Sore throat according to Chinese Medicine

chronic sore throat, sore throat at night and throat pain redirect here

Sore throat 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 throat 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 throat is often associated with dry cough, dizziness and headaches in the pattern “Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause sore throat.

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

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause sore throat

In Chinese Medicine sore throat is a symptom for 3 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 sore throat, other symptoms associated with Yin Deficiency include dry cough, dizziness and headaches.

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

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

Toxic-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu)

In addition to sore throat, other symptoms associated with Toxic-Heat include carbuncles, coughing and fever.

Toxic-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 Toxic-Heat here

Mulberry Leaves (Sang Ye) is the king ingredient for Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang, a formula used for Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire

Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire

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

In addition to sore throat, other symptoms associated with Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire include fever, dry cough and aversion to cold.

Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire is often treated with Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Mulberry Leaves - Sang Ye - as a key herb). Qing Zao Jiu Fei Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that disperse dryness and moisten", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears dryness".

Read more about Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire here

Five herbal formulas that might help with sore throat

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 sore throat?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Yin Deficiency' of which sore throat at night is a symptom.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan 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 sore throat?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Toxic-Heat' of which sore throat is a symptom.

Read more about Yin Qiao San here

Huang Lian Jie Du Tang

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Drains Fire. Resolves Toxin.

Why might Huang Lian Jie Du Tang help with sore throat?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Toxic-Heat' of which sore throat is a symptom.

Read more about Huang Lian Jie Du Tang here

Sang Xing Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears and disperses Dryness.

Why might Sang Xing Tang help with sore throat?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Dry-Heat or Dry-Fire' of which sore throat is a symptom.

Read more about Sang Xing 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 sore throat?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Toxic-Heat' of which sore throat is a symptom.

Read more about Sang Ju Yin here

Acupuncture points used for sore throat

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

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with sore throat?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat sore throat and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat sore throat as a symptom (such as Bai Hu 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 Platycodon Root (Jie Geng) help with sore throat?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat sore throat and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat sore throat as a symptom (such as Yin Qiao San for instance).

Platycodon Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Lung.

Its main actions are: Opens the Lungs and smoothes the flow of Lung Qi. Expels Phlegm and pus from the Lungs and throat, can be used for either Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat according to the other herbs in the formula. Directs the actions of other herbs to the Upper Warmer.

Read more about Platycodon Roots here

Why might Forsythia Fruit (Lian Qiao) help with sore throat?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat sore throat and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat sore throat as a symptom (such as Yin Qiao San for instance).

Forsythia Fruits is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Small intestine.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat and toxicity from the Blood. Dispels External Wind-Heat. Reduces lumps, swollen lymph nodes and sores of a Heated nature.

Read more about Forsythia Fruits here

Why might Wild Mint (Bo He) help with sore throat?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat sore throat and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat sore throat as a symptom (such as Sang Ju Yin 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 Mulberry Leaf (Sang Ye) help with sore throat?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat sore throat and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat sore throat as a symptom (such as Sang Ju Yin for instance).

Mulberry Leaves is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and clears Heat. Clears Heat in the Lung with associated Dryness. Clears the Liver for either Wind-Heat or Yin Deficient Heat. Cools the Blood.

Read more about Mulberry Leaves here