Weight loss according to Chinese Medicine

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Weight loss 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 weight loss 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 weight loss is often associated with vomiting of watery fluids, splashing sound in the stomach and feeling of fullness in the chest in the pattern “Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause weight loss.

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

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause weight loss

In Chinese Medicine weight loss 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.

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

Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine

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

Tongue coating: Sticky coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

When the transportative and transformative functions of the Middle-Burner are damaged (often by Cold), Phlegm-Fluids accumulate in the Stomach and epigastric area. This leads to the symptoms such as the vomiting of watery fluids or splashing sounds in the stomach.

In addition to weight loss, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine include vomiting of watery fluids, splashing sound in the stomach and feeling of fullness in the chest.

Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine is often treated with Xiao Chai Hu Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Chai Hu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize lesser yang-warp disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer)".

Read more about Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine here

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

Heart and Spleen Qi and Blood Deficiency

In addition to weight loss, other symptoms associated with Heart and Spleen Qi and Blood Deficiency include shortness of breath, palpitations and forgetfulness.

Heart and Spleen Qi and Blood Deficiency is often treated with Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang, a herbal formula made of 14 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi and Blood".

Read more about Heart and Spleen Qi and Blood Deficiency here

Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp

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

Tongue coating: Thick white coating

In addition to weight loss, other symptoms associated with Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp include shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness.

Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp is often treated with Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang, a herbal formula made of 9 herbs (including Cinnamon Twigs - Gui Zhi - as a key herb). Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dispel wind-damp", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and inflammations".

Read more about Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp here

Four herbal formulas that might help with weight loss

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Why might Xiao Chai Hu Tang help with weight loss?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine' of which weight loss is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Fluids In The Stomach And Small Intestine include vomiting of watery fluids, splashing sound in the stomach and feeling of fullness in the chest.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang here

Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Nourishes the Heart. Calms the spirit.

Why might Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang help with weight loss?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heart and Spleen Qi and Blood Deficiency' of which weight loss is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Heart And Spleen Qi And Blood Deficiency include shortness of breath, palpitations and forgetfulness.

Read more about Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang here

Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and inflammations. Unblocks the flow of Yang Qi and promotes movement (in areas with painful obstruction). Clears Wind and Damp. Relieves pain.

Why might Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang help with weight loss?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Painful Obstruction with Wind-Cold-Damp' of which weight loss is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Painful Obstruction With Wind-Cold-Damp include shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness.

Read more about Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu 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 weight loss?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fluids In the Stomach and Small intestine' of which weight loss is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Fluids In The Stomach And Small Intestine include vomiting of watery fluids, splashing sound in the stomach and feeling of fullness in the chest.

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat weight loss

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with weight loss?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weight loss as a symptom, like Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang for instance.

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

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 Jujube Date (Da Zao) help with weight loss?

Because Jujube Date is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weight loss as a symptom, like Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang or Xiao Chai Hu Tang for instance.

Jujube Dates is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach Qi. Tonifies the Blood. Calms the Shen (spirit). Moderates the actions of other herbs in formula.

Read more about Jujube Dates here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with weight loss?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weight loss as a symptom, like Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Xuan Fu Dai Zhe 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 Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with weight loss?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weight loss as a symptom, like Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang for instance.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with weight loss?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat weight loss as a symptom, like Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang or Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here