Sore throat according to Chinese Medicine

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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 coughing, fever and headaches in the pattern “Wind Heat invading the Lungs”. 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 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 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.

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 sore throat, other symptoms associated with Wind Heat invading the Lungs include coughing, fever and headaches.

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

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 throat, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, dry mouth and insomnia.

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

Full Heat in the Small Intestine

Pulse type(s): Overflowing (Hong), Rapid (Shu)

In addition to sore throat, other symptoms associated with Full Heat in the Small Intestine include mouth ulcers, insomnia and abdominal pain.

Full Heat in the Small Intestine is often treated with Dao Chi San, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Akebia Stems - Mu Tong - as a key herb). Dao Chi 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: "Clears the Heart".

Read more about Full Heat in the Small Intestine here

Four herbal formulas that might help with sore throat

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 'Wind Heat invading the Lungs' of which sore throat is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind Heat Invading The Lungs include coughing, fever and headaches.

Read more about Yin Qiao San 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 throat?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney And Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, dry mouth and insomnia.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan here

Dao Chi San

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Clears the Heart. Promotes urination.

Why might Dao Chi San help with sore throat?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Full Heat in the Small Intestine' of which sore throat is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Full Heat In The Small Intestine include mouth ulcers, insomnia and abdominal pain.

Read more about Dao Chi San here

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 sore throat?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney And Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, dry mouth and insomnia.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

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 Yin Qiao 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 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 Greater Burdock Fruit (Niu Bang Zi) 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).

Greater Burdock Fruits is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Heat. Allows the release of toxicity from the surface and clears Heat. Reduces swelling and clears pathogenic Heat. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieves sore throat.

Read more about Greater Burdock 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 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 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

Other symptoms often associated with sore throat

Carbuncles Coughing Dry cough Boils Fever Erysipelas Mouth ulcers Dizziness Sores Constipation