Sore knees according to Chinese Medicine

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Sore knees 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 sore knees 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 sore knees is often associated with sore back, poor appetite and oedema of ankles in the pattern “Oedema”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause sore knees.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause sore knees

In Chinese Medicine sore knees 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.

Water Plantain (Ze Xie) is the king ingredient for Wu Ling San, a formula used for Oedema

Oedema

Pulse type(s): Hidden (Fu), Slowed-down (Huan)

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

Oedema manifests itself as swellings due to the retention of Body Fluids. Chinese Medicine believes that it originates from the leaking of Body Fluids from their normal pathways into the space between skin and muscles.

In addition to sore knees, other symptoms associated with Oedema include sore back, poor appetite and oedema of ankles.

Oedema is often treated with Wu Ling San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Water Plantain - Ze Xie - as a key herb). Wu Ling San belongs to the category of "formulas that promote urination and leach out dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Promotes urination,".

Read more about Oedema 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 sore knees, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, irritability and poor appetite.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Menopausal Syndrome or Morning Sickness.

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

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

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency

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

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to sore knees, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and sore back.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Vaginal Itching.

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui 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: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney and Liver 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 sore knees, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, tinnitus and sore back.

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

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire

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

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to sore knees, other symptoms associated with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire include dizziness, insomnia and irritability.

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 Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including White Peony Roots - Bai Shao - as a key herb). Xuan Yu Tong Jing 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: "Pacifies the Liver".

Read more about Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire here

Five herbal formulas that might help with sore knees

Wu Pi Yin

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Reduces edema, diuretic. Regulates and strengthens Spleen Qi.

Why might Wu Pi Yin help with sore knees?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Oedema' of which sore knees is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Oedema include sore back, poor appetite and oedema of ankles.

Read more about Wu Pi Yin here

Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Warms and transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Strengthens the Spleen. Resolves Dampness.

Why might Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang help with sore knees?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang here

Zuo Gui Yin

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Tonifies the Kidneys.

Why might Zuo Gui Yin help with sore knees?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency' of which sore knees is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Zuo Gui Yin here

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Why might Qi Ju Di Huang Wan help with sore knees?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which sore knees is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

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 sore knees?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San here

Acupuncture points used for sore knees

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat sore knees

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with sore knees?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sore knees as a symptom, like Wu Pi Yin or Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang 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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with sore knees?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sore knees as a symptom, like Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang or Ping Wei San 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 Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with sore knees?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sore knees as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Yin or Qi Ju Di Huang Wan 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

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with sore knees?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sore knees as a symptom, like Zhen Wu Tang or Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with sore knees?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat sore knees as a symptom, like Zhen Wu Tang or Fang Ji Huang Qi 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

Conditions associated with sore knees

Menopausal syndrome Menstrual cramps