat listlessness

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with listlessness?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat listlessness as a symptom, like Si Ni Tang or Si Jun Zi Tang 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 Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with listlessness?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat listlessness as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with listlessness?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat listlessness as a symptom, like Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with listlessness?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat listlessness as a symptom, like Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with listlessness?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat listlessness as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi 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

Conditions associated with listlessness

Late menstruation