Palpitations according to Chinese Medicine

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Palpitations 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 palpitations 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 palpitations is often associated with dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath in the pattern “Qi Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause palpitations.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause palpitations

In Chinese Medicine palpitations is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the king ingredient for Si Jun Zi Tang, a formula used for Qi Deficiency

Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Qi Deficiency simply means lack of Qi. It includes the lack of Original Qi, Nutritive Qi, Defensive Qi or the Qi that resides in Organs or Channels. It mainly manifests itself in a weakened function of Organs and a declining ability of the body to resist diseases.

In addition to palpitations, other symptoms associated with Qi Deficiency include dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Qi Deficiency 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 palpitations, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, fatigue and scanty periods.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

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

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), Wiry (Xian), Firm (Lao)

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 palpitations, other symptoms associated with Blood Stagnation include dizziness, restlessness 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 Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Tooth-marked, Swollen

In addition to palpitations, other symptoms associated with Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency include dizziness, depression and tinnitus.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Intermenstrual Bleeding.

Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency is often treated with Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Zhen Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and transform water and dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys".

Read more about Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency here

Exterior Cold invading the Interior

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

In addition to palpitations, other symptoms associated with Exterior Cold invading the Interior include dizziness, abdominal pain and constipation.

Exterior Cold invading the Interior is often treated with Da Huang Fu Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Da Huang Fu Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and purge", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Interior".

Read more about Exterior Cold invading the Interior here

Five herbal formulas that might help with palpitations

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with palpitations?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Deficiency' of which palpitations is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Uterine Bleeding.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with palpitations?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which palpitations is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Late Menstruation.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

Gu Ben Zhi Beng Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi and Yang.

Why might Gu Ben Zhi Beng Tang help with palpitations?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen or Kidney Yang Deficiency' of which palpitations is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Spleen Or Kidney Yang Deficiency include dizziness, depression and tinnitus.

Read more about Gu Ben Zhi Beng Tang here

Si Wu Tang

Source date: 846 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Restores and nourishes Blood. Stimulates Blood circulation.

Why might Si Wu Tang help with palpitations?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Abnormal Uterine Bleeding.

Read more about Si Wu Tang here

Da Huang Fu Zi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Interior. Disperses Cold. Unblocks the bowels. Alleviates pain.

Why might Da Huang Fu Zi Tang help with palpitations?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Exterior Cold invading the Interior' of which palpitations is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Exterior Cold Invading The Interior include dizziness, abdominal pain and constipation.

Read more about Da Huang Fu Zi Tang here

Acupuncture points used for palpitations

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat palpitations

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with palpitations?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat palpitations and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat palpitations as a symptom (such as Si Jun Zi Tang for instance).

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

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 Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with palpitations?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat palpitations and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat palpitations as a symptom (such as Si Jun Zi Tang for instance).

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with palpitations?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat palpitations and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat palpitations as a symptom (such as Si Jun Zi Tang for instance).

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

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

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with palpitations?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat palpitations and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat palpitations as a symptom (such as Si Jun Zi Tang for instance).

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 Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with palpitations?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat palpitations and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat palpitations as a symptom (such as Gu Ben Zhi Beng 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