Urinary retention according to Chinese Medicine

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Urinary retention 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 retention 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 retention is often associated with low-grade fever, night sweats and five palm heat in the pattern “Collapse of Yin”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause urinary retention.

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

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause urinary retention

In Chinese Medicine urinary retention 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.

Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) is the king ingredient for Da Bu Yin Wan, a formula used for Collapse of Yin

Collapse of Yin

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Fine (Xi)

In addition to urinary retention, other symptoms associated with Collapse of Yin include low-grade fever, night sweats and five palm heat.

Collapse of Yin is often treated with Da Bu Yin Wan, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Da Bu Yin 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: "Enriches the Yin".

Read more about Collapse of Yin here

Water Plantain (Ze Xie) is the king ingredient for Wu Ling San, a formula used for Greater Yang Accumulation of Water

Greater Yang Accumulation of Water

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

In addition to urinary retention, other symptoms associated with Greater Yang Accumulation of Water include aversion to cold, fever and vomiting of fluids soon after drinking.

Greater Yang Accumulation of Water 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 Greater Yang Accumulation of Water here

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

Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating

In addition to urinary retention, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner include scanty and dark urine, painful urination and dry mouth.

Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner is often treated with Er Miao San, a herbal formula made of 2 herbs (including Phellodendron Bark - Huang Bo - as a key herb). Er Miao San belongs to the category of "formulas that expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Expels Dampness from the Lower Burner".

Read more about Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner here

Four herbal formulas that might help with urinary retention

Da Bu Yin Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Enriches the Yin. Directs fire downward.

Why might Da Bu Yin Wan help with urinary retention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Collapse of Yin' of which urinary retention is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Collapse Of Yin include low-grade fever, night sweats and five palm heat.

Read more about Da Bu Yin Wan here

Er Miao San

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Expels Dampness from the Lower Burner. Drains Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Er Miao San help with urinary retention?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp-Heat In The Lower Burner include scanty and dark urine, painful urination and dry mouth.

Read more about Er Miao San 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 retention?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Greater Yang Accumulation of Water' of which urinary retention is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Greater Yang Accumulation Of Water include aversion to cold, fever and vomiting of fluids soon after drinking.

Read more about Wu Ling San 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 retention?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp-Heat In The Lower Burner include scanty and dark urine, painful urination and dry mouth.

Read more about Ba Zheng San here

Acupuncture points used for urinary retention

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

Why might Phellodendron Bark (Huang Bo) help with urinary retention?

Because Phellodendron Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat urinary retention as a symptom, like Da Bu Yin Wan or Er Miao San for instance.

Phellodendron Bark is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Bladder, the Kidney and the Large intestine.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner. Clears Kidney Yin Deficient Heat. Applied externally or toxic Fire, especially associated with Dampness.

Read more about Phellodendron Bark here

Why might Knotgrass (Bian Xu) help with urinary retention?

Because it is a key herb in Ba Zheng San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner' (a pattern with urinary retention as a symptom)

Knotgrass is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Bladder.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat and encourages urination. Drains Dampness and stops itching. Kills parasites.

Read more about Knotgrass here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with urinary retention?

Because it is a key herb in Da Bu Yin Wan, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Collapse of Yin' (a pattern with urinary retention as a symptom)

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here

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

Because it is a key herb in Wu Ling San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Greater Yang Accumulation of Water' (a pattern with urinary retention as a symptom)

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 Chinese Pink Herb (Qu Mai) help with urinary retention?

Because it is a key herb in Ba Zheng San, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner' (a pattern with urinary retention as a symptom)

Chinese Pink Herbs is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Bladder, the Heart and the Small intestine.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and expels Damp-Heat. Dissolves Blood Stasis and assists blocked menstruation.

Read more about Chinese Pink Herbs here