Vomiting according to Chinese Medicine

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Vomiting 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 vomiting 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 vomiting is often associated with poor appetite, belching and irritability in the pattern “Phlegm”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause vomiting.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause vomiting

In Chinese Medicine vomiting 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.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

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

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include poor appetite, belching and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

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

Stomach Qi rebelling upwards

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Stomach Qi rebelling upwards include belching, nausea and difficulty swallowing.

Stomach Qi rebelling upwards is often treated with Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Cloves - Ding Xiang - as a key herb). Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang belongs to the category of "formulas for a rebellious qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Augments the Qi".

Read more about Stomach Qi rebelling upwards here

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

Phlegm Misting the Heart

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

This is a condition where Phlegm enters the Heart and disturbs the Mind (Shen).

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Phlegm Misting the Heart include muttering to oneself, dull eyes and sudden blackouts.

Phlegm Misting the Heart is often treated with Wen Dan Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Wen Dan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Hot-Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm Misting the Heart here

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

Stomach Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Stomach Deficiency include poor appetite, dry mouth and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stomach Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Morning Sickness.

Stomach Deficiency is often treated with Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dispel phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Spleen and Stomach Qi".

Read more about Stomach Deficiency here

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

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat include dry mouth, fever and constipation.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is associated with health issues such as Mastitis, Breast Engorgement or Morning Sickness.

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is often treated with Qing Wei San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Goldthread Rhizomes - Huang Lian - as a key herb). Qing Wei San 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: "Drains Stomach Fire".

Read more about Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat here

Five herbal formulas that might help with vomiting

Xiao Ban Xia Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Alleviates and removes thin mucus. Directs rebellious Qi downward. Stops vomiting. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Xiao Ban Xia Tang help with vomiting?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which vomiting is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Morning Sickness.

Read more about Xiao Ban Xia Tang here

Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang

Source date: 1706 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Augments the Qi. Warms the Middle Burner. Directs Rebellious Qi downward. Stops hiccup.

Why might Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang help with vomiting?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Qi rebelling upwards' of which vomiting is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Stomach Qi Rebelling Upwards include belching, nausea and difficulty swallowing.

Read more about Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang here

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Why might Er Chen Tang help with vomiting?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Deficiency' of which vomiting is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stomach Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Morning Sickness.

Read more about Er Chen Tang here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with vomiting?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat' of which vomiting is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Morning Sickness.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Di Tan Tang

Source date: 1470 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Removes Phlegm. Opens the sensory orifices. Tonifies Qi.

Why might Di Tan Tang help with vomiting?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm Misting the Heart' of which vomiting is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm Misting The Heart include muttering to oneself, dull eyes and sudden blackouts.

Read more about Di Tan Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat vomiting

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with vomiting?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat vomiting and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat vomiting as a symptom (such as Xiao Ban Xia Tang for instance).

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here

Why might Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) help with vomiting?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat vomiting and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat vomiting as a symptom (such as Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang for instance).

Tangerine Peel is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Spleen and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs.

Read more about Tangerine Peel here

Why might Houpu Magnolia Bark (Hou Pu) help with vomiting?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat vomiting and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat vomiting as a symptom (such as Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang for instance).

Houpu Magnolia Bark is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Moves Rebellious Qi downward, dries Dampness and relieves Food Stagnation. Transforms Phlegm and redirects Rebellious Qi of the Lung.

Read more about Houpu Magnolia Bark here

Why might Bamboo Shaving (Zhu Ru) help with vomiting?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat vomiting and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat vomiting as a symptom (such as Wen Dan Tang for instance).

Bamboo Shavings is a Cool herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Gallbladder, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Clears Phlegm-Heat in the Lungs. Clears Heat in the Stomach and stops vomiting. Cools the Blood and stops bleeding.

Read more about Bamboo Shavings here

Why might Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang) help with vomiting?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat vomiting and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat vomiting as a symptom (such as Li Zhong Wan for instance).

Dried Ginger is a Hot herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Stomach, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and expels Cold. Restores collapse of Yang and expels Interior Cold. Warms the Lungs and assists expectoration of Cold Phlegm. Stops chronic bleeding caused by Cold.

Read more about Dried Ginger here

Conditions associated with vomiting

Morning sickness