Traditional Chinese Medicine Internal Organ Syndromes

Internal organ syndromes require a practitioner to first make a general diagnosis before treatment can commence. In this way, traditional Chinese medicine is similar to Western medicine. However, a practitioner uses different methods to make a diagnosis -- taking into account the eight parameters, the vital substances, and the pernicious influences.

Once a practitioner establishes a general diagnosis, the next step is to determine which organ systems are affected. This logical procedure leads to a final diagnosis that is specific enough to enable the physician to prepare a focused treatment plan.

For example, a patient may have chronic night sweats, irritability, and thirst -- general signs of yin deficiency -- but the practitioner still does not know which organ system to nourish at this point. Keeping in mind the normal functions of the organs, the practitioner might find further symptoms of palpitations, insomnia, and poor memory, concluding that the yin deficiency affects mostly the heart. The treatment plan would then include an herbal formula to nourish heart yin.

It is rare when all of the classic symptoms of a typical syndrome are present. In fact, it is more common for just a few symptoms to occur, and these often arise from two or three simultaneous disease patterns. For example, a person might have chronic spleen qi deficiency with symptoms of only poor appetite and loose stools. The same person could also have liver qi stagnation with the only symptom being premenstrual syndrome once a month. If this person catches a cold on top of these underlying disorders, her symptoms would involve three separate patterns of disharmony.

Early-stage and mild versions of syndromes may have very subtle symptom patterns; these require the diagnostic skills of an experienced practitioner. It is important to remember that the functions of organs in traditional Chinese medicine may overlap those of their Western counterparts, but they also have totally unrelated functions. For this reason, it is dangerous to attempt to find a standard correspondence between the two.

For example, a chest cold might be diagnosed as a lung condition under both systems, but asthma might be a kidney condition in traditional Chinese medical diagnostics. Both medical systems stand on their own strengths, but an attempt to artificially link the two can often make them less effective. Attempting to treat the flu simply with Chinese herbs that have antiviral qualities is less effective than getting an accurate diagnosis -- wind heat, for example -- and using a traditional formula for that wind heat.

On the following pages, read more about syndromes that affect specific organs and the various conditions of imbalance that make up the foundation for an effective traditional treatment plan. Please keep in mind that many of these descriptions are for severe versions of the syndromes. The description of each pattern lists the full range of severity, from a mild set of symptoms to life threatening disease. If intervention takes place at the early stages, it is possible to restore balance before the symptoms become more severe.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Lung Syndromes

Lung Syndromes and fever
Fever may be a sign of
wind cold or wind heat.

Lung syndromes are common, as the lungs are in direct contact with the external environment; therefore, they are the organs most subject to attacks by external pernicious influences.

They are also prone to disorders of yin deficiency and dryness, due to their need for a somewhat moist environment to function. (Each organ has its "favorite" climate, and a moist environment helps the lungs function.) Since the lungs govern qi, they affect the energy of the entire body if they become qi deficient.

Lung Qi Deficiency: This syndrome is characterized by shortness of breath, weak voice, spontaneous sweating, chronic weak cough, fatigue, bright pale face, frequent colds, a weak pulse, and a pale tongue. Some corresponding Western conditions might be asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, allergies, depressed immune function, AIDS, and cancer. The treatment principle is to tonify lung qi with herbs such as ginseng (ren shen) and Astragalus (huang qi).

Lung Yin Deficiency: A chronic deficiency pattern, lung yin deficiency produces such symptoms as night sweats, low-grade fever, dry cough, small amounts of sticky phlegm or no phlegm, dry mouth, thirst, red cheeks, vocal distortions (weak voice, hoarseness, pitch changes), heat in the "five palms" (palms, soles, and sternum), red tongue with little or no coat, and a small rapid pulse. Western diagnoses are smoker's cough, tuberculosis, chronic sore throat, or chronic bronchitis. Treatment is to tonify lung yin and clear deficiency heat with herbs such as Rehmannia (sheng di huang) or Ophiopogon (mai men dong).

