Weak limbs according to Chinese Medicine

Weak limbs 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 weak limbs 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 weak limbs is often associated with poor appetite, loose stools and tiredness in the pattern “Qi Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause weak limbs.

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

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause weak limbs

In Chinese Medicine weak limbs 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.

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the king ingredient for Si Jun Zi Tang, a formula used for Qi Deficiency

Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Qi Deficiency simply means lack of Qi. It includes the lack of Original Qi, Nutritive Qi, Defensive Qi or the Qi that resides in Organs or Channels. It mainly manifests itself in a weakened function of Organs and a declining ability of the body to resist diseases.

In addition to weak limbs, other symptoms associated with Qi Deficiency include poor appetite, loose stools and tiredness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si 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 Qi Deficiency here

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

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Qi Deficiency is one of the most commonly seen TCM pattern. It is caused by unhealthy diet such as fat raw or cold food, bad eating habit, emotional stress or damp environment. It is the central pattern to all other Spleen disharmonies, because many other Deficiency patterns derive from it.

In addition to weak limbs, other symptoms associated with Spleen Qi Deficiency include poor appetite, loose stools and lassitude.

Spleen Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si 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 Spleen Qi Deficiency here

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

Spleen Yang Deficiency

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

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Yang Deficiency often develops from Spleen Qi Deficiency, but it is more extensive and severe with additional Cold symptoms, such as cold feeling and cold limbs. The causes are similar to these of Spleen Qi Deficiency, along with surplus consumption of cold, raw foods and drinks and overexposure to cold damp environments and climates.

In addition to weak limbs, other symptoms associated with Spleen Yang Deficiency include poor appetite, loose stools and lassitude.

Spleen Yang Deficiency is often treated with Zhen Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Prepared Aconite - Zhi Fu Zi - as a key herb). Zhen Wu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that warm and transform water and dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys".

Read more about Spleen Yang Deficiency here

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

Spleen not controlling Blood

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo), Fine (Xi)

In addition to weak limbs, other symptoms associated with Spleen not controlling Blood include poor appetite, loose stools and depression.

Spleen not controlling Blood is often treated with Gui Pi Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Gui Pi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi and blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood".

Read more about Spleen not controlling Blood here

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

Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

Kidney Yang Deficiency causes Internal Cold and weakness.

In addition to weak limbs, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yang Deficiency include poor appetite, loose stools and tiredness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yang Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yang Deficiency is often treated with Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Wei Di Huang 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: "Tonifies Yang".

Read more about Kidney Yang Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with weak limbs

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with weak limbs?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Deficiency' of which weak limbs is a symptom.

Read more about Si Jun Zi 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 weak limbs?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen Qi Deficiency' of which weak limbs is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Why might Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang help with weak limbs?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen Yang Deficiency' of which weak limbs is a symptom.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Why might Gui Pi Tang help with weak limbs?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen not controlling Blood' of which weak limbs is a symptom.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang here

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Kidney Yang. Strengthens the Essence.

Why might Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan help with weak limbs?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yang Deficiency' of which weak limbs is a symptom.

Read more about Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan here

Acupuncture points used for weak limbs

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat weak limbs

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with weak limbs?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weak limbs as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung, the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with weak limbs?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weak limbs as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with weak limbs?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weak limbs as a symptom, like Xiao Jian Zhong Tang or Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Liver and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with weak limbs?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weak limbs as a symptom, like Xiao Jian Zhong Tang or Huang Qi Jian Zhong 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 Cinnamon Bark (Rou Gui) help with weak limbs?

Because Cinnamon Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weak limbs as a symptom, like Xiao Jian Zhong Tang or Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang for instance.

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

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