Urinary difficulties according to Chinese Medicine

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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 back pain, gallstones and kidney stones in the pattern “Phlegm in Kidneys or Gallbladder”. As you will see below, we have in record five 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 five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause urinary difficulties

In Chinese Medicine urinary difficulties 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.

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

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

Oedema

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

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 urinary difficulties, other symptoms associated with Oedema include sore knees, poor appetite and feeling of heaviness.

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

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

Talc (Hua Shi) is the king ingredient for Liu Yi San, a formula used for Summer Heat

Summer Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Soggy (Ru)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

In addition to urinary difficulties, other symptoms associated with Summer Heat include irritability, diarrhea and vomiting.

Summer Heat is often treated with Liu Yi San, a herbal formula made of 2 herbs (including Talc - Hua Shi - as a key herb). Liu Yi San belongs to the category of "formulas that dispel summer-heat and facilitate resolution of dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Summer-Heat".

Read more about Summer Heat here

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

Spleen Deficiency with Dampness

In addition to urinary difficulties, other symptoms associated with Spleen Deficiency with Dampness include edema, diarrhea and dark urine.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Spleen Deficiency with Dampness is associated with health issues such as Vaginal Itching.

Spleen Deficiency with Dampness 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 Spleen Deficiency with Dampness here

Five herbal formulas that might help with urinary difficulties

Liu Yi San

Source date: 1172 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Clears Summer-Heat. Drains Dampness. Supplements Qi.

Why might Liu Yi San help with urinary difficulties?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Summer Heat' of which urinary difficulties is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Summer Heat include irritability, diarrhea and vomiting.

Read more about Liu Yi San 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 difficulties is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm In Kidneys Or Gallbladder include back pain, gallstones and kidney stones.

Read more about Si Ni San here

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 urinary difficulties?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Oedema include sore knees, poor appetite and feeling of heaviness.

Read more about Wu Pi Yin here

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 difficulties is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Yang Deficiency include coughing, back pain and poor appetite.

Read more about Shen Qi Wan here

Wu Ling San

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Promotes urination,. Warms the Yang. Strengthens the Spleen. Promotes Qi transformation function. Drains Dampness. Clears edema.

Why might Wu Ling San help with urinary difficulties?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen Deficiency with Dampness' of which urinary difficulties is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Spleen Deficiency With Dampness include edema, diarrhea and dark urine.

Read more about Wu Ling 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 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 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 Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

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 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 Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

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 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

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 Spleen, the Heart and the Kidney.

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