Painful gums according to Chinese Medicine

Painful gums 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 painful gums 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 painful gums is often associated with dry stools, bleeding gums and constipation in the pattern “Stomach Heat or Fire”.

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

Stomach Heat or Fire, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause painful gums

In Chinese Medicine painful gums is a symptom for the pattern "Stomach Heat or Fire". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

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

Stomach Heat or Fire

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua), Full (Shi)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red centre

Stomach Fire indicates a true Excess of Heat in the Stomach, creating symptoms such as mouth ulcers, bad breath, intense thirst and gum bleeding. Stomach Fire can be the result of excessive intake of hot, spicy, greasy and deep fried foods or other factors such as alcohol, tobacco and sugar.

In addition to painful gums, other symptoms associated with Stomach Heat or Fire include dry stools, bleeding gums and constipation.

Stomach Heat or Fire is often treated with Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Rhubarb - Da Huang - as a key herb). Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that purge heat accumulation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Removes Heat and Dryness in the Lower Burner".

Read more about Stomach Heat or Fire here

Four herbal formulas that might help with painful gums

Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Removes Heat and Dryness in the Lower Burner. Removes constipation.

Why might Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang help with painful gums?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Heat or Fire' of which painful gums is a symptom.

Read more about Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang here

Qing Wei San

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Drains Stomach Fire. Cools the Blood. Nourishes the Yin.

Why might Qing Wei San help with painful gums?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Heat or Fire' of which painful gums is a symptom.

Read more about Qing Wei San here

Xie Huang San

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Clears Stagnant Fire from the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Xie Huang San help with painful gums?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Heat or Fire' of which painful gums is a symptom.

Read more about Xie Huang San here

Fei Er Wan

Source date: 1156 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Kills parasites. Reduces accumulation. Strengthens the Spleen. Clears Heat.

Why might Fei Er Wan help with painful gums?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Heat or Fire' of which painful gums is a symptom.

Read more about Fei Er Wan here

Acupuncture points used for painful gums

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat painful gums

Why might Goldthread Rhizome (Huang Lian) help with painful gums?

Because Goldthread Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat painful gums as a symptom, like Qing Wei San or Fei Er Wan for instance.

Goldthread Rhizomes is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Liver, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Lower Burner. Eliminates Fire toxicity especially when there is associated Dampness. Acts as a sedative by eliminating Heart Fire. Eliminates Stomach Fire. Expel parasites

Read more about Goldthread Rhizomes here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with painful gums?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat painful gums as a symptom, like Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang or Xie Huang San 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 Rhubarb (Da Huang) help with painful gums?

Because it is a key herb in Tiao Wei Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Stomach Heat or Fire' (a pattern with painful gums as a symptom)

Rhubarb is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Drains Excess Heat and eliminates Dampness, especially when in the Bright Yang stage according to the Six Stages Theory. Cools the Blood and stops bleeding. Invigorates Blood, breaks up Stasis and relieves pain. Clears Heat and toxins from Excess. Applied topically for Hot sores and Blood Stasis.

Read more about Rhubarb here

Why might Quisqualis Fruit (Shi Jun Zi) help with painful gums?

Because it is a key herb in Fei Er Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Stomach Heat or Fire' (a pattern with painful gums as a symptom)

Quisqualis Fruits is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Kills parasites. Improves children's digestion

Read more about Quisqualis Fruits here

Why might Gypsum (Shi Gao) help with painful gums?

Because it is a key herb in Xie Huang San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Stomach Heat or Fire' (a pattern with painful gums as a symptom)

Gypsum is a Cold herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Lung and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and drains Fire. Clears Lung Heat. Relieves thirst and restlessness. Clears Stomach Heat.

Read more about Gypsum here