Weight loss according to Chinese Medicine

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 low-grade fever, malar flush and listlessness in the pattern “Empty-Wind agitating in the Interior”. As you will see below, we have in record two 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 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 weight loss.

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

In Chinese Medicine weight loss is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Empty-Wind agitating in the Interior

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Fine (Xi)

In addition to weight loss, other symptoms associated with Empty-Wind agitating in the Interior include low-grade fever, malar flush and listlessness.

Empty-Wind agitating in the Interior is often treated with Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Achyranthes Roots - Niu Xi - as a key herb). Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that pacify and extinguish internal wind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Sedates the Liver".

Read more about Empty-Wind agitating in the Interior here

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 dizziness, vomiting of watery fluids and dry tongue.

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

Five herbal formulas that might help with weight loss

Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang

Source date: 1918 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Sedates the Liver. Axtinguishes Wind. Nourishes the Yin. Anchors the yang.

Why might Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang help with weight loss?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Empty-Wind agitating in the Interior' of which weight loss is a symptom.

Read more about Zhen Gan Xi Feng Tang here

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.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang here

Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Reverses the flow of Rebellious Stomach Qi. Relieves both Heat and Cold Stagnation in the gastrointestinal tract.

Why might Ban Xia Xie Xin 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.

Read more about Ban Xia Xie Xin 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.

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang here

Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Warms and transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Strengthens the Spleen. Resolves Dampness.

Why might Ling Gui Zhu Gan 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.

Read more about Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang here

Acupuncture points used for weight loss

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 Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Xiao Chai Hu 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 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 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 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 Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang or Ren Shen Yang Rong 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

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with weight loss?

Because White Peony Root 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.

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