Wind Cold: This acute excess syndrome produces chills, possibly a mild fever, nasal congestion, head­aches, upper body aches, a cough with clear or white phlegm that is easy to expectorate, and a tight, floating pulse. The common cold, acute bronchitis, and the early stages of pneumonia are considered to be wind cold conditions in traditional Chinese medicine. The treatment principle is to "release the exterior" with warm, diaphoretic herbs such as Ephedra (ma huang).

Wind Heat: This acute pattern differs somewhat from wind cold due to the influence of heat. Symptoms include a fever worse than the chills, a loud cough with yellow phlegm, sore throat, and a rapid, floating pulse. Treatment involves cooling herbs that release the exterior, such as honeysuckle (jin yin hua) or field mint (bo he).

Damp Phlegm Blocking the Lung: Copious amounts of clear or white phlegm is the main symptom of this excess syndrome. Other symptoms are shortness of breath, fullness in the chest, a thick, greasy tongue coating, slippery pulse, and a worsening of the symptoms when lying down. Corresponding Western conditions are chronic bronchitis with an acute episode, asthma, and bronchiectasis. Treatment involves herbs that clear phlegm from the lungs such as Pinellia (ban xia).

Hot Phlegm Stagnation: A serious internal excess pattern, hot phlegm stagnation produces such symptoms as difficulty breathing, thirst, a loud, frequent cough with green-yellow or bloody phlegm, a fishy smell on the breath, constipation, dark urine, chest pain, high fever, red tongue with a thick yellow coat, and a slippery, rapid pulse. Western diagnoses could be lung abscess, acute bronchitis, or pneumonia. Cooling antibiotic herbs, such as Houttuynia (yu xing cao) and Scutellaria (huang qin), are used.

Dryness Attacking the Lung: Symptoms of this syndrome include a dry cough, dry and cracked tongue coat, loss of voice, dry nose, sore, dry throat, and a floating, rapid pulse. Although it shares some aspects of yin deficiency, dryness attacking the lung is acute and external, while yin deficiency is chronic and internal. Another distinguishing factor is the lack of deficiency heat signs such as night sweats and "five palm heat." Some corresponding Western conditions are the common cold, acute bronchitis, later-stage pneumonia, allergy, and dehydration due to an overly dry environment. Herbs that moisten the lungs and release the exterior, such as Phragmites (lu gen) and kudzu (ge gen), are used.

On the next page, find out about syndromes that affect the spleen -- an organ vital to digestion and the circulatory system -- and how to treat spleen syndromes.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Spleen Syndromes

Spleen syndromes range from those that involve digestion to those that affect the circulatory system. The main functions of the spleen are to transform food and fluids, nourish the muscles, and control the blood, keeping it within the blood vessels. For this reason, most patterns of disharmony of the spleen involve poor appetite and digestion, fatigue, and bleeding disorders.

The spleen prefers a dry environment, so it is prone to conditions of dampness from climate and dietary factors. It is especially sensitive to cold, damp weather and cold or raw foods, both of which are fertile ground for the pathogenic factor of dampness.

When the spleen functions properly, the body is strong and well nourished. Blood, fluids, and the organs are also in their proper places; thus there is no deficient-type bleeding (blood), edema (fluids), or prolapse (organs).

Spleen Qi Deficiency: When the qi of the spleen is deficient, the spleen is unable to perform its functions of digestion. In addition to the typical qi deficiency signs of fatigue and pale face and tongue, additional symptoms specific to the spleen include poor appetite, weight loss, fullness and sleepiness after eating, and loose stools. (Other conditions are associated with spleen qi deficiency, such as sagging organs and bleeding, but these are discussed as separate syndromes.) Some corresponding Western conditions are ulcers, gastritis, chronic fatigue, AIDS, chronic indigestion, and hepatitis. Treatment consists of tonifying spleen qi with herbs such as ginseng (ren shen). The classic formula to tonify spleen qi is Four Gentlemen decoction (Si Jun Zi Tang).

Spleen Yang Deficiency: This more severe version of spleen qi deficiency has the above-mentioned symptoms as well as cold signs such as cold hands and feet, edema, a desire for warm food and drinks, abdominal discomfort after eating cold food, and diarrhea with undigested food in the stools. Western diseases that fit this syndrome are chronic gastroenteritis, infection with Candida, food allergies, and chronic hepatitis. The treatment principle is to tonify spleen qi and yang and warm the interior with herbs such as ginseng (ren shen), Astragalus (huang qi), ginger (gan jiang), and black pepper (hu jiao).

