Pleurisy according to Chinese Medicine

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Pleurisy 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 pleurisy 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 pleurisy is often associated with palpitations and coughing in the pattern “Phlegm-Fluids in the hypochondrium”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause pleurisy.

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

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause pleurisy

In Chinese Medicine pleurisy 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.

Kansui Roots (Gan Sui) is the king ingredient for Shi Zao Tang, a formula used for Phlegm-Fluids in the hypochondrium

Phlegm-Fluids in the hypochondrium

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

This is when Phlegm-Fluids clogs up the chest and hypochondriac regions, producing chest pain, cough and shortness of breath.

In addition to pleurisy, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids in the hypochondrium include palpitations and coughing.

Phlegm-Fluids in the hypochondrium is often treated with Shi Zao Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Kansui Roots - Gan Sui - as a key herb). Shi Zao Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that drive out excess water", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Purges and drives out Phlegm-Fluids".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids in the hypochondrium here

Ephedra (Ma Huang) is the king ingredient for Xiao Qing Long Tang, a formula used for Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

This is when, often due to a stagnant Qi, the Body Fluids are retained in the chest and Lungs.

In addition to pleurisy, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm include coughing, dizziness and alternating fever and chills.

Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm is often treated with Xiao Qing Long Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Xiao Qing Long Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear wind-cold", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm here

Three herbal formulas that might help with pleurisy

Shi Zao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Purges and drives out Phlegm-Fluids.

Why might Shi Zao Tang help with pleurisy?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids in the hypochondrium' of which pleurisy is a symptom.

Read more about Shi Zao Tang here

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Why might Xiao Qing Long Tang help with pleurisy?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' of which pleuritis is a symptom.

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang here

Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Lungs. Transforms congested Fluids.

Why might Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang help with pleurisy?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' of which pleuritis is a symptom.

Read more about Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat pleurisy

Why might Schisandra Berry (Wu Wei Zi) help with pleurisy?

Because it is a key herb in Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' (a pattern with pleurisy as a symptom)

Schisandra Berries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Kidneys and preserves the Essence. Astringes the Lung Qi and stops coughing. Retains Bodily Fluids and encourages their production. Tonifies the Heart and calms the spirit (Shen).

Read more about Schisandra Berries here

Why might Ephedra (Ma Huang) help with pleurisy?

Because it is a key herb in Xiao Qing Long Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' (a pattern with pleurisy as a symptom)

Ephedra is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Bladder and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Releases the surface through sweating. Promotes the circulation of Lung Qi and stop wheezing. Promotes urination.

Read more about Ephedra here

Why might Genkwa Flower (Yan Hua) help with pleurisy?

Because it is a key herb in Shi Zao Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids in the hypochondrium' (a pattern with pleurisy as a symptom)

Genkwa Flowers is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Kidney, the Large intestine and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves chronic congestion of Fluids in the chest and stops cough. Drains congested Fluids through the urine and the stool. Expels parasites.

Read more about Genkwa Flowers here

Why might Wild Ginger (Xi Xin) help with pleurisy?

Because it is a key herb in Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' (a pattern with pleurisy as a symptom)

Wild Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and warms the Yang. Expels Cold and relieves pain. Warms the Lungs and reduces Phlegm. Moves the Qi and disperses Phlegm to open the nasal passages.

Read more about Wild Ginger here

Why might Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang) help with pleurisy?

Because it is a key herb in Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids above the diaphragm' (a pattern with pleurisy as a symptom)

Dried Ginger is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and expels Cold. Restores collapse of Yang and expels Interior Cold. Warms the Lungs and assists expectoration of Cold Phlegm. Stops chronic bleeding caused by Cold.

Read more about Dried Ginger here