Loss of appetite according to Chinese Medicine

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Loss of appetite 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 loss of appetite 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 loss of appetite is often associated with dizziness, fatigue and vomiting in the pattern “Phlegm”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause loss of appetite.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause loss of appetite

In Chinese Medicine loss of appetite 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.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to loss of appetite, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, fatigue and vomiting.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen 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: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm 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 loss of appetite, other symptoms associated with Qi Deficiency include dizziness, fatigue and palpitations.

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

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

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Qi Deficiency is one of the most commonly seen TCM pattern. It is caused by unhealthy diet such as fat raw or cold food, bad eating habit, emotional stress or damp environment. It is the central pattern to all other Spleen disharmonies, because many other Deficiency patterns derive from it.

In addition to loss of appetite, other symptoms associated with Spleen Qi Deficiency include fatigue, loose stools and pale face.

Spleen 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 Spleen Qi Deficiency here

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation.

In addition to loss of appetite, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include depression, irritability and irregular menstruation.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

Liver Qi Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Liver Qi Stagnation here

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

Spleen Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to loss of appetite, other symptoms associated with Spleen Deficiency include depression, loose stools and amenorrhea.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Spleen Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Spleen Deficiency is often treated with Wan Dai Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Atractylodes Rhizomes - Bai Zhu - as a key herb). Wan Dai Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that secure irregular uterine bleeding and stop vaginal discharge", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies the Middle Burner".

Read more about Spleen Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with loss of appetite

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 loss of appetite?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which loss of appetite is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Wen Dan 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 loss of appetite?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Uterine Bleeding.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with loss of appetite?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Spleen Qi Deficiency include fatigue, loose stools and pale face.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

Yue Ju Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).

Why might Yue Ju Wan help with loss of appetite?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which loss of appetite is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Read more about Yue Ju Wan here

Wan Dai Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies the Middle Burner. Removes Dampness. Stops vaginal discharge. Strengthens the Spleen.

Why might Wan Dai Tang help with loss of appetite?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen Deficiency' of which loss of appetite is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Spleen Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Read more about Wan Dai Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat loss of appetite

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with loss of appetite?

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

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat loss of appetite 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 Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with loss of appetite?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat loss of appetite as a symptom, like Wen Dan Tang or Si Jun Zi Tang 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 loss of appetite?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat loss of appetite as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Wan Dai 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with loss of appetite?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat loss of appetite as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Si Wu Tang for instance.

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

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