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 carbuncles, coughing and fever in the pattern “Toxic-Heat”. As you will see below, we have in record five 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 five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause sore throat

In Chinese Medicine sore throat 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.

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

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 sore throat, other symptoms associated with Wind-Heat include coughing, 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 sore throat, other symptoms associated with Wind-Heat invading the Lungs include coughing, 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

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 dry mouth.

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

Mulberry Leaves (Sang Ye) is the king ingredient for Sang Xing Tang, a formula used for Dry-Wind

Dry-Wind

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

In addition to sore throat, other symptoms associated with Dry-Wind include dry cough, dry mouth and aversion to cold.

Dry-Wind is often treated with Sang Xing Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Mulberry Leaves - Sang Ye - as a key herb). Sang Xing Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear dryness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears and disperses Dryness".

Read more about Dry-Wind here

Five herbal formulas that might help with sore throat

Bai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Clears Qi-level Heat. Drains Stomach Fire. Generates fluids. Alleviates thirst.

Why might Bai Hu 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.

Other symptoms characteristic of Toxic-Heat include carbuncles, coughing and fever.

Read more about Bai Hu 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 'Wind-Heat' of which sore throat is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Wind-Heat include coughing, 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 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 aversion to cold.

Read more about Yin Qiao San here

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Why might Xing Su San 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.

Other symptoms characteristic of Dry-Heat Or Dry-Fire include fever, dry cough and dry mouth.

Read more about Xing Su San 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-Wind' of which sore throat is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Dry-Wind include dry cough, dry mouth and aversion to cold.

Read more about Sang Xing Tang 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 Bai Hu 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 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 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

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