Urinary incontinence according to Chinese Medicine

TCM Education Center > Symptoms list > Urinary incontinence

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Urinary incontinence 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 incontinence 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 incontinence is often associated with vaginal discharge, premature ejaculation and back pain in the pattern “Kidney Qi not Firm”.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of urinary incontinence we’ve identified two 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 incontinence.

Kidney Qi not Firm, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause urinary incontinence

In Chinese Medicine urinary incontinence is a symptom for the pattern "Kidney Qi not Firm". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

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

Kidney Qi not Firm

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Kidney Qi not Firm means Kidney Qi Deficiency. Two characteristics are typical in this pattern. Firstly, it is a type of Kidney Yang Deficiency with the associated Cold symptoms. Secondly, it is a type of sinking of Kidneys Qi, thus with many ‘leaking’ downwards symptoms.

In addition to urinary incontinence, other symptoms associated with Kidney Qi not Firm include vaginal discharge, premature ejaculation and back pain.

Kidney Qi not Firm is often treated with You Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). You Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that warm yang and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang".

Read more about Kidney Qi not Firm here

Two herbal formulas that might help with urinary incontinence

You Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Warms and tonifies Kidney Yang. Replenishes the Essence. Tonifies the Blood.

Why might You Gui Wan help with urinary incontinence?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Qi not Firm' of which urinary incontinence is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Qi Not Firm include vaginal discharge, premature ejaculation and back pain.

Read more about You Gui Wan here

Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Stabilizes the Kidneys. Binds up the semen.

Why might Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan help with urinary incontinence?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Qi not Firm' of which urinary incontinence is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Qi Not Firm include vaginal discharge, premature ejaculation and back pain.

Read more about Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan here

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

Why might Deer Antler Glue (Lu Jiao Jiao) help with urinary incontinence?

Because it is a key herb in You Gui Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Kidney Qi not Firm' (a pattern with urinary incontinence as a symptom)

Deer Antler Glue is a Warm herb that tastes Salty and Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Yang tonification of the Kidneys and Liver, and to nourish vital Essence and Blood

Read more about Deer Antler Glue here

Why might Milkvetch Seeds (Sha Yuan Zi) help with urinary incontinence?

Because it is a key herb in Jin Suo Gu Jing Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Kidney Qi not Firm' (a pattern with urinary incontinence as a symptom)

Milkvetch Seeds is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies Kidney Yang. Consolidates Essence and semen. Strengthens vision.

Read more about Milkvetch Seeds here

Why might Cinnamon Bark (Rou Gui) help with urinary incontinence?

Because it is a key herb in You Gui Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Kidney Qi not Firm' (a pattern with urinary incontinence as a symptom)

Cinnamon Bark is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and Kidneys and tonifies the Yang. Expels Cold, Warms the meridians, promotes circulation of Qi and Blood and relieves pain. Used with tonics to assist in the generation of Qi and Blood.

Read more about Cinnamon Bark here

Why might Prepared Aconite (Zhi Fu Zi) help with urinary incontinence?

Because it is a key herb in You Gui Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Kidney Qi not Firm' (a pattern with urinary incontinence as a symptom)

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

Why might Foxnut Seed (Qian Shi) help with urinary incontinence?

Because it is a herb specifically indicated to treat urinary incontinence as can be seen on Foxnut Seed's page.

Foxnut Seeds is a Neutral herb that tastes Sour and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and stops diarrhea. Strengthens the Kidneys and restrains Essence. Dispels Dampness and relieves leukorrhea.

Read more about Foxnut Seeds here