Urinary difficulties according to Chinese Medicine

Urinary difficulties 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 urinary difficulties 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 urinary difficulties is often associated with coughing, back pain and poor appetite in the pattern “Kidney Yang Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause urinary difficulties.

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

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause urinary difficulties

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

Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

Kidney Yang Deficiency causes Internal Cold and weakness.

In addition to urinary difficulties, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yang Deficiency include coughing, back pain and poor appetite.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yang Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yang Deficiency is often treated with Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba 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: "Tonifies Yang".

Read more about Kidney Yang Deficiency here

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

Damp-Cold in the Bladder

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Slow (Chi)

In addition to urinary difficulties, other symptoms associated with Damp-Cold in the Bladder include feeling of heaviness in urethra and pale urine.

Damp-Cold in the Bladder is often treated with Ba Zheng San, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Chinese Pink Herbs - Qu Mai - as a key herb). Ba Zheng San belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and Fire".

Read more about Damp-Cold in the Bladder here

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

Damp-Heat in the Liver

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

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

This pattern is caused by excessive Heat in the Liver and Dampness due to Spleen Deficiency. Dampness can cause the formation of Phlegm.  Patients often have a feeling of fullness. It is often caused by bad diet and lifestyle, hot and damp environment and emotional stress such as anger.

In addition to urinary difficulties, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat in the Liver include vomiting, dark urine and fever.

Damp-Heat in the Liver is often treated with Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Chinese Gentian - Long Dan Cao - as a key herb). Long Dan Xie Gan Tang 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 Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder".

Read more about Damp-Heat in the Liver here

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

Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

According to Chinese medicine, gallstones or kidney stones are a form of Phlegm.

In addition to urinary difficulties, other symptoms associated with Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder include back pain, gallstones and kidney stones.

Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder is often treated with Si Ni San, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Si Ni San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Regulates Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder here

Five herbal formulas that might help with urinary difficulties

Shen Qi Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and warms Kidney Yang.

Why might Shen Qi Wan help with urinary difficulties?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yang Deficiency' of which urinary difficulty is a symptom.

Read more about Shen Qi Wan here

Ba Zheng San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire. Promotes urination. Unblocks painful urinary dribbling.

Why might Ba Zheng San help with urinary difficulties?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Cold in the Bladder' of which urination stopping in the middle of flow is a symptom.

Read more about Ba Zheng San here

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Long Dan Xie Gan Tang help with urinary difficulties?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat in the Liver' of which urinary difficulty is a symptom.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang here

Yin Chen Hao Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Key actions: Clears heat. Resolves dampness. Reduces jaundice.

Why might Yin Chen Hao Tang help with urinary difficulties?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat in the Liver' of which urinary difficulty is a symptom.

Read more about Yin Chen Hao Tang here

Si Ni San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Regulates Liver and Spleen. Eliminates Internal Heat.

Why might Si Ni San help with urinary difficulties?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder' of which urinary difficulty is a symptom.

Read more about Si Ni San here

Acupuncture points used for urinary difficulties

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat urinary difficulties

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with urinary difficulties?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat urinary difficulties as a symptom, like Liu Yi San or Si Ni 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 Cinnamon Twig (Gui Zhi) help with urinary difficulties?

Because Cinnamon Twig is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat urinary difficulties as a symptom, like Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Shen Qi Wan for instance.

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

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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with urinary difficulties?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat urinary difficulties 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 Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) help with urinary difficulties?

Because Prepared Aconite is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat urinary difficulties as a symptom, like Zhen Wu Tang or Shen Qi Wan for instance.

Prepared Aconite is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Raises the collapse of Yang. Warms the meridians and relieves pain caused by Cold. Reduces Damp caused by Deficiency in Yang.

Read more about Prepared Aconite here

Why might Water Plantain (Ze Xie) help with urinary difficulties?

Because Water Plantain is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat urinary difficulties as a symptom, like Wu Ling San or Ba Wei Di Huang Wan for instance.

Water Plantain is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Bladder and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Causes urination and removes Damp-Heat

Read more about Water Plantain here