Low breast milk supply according to Chinese Medicine

low milk supply, scanty breast milk, agalactia, agalactorrhea, hypogalactia, hypogalactorrhea, insufficient milk syndrome and lactation insufficiency redirect here

Low breast milk supply 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 low breast milk supply 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 low breast milk supply is often associated with insufficient or absent lactation after childbirth, irritability and poor appetite in the pattern “Liver Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause low breast milk supply.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of low breast milk supply we’ve identified six 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 low breast milk supply.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause low breast milk supply

In Chinese Medicine low breast milk supply 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 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 low breast milk supply, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include insufficient or absent lactation after childbirth, irritability and poor appetite.

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

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 low breast milk supply, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include fatigue, watery milk and no feeling of distension of the breasts.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Menopausal Syndrome or Morning Sickness.

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

Six herbal formulas that might help with low breast milk supply

Milk Boost Tea

Number of ingredients: 13 herbs

Key actions: Promotes healthy breast milk production*

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Why might Milk Boost Tea help with low breast milk supply?

Designed by Me & Qi's expert practitioners to tackle some of the patterns that can cause low breast milk supply, Milk Boost Tea is a 100% natural and vegan product composed solely of the 13 herbs listed in its ingredients.

Read more about Milk Boost Tea here

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Why might Xiao Yao San help with low breast milk supply?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which low breast milk supply is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Source date: Ming dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation. Tonifies Spleen. Clears Deficient Heat. Nourishes the blood.

Why might Jia Wei Xiao Yao San help with low breast milk supply?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which low breast milk supply is a symptom.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San 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 low breast milk supply?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which low breast milk supply is a symptom.

Read more about Yue Ju Wan here

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Why might Chai Hu Shu Gan San help with low breast milk supply?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which low breast milk supply is a symptom.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Why might Er Chen Tang help with low breast milk supply?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which low breast milk supply is a symptom.

Read more about Er Chen Tang here

Acupuncture points used for low breast milk supply

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat low breast milk supply

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with low breast milk supply?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat low breast milk supply as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San 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 Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with low breast milk supply?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat low breast milk supply as a symptom, like Ren Shen Dang Gui Tang or Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan 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 Dwarf Lilyturf Root (Mai Dong) help with low breast milk supply?

Because Dwarf Lilyturf Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat low breast milk supply as a symptom, like Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan or Ren Shen Dang Gui Tang for instance.

Dwarf Lilyturf Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Replenishes Yin Essence and promotes secretions. Lubricates and nourishes the Stomach. Soothes the Lung. Nourishes the Heart.

Read more about Dwarf Lilyturf Roots here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with low breast milk supply?

Because it is a key herb in Yue Ju Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' (a pattern with low breast milk supply as a symptom)

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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with low breast milk supply?

Because it is a key herb in Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' (a pattern with low breast milk supply as a symptom)

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

Me & Qi product associated with low breast milk supply