Scanty and dark urine according to Chinese Medicine

Scanty and dark urine 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 scanty and dark urine 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 scanty and dark urine is often associated with dizziness, irritability and insomnia in the pattern “Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause scanty and dark urine.

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

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause scanty and dark urine

In Chinese Medicine scanty and dark urine 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.

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a formula used for Yin Deficiency

Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red

In the case of Yin Deficiency, the body is short in the cooling, moistening and nurturing aspects. This leads to Heat and Dryness accompanied by weakness and lack of strength and resistance. Yin becomes Deficient by over-working, lack of sleep, over-exercising, overindulgence in sex, long-term chronic diseases, internal injury due to the seven emotions, and the over-eating of dry and hot-natured foods.

In addition to scanty and dark urine, other symptoms associated with Yin Deficiency include dizziness, irritability and insomnia.

Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Yin Deficiency here

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

Kidney Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can be caused by prolonged overwork, excessive sexual activity, chronic long term illnesses, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Kidney Yang tonics herbs, smoking and Kidney depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar, and fruit juices.

In addition to scanty and dark urine, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome, Prolonged Periods or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency here

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

Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to scanty and dark urine, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder include dizziness, tinnitus and fever.

Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder is often treated with Yin Chen Hao Tang, a herbal formula made of 3 herbs (including Virgate Wormwood - Yin Chen - as a key herb). Yin Chen Hao Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears heat".

Read more about Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder here

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

Damp-Heat invading the Spleen

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

In addition to scanty and dark urine, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat invading the Spleen include bitter taste in the mouth, feeling of heat and feeling of heaviness.

Damp-Heat invading the Spleen is often treated with Lian Po Yin, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Goldthread Rhizomes - Huang Lian - as a key herb). Lian Po Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat".

Read more about Damp-Heat invading the Spleen here

Five herbal formulas that might help with scanty and dark urine

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with scanty and dark urine?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Yin Deficiency' of which scanty dark urination is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1584 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Yin. Drains Fire.

Why might Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan help with scanty and dark urine?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which scanty dark urination is a symptom.

Read more about Zhi Bo Di Huang Wan here

Yin Chen Hao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Clears heat. Resolves dampness. Reduces jaundice.

Why might Yin Chen Hao Tang help with scanty and dark urine?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder' of which scanty and dark urine is a symptom.

Read more about Yin Chen Hao Tang here

Lian Po Yin

Source date: 1862 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Dampness. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Why might Lian Po Yin help with scanty and dark urine?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat invading the Spleen' of which scanty and dark urine is a symptom.

Read more about Lian Po Yin here

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with scanty and dark urine?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which scanty dark urination is a symptom.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here

Acupuncture points used for scanty and dark urine

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat scanty and dark urine

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with scanty and dark urine?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat scanty and dark urine as a symptom, like Dao Chi San or Ge Geng Huang Qin Huang Lian 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 Cape Jasmine Fruit (Zhi Zi) help with scanty and dark urine?

Because Cape Jasmine Fruit is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat scanty and dark urine as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Yin Chen Hao Tang for instance.

Cape Jasmine Fruits is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Lung and the Sanjiao.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and calms spirit. Drains Damp-Heat affecting the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears Heat in the Blood and stops bleeding. Anti-inflammatory.

Read more about Cape Jasmine Fruits here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with scanty and dark urine?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat scanty and dark urine as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San for instance.

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

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 Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang) help with scanty and dark urine?

Because Unprepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat scanty and dark urine as a symptom, like Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan or Dao Chi San for instance.

Unprepared Rehmannia is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat by Cooling Blood. Tonifies Yin by promoting Fluid production. Soothes the Heart by calming Blazing Fire. Cools and nourishes.

Read more about Unprepared Rehmannia here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with scanty and dark urine?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat scanty and dark urine as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San 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