Sneezing according to Chinese Medicine

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Sneezing 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 sneezing 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 sneezing is often associated with runny nose, fever and aversion to cold in the pattern “Wind-Cold invading the Lungs”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause sneezing.

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

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause sneezing

In Chinese Medicine sneezing 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 Lungs is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

Wind-Cold invading the Lungs

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Floating (Fu)

Tongue shape: Partially swollen

In addition to sneezing, other symptoms associated with Wind-Cold invading the Lungs include runny nose, fever and aversion to cold.

Wind-Cold invading the Lungs is often treated with Ma Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ephedra - Ma Huang - as a key herb). Ma Huang 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 exterior cold".

Read more about Wind-Cold invading the Lungs here

Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi) is the king ingredient for Gui Zhi Tang, a formula used for Greater Yang Attack of Wind

Greater Yang Attack of Wind

Pulse type(s): Slow (Chi), Floating (Fu)

In addition to sneezing, other symptoms associated with Greater Yang Attack of Wind include occipital headaches, stiff neck and aversion to wind.

Greater Yang Attack of Wind is often treated with Gui Zhi Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Cinnamon Twigs - Gui Zhi - as a key herb). Gui Zhi 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 pathogens from the muscle layer".

Read more about Greater Yang Attack of Wind here

Honeysuckle Flowers (Jin Yin Hua) is the king ingredient for Yin Qiao San, a formula used for Wind-Heat

Wind-Heat

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

In addition to sneezing, other symptoms associated with Wind-Heat include runny nose, fever and aversion to cold.

Wind-Heat is often treated with Yin Qiao San, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Honeysuckle Flowers - Jin Yin Hua - as a key herb). Yin Qiao San belongs to the category of "external formulas for external disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Wind Heat".

Read more about Wind-Heat here

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

Wind-Heat invading the Lungs

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

In addition to sneezing, other symptoms associated with Wind-Heat invading the Lungs include runny nose, fever and aversion to cold.

Wind-Heat invading the Lungs is often treated with Yin Qiao San, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Honeysuckle Flowers - Jin Yin Hua - as a key herb). Yin Qiao San belongs to the category of "external formulas for external disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Wind Heat".

Read more about Wind-Heat invading the Lungs here

Four herbal formulas that might help with sneezing

Ma Huang Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Releases exterior cold. Treats wheezing.

Why might Ma Huang Tang help with sneezing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Wind-Cold invading the Lungs' of which sneezing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Cold Invading The Lungs include runny nose, fever and aversion to cold.

Read more about Ma Huang Tang here

Gui Zhi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Releases pathogens from the muscle layer. Regulates the Nutritive and Protective Qi.

Why might Gui Zhi Tang help with sneezing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Greater Yang Attack of Wind' of which sneezing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Greater Yang Attack Of Wind include occipital headaches, stiff neck and aversion to wind.

Read more about Gui Zhi Tang here

Sang Ju Yin

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Wind. Stops coughing by invigorating Lung Qi. Clears Heat.

Why might Sang Ju Yin help with sneezing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Wind-Heat' of which sneezing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Heat include runny nose, fever and aversion to cold.

Read more about Sang Ju Yin here

Yin Qiao San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Wind Heat. Clears Heat. Resolves Toxicity.

Why might Yin Qiao San help with sneezing?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Wind-Heat invading the Lungs' of which sneezing is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Heat Invading The Lungs include runny nose, fever and aversion to cold.

Read more about Yin Qiao San here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat sneezing

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with sneezing?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sneezing as a symptom, like Ma Huang Tang or Gui Zhi 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 Cinnamon Twig (Gui Zhi) help with sneezing?

Because Cinnamon Twig is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sneezing as a symptom, like Gui Zhi Tang or Ma Huang Tang for instance.

Cinnamon Twigs is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Adjusts the nutritive Ying and defensive Wei Qi. Relieves the Exterior through sweating. Warms and disperses Cold. Removes obstruction of Yang. Promotes the circulation of Yang Qi in the chest. Regulates and moves blood.

Read more about Cinnamon Twigs here

Why might Wild Mint (Bo He) help with sneezing?

Because Wild Mint is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sneezing as a symptom, like Sang Ju Yin or Yin Qiao San for instance.

Wild Mint is a Cool herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Wind-Heat. Clears Wind-Heat from the head, eyes and throat. Allows the release of toxins from the skin. Moves Stagnant Liver Qi

Read more about Wild Mint here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with sneezing?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sneezing as a symptom, like Gui Zhi Tang or Ge Gen Tang 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

Why might Jujube Date (Da Zao) help with sneezing?

Because Jujube Date is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sneezing as a symptom, like Gui Zhi Tang or Ge Gen Tang for instance.

Jujube Dates is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach Qi. Tonifies the Blood. Calms the Shen (spirit). Moderates the actions of other herbs in formula.

Read more about Jujube Dates here