Spleen Qi Collapse or Spleen Qi Sinking: Since spleen qi supports the organs with its uplifting energy, this aspect of deficient qi is associated with a prolapse (sagging) and a sensation of bearing down in the internal organs. Some organs affected are the stomach, transverse colon, uterus, and rectum. Hemorrhoids are also a condition of spleen qi collapse. In some cases, miscarriages can occur from lack of qi to "hold things up," or retain the fetus with "upward" force. Treatment is to "raise the middle qi" with classic formulas such as Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang ("Decoction to Tonify the Middle Burner and Raise the Vital Energy"). This formula contains herbs such as ginseng (ren shen) and Astragalus (huang qi) to build the spleen qi, along with herbs that have an uplifting energy such as Bupleurum (chai hu) and Cimicifuga (sheng ma).

Spleen Not Controlling the Blood: Another function of spleen qi is to keep the blood flowing within the vessels. When this function is disturbed, standard symptoms of spleen qi deficiency occur along with bleeding under the skin (easy bruising), excessive menstrual bleeding, nosebleeds, and blood in the urine or stools. Since this bleeding is due to deficiency, the color of the blood is often lighter than might occur in excess bleeding disorders such as heat in the blood. Some of the Western disease patterns that could fall into this pattern are any chronic bleeding diseases, hemophilia, bleeding hemorrhoids, bruising from vitamin deficiency, and periodontal disease. The treatment is to tonify spleen qi and tonify blood. The classic formula for this purpose, Eight Treasure Decoction (Ba Zhen Tang), combines the standard formulas for qi and blood tonification.

Cold and Damp Surrounding the Spleen: This excess pattern arises when the dampness pernicious influence overwhelms the spleen. Symptoms include abdominal fullness and bloating, nausea, vomiting, watery stool, lack of thirst, sticky sensation and sweet taste in the mouth, dizziness, heavy feelings in the body, and a thick, greasy coat on the tongue. Some corresponding Western conditions are stomach "flu," chronic gastritis, chronic colitis, ulcers, and hepatitis. The treatment involves the use of fragrant herbs that "penetrate the dampness and wake up the spleen," such as patchouli (huo xiang).

Damp Heat in the Spleen: In this excess disharmony condition, the dampness symptoms combine with those of heat. They are: jaundice, yellow eyes, bitter taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, dislike of greasy food, burning urine and diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and mouth sores. Some Western diagnoses are hepatitis, gallbladder disease, and acute gastroenteritis. The treatment principle is to clear damp heat with herbs such as Coptis (huang lian) and Artemisia (yin chen hao).

On the next page, read descriptions about conditions that affect the heart and how Chinese medicine can help alleviate signs and symptoms associated with heart problems.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Heart and Pericardium Syndromes

Heart and pericardium syndromes can manifest themselves either physically -- as in some circulatory conditions such as cold hands and feet -- or in mental or emotional disturbances.

Insomnia in traditional Chinese medicine
Insomnia is a common complaint of people
with heart syndromes.

The heart governs the blood and vessels and is the seat of the mind and spirit. Generally, external pernicious influences don't affect the heart directly; instead, they typically attack the pericardium, the sac around the heart known in Chinese medicine as the "heart protector." The pericardium is considered the sixth yin organ, but its functions are typically linked with the heart. The shield between the heart and the exterior, the pericardium protects the heart from the invasion of external pathogenic factors.

In almost all disharmonies of the heart, palpitations are a key symptom. This pounding of the heart occurs in both excess and deficiency patterns.

Heart Qi Deficiency: Palpitations are the key symptom in this deficiency pattern. Other symptoms are spontaneous sweating (sweating without exertion or overheating), physical and mental fatigue, depression, pale face, and a weak pulse, especially in the heart area on the left wrist. This pattern can correspond to chronic fatigue, neurasthenia (chronic mental and physical weakness), or heart disease involving the muscle, valves, or vessels. The treatment principle for this deficiency is to tonify heart qi with standard qi tonics such as ginseng (ren shen), along with herbs that act specifically on the heart, such as Schizandra (wu wei zi) and Biota (bai zi ren).

