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, dizziness and belching 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, dizziness and belching.

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

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 belching.

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

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

Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach include poor appetite, dry mouth and acid reflux.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach is associated with health issues such as Morning Sickness.

Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach 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 Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach here

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

Phlegm-Dampness in the Middle-Burner

In addition to vomiting, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Dampness in the Middle-Burner include nausea, stifling sensation in the chest and epigastrium and coughing of copious thin and white sputum.

Phlegm-Dampness in the Middle-Burner is often treated with Liu Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Liu Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Phlegm-Dampness in the Middle-Burner 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

Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi. Expectorant, treats hiccups.

Why might Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang help with vomiting?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Rebellious Qi include diarrhea, coughing and belching.

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe 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

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with vomiting?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Dampness in the Middle-Burner' of which vomiting is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Dampness In The Middle-Burner include nausea, stifling sensation in the chest and epigastrium and coughing of copious thin and white sputum.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

Zuo Jin Wan

Source date: 1481 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver Heat. Directs Rebellious Qi downward. Stops vomiting.

Why might Zuo Jin Wan help with vomiting?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach can contribute to many health issues, including Morning Sickness.

Read more about Zuo Jin Wan 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 Er Chen 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 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 Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

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 Costus Root (Mu Xiang) 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 Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance).

Costus Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Spleen, the Stomach, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Stagnation of Qi of the digestion in the Spleen, Stomach and Intestines. Relieves Qi Stagnation of the Liver and Gallbladder. Strengthens the Spleen and is used with tonifying herbs to prevent their potential cloying effects.

Read more about Costus Roots 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

Conditions associated with vomiting

Morning sickness