Red eyes according to Chinese Medicine

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Red eyes 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 red eyes 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 red eyes is often associated with breast distention, irritability and depression in the pattern “Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause red eyes.

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

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause red eyes

In Chinese Medicine red eyes is a symptom for 4 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Red points on the sides

This pattern develops from Liver Qi Stagnation, which creates excessive amount of Heat and then turn into Liver Fire. The Heat is more intense here.

In addition to red eyes, other symptoms associated with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire include breast distention, irritability and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps or Spontaneous Flow Of Breast Milk.

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is often treated with Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Mudan Peony Bark - Mu Dan Pi - as a key herb). Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that clear liver-heat", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Liver Fire from Stagnant Liver Qi".

Read more about Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire here

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation.

In addition to red eyes, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include breast lumps, breast pain and breast distention.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

Liver Qi 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 Qi Stagnation here

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

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

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 red eyes, other symptoms associated with Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat include breast lumps, breast pain and breast distention.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is associated with health issues such as Mastitis, Breast Engorgement or Morning Sickness.

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is often treated with Qing Wei San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Goldthread Rhizomes - Huang Lian - as a key herb). Qing Wei San belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Drains Stomach Fire".

Read more about Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat here

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

Liver Qi Stagnation with Spleen Qi Deficiency that transforms into Heat

In addition to red eyes, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation with Spleen Qi Deficiency that transforms into Heat include dry mouth, irritability and heavy periods.

Liver Qi Stagnation with Spleen Qi Deficiency that transforms into Heat is often treated with Jia Wei Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Jia Wei 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: "Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation".

Read more about Liver Qi Stagnation with Spleen Qi Deficiency that transforms into Heat here

Four herbal formulas that might help with red eyes

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San

Source date: 2002 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver Fire from Stagnant Liver Qi.

Why might Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San help with red eyes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire' of which red eyes is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Stagnant Liver-Qi Turning Into Fire include breast distention, irritability and depression.

Read more about Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San here

Gua Lou San

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Remove breast carbuncle (mastitis) after birth giving.

Why might Gua Lou San help with red eyes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which red eyes is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Mastitis.

Read more about Gua Lou San here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with red eyes?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Mastitis.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Source date: Ming dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation. Tonifies Spleen. Clears Deficient Heat. Nourishes the blood.

Why might Jia Wei Xiao Yao San help with red eyes?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation with Spleen Qi Deficiency that transforms into Heat' of which red eyes is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Qi Stagnation With Spleen Qi Deficiency That Transforms Into Heat include dry mouth, irritability and heavy periods.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat red eyes

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with red eyes?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat red eyes as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Gua Lou San 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with red eyes?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat red eyes as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Wen Dan 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with red eyes?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat red eyes as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Gua Lou San for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

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 Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with red eyes?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat red eyes as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with red eyes?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat red eyes as a symptom, like Wen Dan Tang or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here