Heart Yang Deficiency: This syndrome has all the symptoms of heart qi deficiency with the addition of cold symptoms: feeling cold in the limbs or entire body; purple face, tongue, and lips due to cold stagnating the circulation; and a slow, choppy, and intermittent pulse. A deeper, more serious condition than qi deficiency, heart yang deficiency typically corresponds to a Western diagnosis of true heart disease. The treatment is to tonify heart yang with moxibustion and herbs such as ginseng (ren shen) and aconite (fu zi).

Note: Aconite is a highly toxic herb, and it should only be used in a formula prepared and supervised by a qualified practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine.

Heart Yang Collapse: A more severe version of heart yang deficiency, heart yang collapse produces all the symptoms of qi and yang deficiency plus copious cold sweats, extreme cold in the limbs, very weak breathing, a minute pulse, and abnormal shen that precedes a comatose state. Corresponding Western diagnoses are shock or heart attack, so this syndrome requires hospitalization. In China, the person receives herbal treatment while hospitalized. Typical treatment is an intravenous drip of Salvia (dan shen) and oral doses of ginseng (ren shen) and aconite (fu zi).

Heart Blood Deficiency: This pattern of deficiency involving the blood produces symptoms of palpitations, fearfulness and a propensity to be easily startled, insomnia, excessive dreams while asleep, mental restlessness, forgetfulness, dizziness, pale face and tongue, and a thin, small pulse. The insomnia is due to an insufficient amount of blood to provide a calm foundation for the spirit. Possibly corresponding to anemia or emotional imbalances, this deficiency syndrome is treated by tonifying heart blood with herbs such as Angelica sinensis (dang gui) and longan fruit (long yan rou).

Heart Yin Deficiency: This syndrome of deficiency heat produces red cheeks, night sweats, "five palm heat," dry mouth, thirst for small amounts of water, mental restlessness, insomnia, palpitations, low-grade fever, forgetfulness, excessive dreaming, red tongue with little or no coat, and a small, rapid pulse. A person with this deficiency has difficulty remaining asleep -- the heat condition wakes them. Because the heart is the seat of the spirit, an insufficiency of calming, nurturing yin or blood in the heart results in agitation. Hypertension and hyperthyroidism can match this pattern, which is treated with herbs that clear heat and tonify heart yin such as Emperor's Teapills (Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan).

Heart Fire Uprising: This excess heat pattern produces symptoms that include a red face, dry mouth with a desire for lots of water, a red tip and prickles on the tongue with possible ulcers and pain, bitter taste in the mouth, burning urine, mental restlessness, insomnia, and a full, rapid pulse. Excess heat signs are stronger than those of heat due to yin deficiency. Some corresponding Western conditions are urinary tract infection, high blood pressure, or tongue infection. The treatment aims to clear heat and calm the spirit with acupuncture and herbs such as lotus seed sprouts (lian zi xin) and Coptis (huang lian).

Heart Blood Stagnation: This serious heart condition has symptoms of a sharp, stabbing pain in the heart area, pain that can radiate up the arm, purple face and tongue, fatigue, palpitations, and a choppy, wiry, or intermittent pulse. It sometimes occurs with heart yang or qi deficiency and includes the symptoms common to these patterns. Corresponding Western diseases are angina pectoris, coronary arte­riosclerosis, or pericarditis -- all requiring intensive medical intervention. Treatment involves regulating the qi and vitalizing the blood with circulatory stimulants such as Salvia (dan shen) and Panax pseudoginseng (san qi).

Hot Phlegm Confusing the Heart: This excess condition is characterized by excess heat causing a red face and eyes, irrational and possibly violent behavior, nonstop loud talking, anger, a red tongue with a greasy yellow coat, and a rapid, slippery pulse. It corresponds to the Western diagnoses of mental illness, mania, or encephalitis. The treatment for hot phlegm confusing the heart is to calm the spirit and clear heat and phlegm with acupuncture and herbs such as Coptis (huang lian) and Borneol (bing pian).

