Opisthotonos according to Chinese Medicine

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Opisthotonos 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 opisthotonos 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 opisthotonos is often associated with convulsions, high fever and fainting in the pattern “Heat victorious stirring Wind”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause opisthotonos.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of opisthotonos we’ve identified three 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 opisthotonos.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause opisthotonos

In Chinese Medicine opisthotonos 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.

Heat victorious stirring Wind

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to opisthotonos, other symptoms associated with Heat victorious stirring Wind include convulsions, high fever and fainting.

Heat victorious stirring Wind is often treated with Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Saiga Antelope's Horns - Ling Yang Jiao - as a key herb). Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that pacify and extinguish internal wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Cools the Liver".

Read more about Heat victorious stirring Wind here

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

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

Tongue coating: Thick coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Stiff

The invasion of Exterior Wind-Heat leads to this pattern and it then transforms to Interior Wind and Heat.

In addition to opisthotonos, other symptoms associated with Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat include convulsions, tics and dizziness.

Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat is often treated with Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Gastrodia Rhizomes - Tian Ma - as a key herb). Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that pacify and extinguish internal wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Calms the Liver".

Read more about Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat here

Three herbal formulas that might help with opisthotonos

Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang

Source date: Qing dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Cools the Liver. Extinguishes Wind. Increases Fluids. Relaxes the sinews.

Why might Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang help with opisthotonos?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat victorious stirring Wind' of which opisthotonos is a symptom.

Read more about Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang here

Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin

Source date: 1958 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Calms the Liver. Extinguishes wind. Invigorates the blood. Clears heat. Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys.

Why might Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin help with opisthotonos?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat' of which opisthotonos is a symptom.

Read more about Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin here

Feng Yin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Extinguishes and pacifies Wind with heavy medicinals. Calms the Mind. Clears Heat.

Why might Feng Yin Tang help with opisthotonos?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat' of which opisthotonos is a symptom.

Read more about Feng Yin Tang here

Acupuncture points used for opisthotonos

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat opisthotonos

Why might Gambir Stem And Thorn (Gou Teng) help with opisthotonos?

Because Gambir Stem And Thorn is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat opisthotonos as a symptom, like Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin or Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang for instance.

Gambir Stems And Thorns is a Cool herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Calms Liver Wind and relieves spasms. Clears Liver Heat and sedates Liver Yang.

Read more about Gambir Stems And Thorns here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with opisthotonos?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat opisthotonos as a symptom, like Feng Yin Tang or Ling Jiao Gou Teng 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 Host-Wood Poria (Fu Shen) help with opisthotonos?

Because Host-Wood Poria is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat opisthotonos as a symptom, like Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin or Ling Jiao Gou Teng Tang for instance.

Host-Wood Poria is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Heart.

Its main actions are: Calms the Mind (Shen) and promote urination.

Read more about Host-Wood Poria here

Why might Gastrodia Rhizome (Tian Ma) help with opisthotonos?

Because it is a key herb in Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat' (a pattern with opisthotonos as a symptom)

Gastrodia Rhizomes is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Liver.

Its main actions are: Calms Liver Wind. Sedates Liver Yang and relieves convulsions. Relieves Wind and stops pain.

Read more about Gastrodia Rhizomes here

Why might Dragon Bone (Long Gu) help with opisthotonos?

Because it is a key herb in Feng Yin Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Liver Wind agitating Internally due to extreme Heat' (a pattern with opisthotonos as a symptom)

Dragon Bones is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Calms the spirit. Anchors ascendant Liver Yang. Stops leakage of Bodily Fluids.

Read more about Dragon Bones here