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 diarrhea, coughing and nausea in the pattern “Rebellious Qi”. 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.

Inula Flowers (Xuan Fu Hua) is the king ingredient for Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, a formula used for Rebellious Qi

Rebellious Qi

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red sides

Rebellious Qi is when Qi flows in the wrong direction. For instance, if one suffers from a rebellious Stomach Qi (a common case), the normal downward flow of Stomach Qi is disrupted and it goes upward instead. This may result in nausea, vomiting, belching or hiccupping.

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Rebellious Qi include diarrhea, coughing and nausea.

Rebellious Qi is often treated with Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Inula Flowers - Xuan Fu Hua - as a key herb). Xuan Fu Dai Zhe 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: "Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi".

Read more about Rebellious Qi here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi Stagnation

Qi Stagnation

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

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Red sides

Qi Stagnation refers to Qi becoming stuck or stagnant, a bit like a traffic jam on the freeway. This restricted flow of Qi can be body-wide or happen in any specific Organ.

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Qi Stagnation include abdominal pain, poor appetite and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation.

Qi Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao 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: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Qi Stagnation here

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

Dampness in the Gallbladder

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

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Dampness in the Gallbladder include feeling of heaviness, jaundice and hypochondriac pain.

Dampness in the Gallbladder is often treated with San Ren Tang, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Apricot Seeds - Xing Ren - as a key herb). San Ren Tang 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 Damp-Heat".

Read more about Dampness in the Gallbladder here

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

Rebellious Liver Qi

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Rebellious Liver Qi include dizziness, irritability and belching.

Rebellious Liver Qi is often treated with Chai Hu Shu Gan San, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Chai Hu Shu Gan San belongs to the category of "formulas that promote qi movement", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood".

Read more about Rebellious Liver Qi here

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

Stomach Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Stomach Qi Stagnation include irritability, nausea and belching.

Stomach Qi Stagnation is often treated with Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that promote qi movement", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm".

Read more about Stomach Qi Stagnation here

Five herbal formulas that might help with vomiting

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Why might Chai Hu Shu Gan San help with vomiting?

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

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San here

Si Mo Tang

Source date: 1253 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Directs rebellious Qi downward. Expands the chest and dissipates clumping.

Why might Si Mo Tang help with vomiting?

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

Read more about Si Mo Tang here

San Ren Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Damp-Heat. Disseminates the Qi. Facilitates the Qi mechanisms.

Why might San Ren Tang help with vomiting?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Dampness in the Gallbladder' of which nausea or vomiting is a symptom.

Read more about San Ren 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 vomiting?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Rebellious Liver Qi' of which nausea or vomiting is a symptom.

Read more about Si Ni San here

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Why might Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang help with vomiting?

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

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang here

Acupuncture points used for vomiting

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 Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

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 Lung and the Spleen.

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 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 Ju Pi Zhu Ru 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 Goldthread Rhizome (Huang Lian) 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 Zuo Jin Wan for instance).

Goldthread Rhizomes is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Liver, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Lower Burner. Eliminates Fire toxicity especially when there is associated Dampness. Acts as a sedative by eliminating Heart Fire. Eliminates Stomach Fire. Expel parasites

Read more about Goldthread Rhizomes 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 Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

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