Phlegm Misting the Heart Opening: In this condition, which is related to the above syndrome but with less heat, symptoms include a pale tongue with a white coating, mental confusion, difficulty speaking (muttering to oneself, drooling), the sound of phlegm in the throat, and possible loss of consciousness. Some corresponding Western diseases are stroke, epilepsy, mental retardation, or mental illness. The treatment principle is to clear the phlegm and revive the consciousness with scalp acupuncture and herbs that resolve phlegm and wake up the spirit, such as Calamus (shi chang pu).

Pericardium Syndromes: The main syndrome of the pericardium is known as "heat crushing the pericardium," which is characterized by a high fever, mental confusion, convulsions, and, possibly, coma. This pattern can appear in acute febrile diseases with a high fever, such as encephalitis or pericarditis, where the sudden high temperature affects the consciousness. Treatment includes the use of acupuncture points on the pericardium meridian, along with herbs that clear excess heat, such as tree peony root (mu dan pi).

On the next page, learn about the liver, the organ that aids in detoxification, and the syndromes that affect it. Chinese medicine is adept at treating liver syndromes.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Liver Syndromes

Liver syndromes are commonly seen in clinical practice, since the stress and toxicity of modern life (poor diet, chemicals in our food and environment, stress, overwork, etc.) take a toll on the liver. Since the liver plays the central role in the smooth flow of qi and emotion in the body, disharmony of the liver can affect any of the other organs. Typically, disorders of the menstrual cycle or stress-related ailments indicate a problem with the liver.

Liver Qi Stagnation: This is one of the most common diagnoses in traditional Chinese medicine. When the qi of the liver is stuck, symptoms of frustration, irritability, depression, anxiety, fullness in the chest, menstrual disorders, and indigestion can occur. This excess condition can also arise in a person who has experienced long-term depression or frustrations, creating a vicious cycle of cause and effect. Some Western conditions that fit this pattern are premenstrual syndrome, depression, hepatitis, or chronic fatigue. Treatment with acupuncture often has an immediate effect in relieving the symptoms. A classic formula known as Xiao Yao Wan ("Free and Easy Wanderer Pills") is also very effective in rectifying this liver syndrome.

Liver Fire Uprising: This excess heat pattern mainly affects the upper body, since heat rises naturally. The entire face is red, with additional signs and symptoms of red eyes, anger, headache, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), bitter taste in the mouth, insomnia, constipation, dark urine, red tongue with a yellow coat, and a full, rapid pulse. The condition can arise from long-term stagnation of qi due to anger, alcoholism, or chronic liver imbalances that develop into heat patterns. Some corresponding Western diagnoses are hypertension, alcoholism, hyperthyroidism, acute hepatitis, gallbladder infection, ear infection, and conjunctivitis. Treatment involves clearing heat and regulating the liver with acupuncture and herbal formulas such as Long Dan Xie Gan Wan.

Liver and Gallbladder Damp Heat: When dampness accumulates in the body and combines with heat in the liver and gallbladder, this excess syndrome develops. Its symptoms are jaundice and dark urine, which are caused by a stagnation of yellow bile that backs up and is excreted through the skin and urine. Additional symptoms include a lack of appetite, an aversion to greasy food, digestive problems, bitter taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, burning diarrhea, a red tongue with a thick, greasy yellow coat, and a slippery, rapid pulse. In Western medicine, most of these symptoms are typical of acute hepatitis or gallbladder infections, but this pattern can also correspond to herpes, vaginal discharges, testicular pain, and eczema. The treatment principle is to clear heat and drain dampness with herbs such as rhubarb root (da huang), gentian (long dan cao), and Artemisia (yin chen hao).

