Muscle cramps according to Chinese Medicine

cramps, muscle contractions, muscle tension and tight muscle redirect here

Muscle cramps 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 muscle cramps 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 muscle cramps is often associated with amenorrhea, dizziness and insomnia in the pattern “/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-and-heart-blood-deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause muscle cramps.

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

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause muscle cramps

In Chinese Medicine muscle cramps 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 Heart is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Heart in Chinese Medicine

Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

In addition to muscle cramps, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-and-heart-blood-deficiency include amenorrhea, dizziness and insomnia.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-and-heart-blood-deficiency is often treated with Gui Pi Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Gui Pi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi and blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood".

Read more about Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency here

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

Liver Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Wiry (Xian), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red points on the sides

This is a type of empty Fire pattern arising out of Liver Blood Deficiency or Kidney Yin Deficiency. It shares similar symptoms as Liver Blood Deficiency, but with extra signs of Dryness and Yin-Deficient Heat. It can be caused by excessive activity, overwork, 'burning the candle at both ends' without sufficient rest, and poor and irregular diet.

In addition to muscle cramps, other symptoms associated with /tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-yin-deficiency include amenorrhea, dizziness and insomnia.

/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-yin-deficiency is often treated with Qi Ju Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Qi Ju Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin".

Read more about Liver Yin Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with muscle cramps

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Why might Gui Pi Tang help with muscle cramps?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-and-heart-blood-deficiency' of which cramps is a symptom.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang here

Sheng Yu Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Preserves the Blood.

Why might Sheng Yu Tang help with muscle cramps?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-and-heart-blood-deficiency' of which cramps is a symptom.

Read more about Sheng Yu Tang here

Zhen Zhu Mu Wan

Source date: 1132 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin and Blood . Sedates the Heart and calms the Mind . Calms the Liver. Anchors the yang.

Why might Zhen Zhu Mu Wan help with muscle cramps?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-and-heart-blood-deficiency' of which cramps is a symptom.

Read more about Zhen Zhu Mu Wan here

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Why might Qi Ju Di Huang Wan help with muscle cramps?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-yin-deficiency' of which cramps is a symptom.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

Bu Gan Tang

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and regulates the Blood. Nourishes the Liver Yin.

Why might Bu Gan Tang help with muscle cramps?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern '/tcm-education-center/patterns/liver-yin-deficiency' of which cramps is a symptom.

Read more about Bu Gan Tang here

Acupuncture points used for muscle cramps

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat muscle cramps

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with muscle cramps?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat muscle cramps as a symptom, like Sheng Yu Tang or Bu Gan 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 Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with muscle cramps?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat muscle cramps as a symptom, like Qi Ju Di Huang Wan or Bu Gan Tang for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

Why might Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with muscle cramps?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat muscle cramps as a symptom, like Sheng Yu Tang or Bu Gan Tang for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with muscle cramps?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat muscle cramps as a symptom, like Gui Pi Tang or Sheng Yu 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 Jujube Seed (Suan Zao Ren) help with muscle cramps?

Because Jujube Seed is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat muscle cramps as a symptom, like Zhen Zhu Mu Wan or Bu Gan Tang for instance.

Jujube Seeds is a Neutral herb that tastes Sour and Sweet. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Nourishes the Heart Yin and calms the spirit. Contains Fluid leakage.

Read more about Jujube Seeds here