Painful menstruations according to Chinese Medicine

dysmenorrhea, painful period redirect here

Painful menstruations 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 menstruations 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 menstruations is often associated with abdominal pain, dark clots in menstrual blood and scanty periods in the pattern “Blood Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause painful menstruations.

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

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause painful menstruations

In Chinese Medicine painful menstruations is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a formula used for Blood Stagnation

Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Firm (Lao), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Reddish-Purple

Blood Stagnation, like the name indicates, is when Blood flow becomes Stagnant. It can happen in the whole body or in specific Organs. It is one of the most important diagnostic conditions in Chinese Medicine because it is frequently the cause of intractable pain syndromes anywhere in the body.

In addition to painful menstruations, other symptoms associated with Blood Stagnation include abdominal pain, dark clots in menstrual blood and scanty periods.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Scanty Menstruation, Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Blood Stagnation is often treated with Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Tao He Cheng Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dispels Heat and".

Read more about Blood Stagnation here

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

Liver Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple sides

Liver Blood Stagnation usually develops from Qi Stagnation, Cold and Heat. It has great influence over the Directing and Penetrating Vessels and thus the menstruation functions.

In addition to painful menstruations, other symptoms associated with Liver Blood Stagnation include irregular menstruation, abdominal pain and dark clots in menstrual blood.

Liver Blood 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 Blood Stagnation here

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

Pericardium Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Knotted (Jie), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple

In addition to painful menstruations, other symptoms associated with Pericardium Blood Stagnation include dark clots in menstrual blood, palpitations and chest pain.

Pericardium Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Pericardium Blood Stagnation here

Five herbal formulas that might help with painful menstruations

Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Expels Cold and warm the menstruation Blood. Stops pain. Invigorates Blood. Dispels Blood stagnation.

Why might Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang help with painful menstruations?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Blood Stagnation' of which painful period is a symptom.

Read more about Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang 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 painful menstruations?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood Stagnation' of which painful period is a symptom.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Eliminates Blood Stagnation below the diaphragm. Stops pain. Promotes Qi movement.

Why might Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang help with painful menstruations?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood Stagnation' of which painful period is a symptom.

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang here

Shi Xiao San

Source date: 1108 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Dispels Blood Stagnation. Eases pain.

Why might Shi Xiao San help with painful menstruations?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood Stagnation' of which painful period is a symptom.

Read more about Shi Xiao San here

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Why might Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang help with painful menstruations?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Pericardium Blood Stagnation' of which painful period is a symptom.

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang here

Acupuncture points used for painful menstruations

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

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with painful menstruations?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat painful menstruations as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Da Ying Jian 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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with painful menstruations?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat painful menstruations as a symptom, like Da Ying Jian or Tao He Cheng Qi 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 Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with painful menstruations?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat painful menstruations as a symptom, like Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang or Shao Fu Zhu Yu 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 Peach Kernel (Tao Ren) help with painful menstruations?

Because Peach Kernel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat painful menstruations as a symptom, like Tao He Cheng Qi Tang or Tao Hong Si Wu Tang for instance.

Peach Kernels is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood and breaks up Stasis. Moistens the Intestines. Relieves coughing.

Read more about Peach Kernels here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with painful menstruations?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat painful menstruations as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Xiao Yao San for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here