Liver Wind Moving Internally: Since the liver is in charge of the smooth flow of qi, any abnormal body movements are typically related to liver imbalances due to wind. This internal wind is considered an excess pattern, but it can arise from a variety of causes, such as blood deficiency, excess heat, or liver yin deficiency. The cardinal symptoms involve abnormal movements such as shaking, spasms, tics, rigidity, and convulsions. Dizziness, headache, and difficulty in speaking may also occur. The tongue and pulse signs depend on which underlying pattern has caused the stirring of wind, but the pulse is usually wiry, a typical sign of liver imbalance. This pattern is seen in stroke patients and those with Parkinson disease and cases of seizures associated with a high fever, tetanus, and hypertension. Acupunc­ture can be a very effective treatment, as are herbs that clear liver wind and heat, such as Gastrodia (tian ma), Uncaria (gou teng), and Chrysanthemum (jua hua). If the problem is caused by depletion, the underlying deficiency must be tonified. For example, if wind is due to deficient liver yin, treatment must both tonify the liver yin and subdue the wind.

Cold Stagnation in the Liver Channel: The liver meridian encircles the genital area, so localized disorders in the reproductive organs are often traced to a blockage in that meridian. This syndrome is characterized by pain in the groin, lower abdomen, and testicles and is relieved by application of heat. This pattern typically corresponds to a hernia but may also be present in cold-type menstrual disorders and infertility. Treatment involves warming with moxa and using herbs that regulate qi and warm the liver meridian, such as Galangal (gao liang jiang) and lychee seed (li zhi he).

Liver Blood Deficiency: This syndrome has the typical symptoms of blood deficiency: pale face and tongue, dizziness, dry skin, and thin pulse. The condition of the eyes and nails are clues to the state of the liver, so symptoms may include pale, cracked nails, blurred vision, itchy eyes, night blindness, and visual distortions such as spots and floaters. Menstrual flow may be scanty or nonexistent, and lack of nourishment to the tendons from liver blood deficiency can lead to pain, numbness, or cramping in the legs. Possible Western diagnoses are anemia, malnutrition, hypertension, menstrual disorders, and eye problems. Treatment involves tonifying the blood with standard blood tonics such as Angelica sinensis (dang gui), cooked Rehmannia (shu di huang), and Polygonum multiflorum (he shou wu), along with herbs that specifically nourish the liver such as Lycium fruit (gou qi zi).

Liver Yin Deficiency: This syndrome exhibits the usual signs of "five palm heat": red cheeks, night sweats, red tongue with no coat, and a thin, rapid pulse. Additional symptoms specific to the liver are dizziness, irritability, and dry, irritated eyes. Treatment involves tonifying liver yin and clearing heat with formulas such as Chrysanthemum, Lycium, and Rehmannia Pills (Qi Ju Di Huang Wan).

Liver Yang Rising: If liver yin deficiency continues without treatment, the deficiency heat rises to the head. Known as liver yang rising, it produces additional symptoms of headache and anger. It is an intermediate syndrome -- more severe than a simple yin deficiency but less severe than liver fire. Some Western diagnoses are anemia, chronic hepatitis, hypertension, eye problems, menopause, and menstrual disorders. Treatment involves sedating the excess liver yang with formulas such as Gastrodia and Uncaria Combination (Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin). If the yang rising symptoms are especially severe, heavy herbs that settle yang, such as oyster shell (mu li), are added.

Life Out of Balance
Joe is a 40-year-old executive with a high-stress lifestyle, often working overtime. He drinks coffee frequently to "keep up his energy," and his meals often consist of pastries from a vending machine. His colleagues complain he is prone to bouts of sudden anger for no good reason, so they keep their distance.

He always seems to have a stiff neck, and his face and eyes are often red. His doctor is very concerned about his high blood pressure, and his wife has warned him that she will leave him if he doesn't stop yelling at her at the slightest provocation.
This is a classic case of excess liver yang or fire, caused by Joe's lifestyle and diet.

The symptoms can be alleviated with acupuncture and herbal therapy. However, to achieve lasting healing, Joe's life needs a major overhaul. In addition to working less, the most important change he must make is to eliminate coffee, since it directly overheats the liver. Since caffeine withdrawal can also cause similar symptoms, green tea is a good substitute at first. Although it still has some caffeine, green tea has a cooling energy that disturbs the liver far less. And it can be decreased or eliminated later without causing discomfort.

A well-balanced diet is also essential, since a deficient diet harms the liver and also leads to qi deficiency and a consequent craving for stimulants. Exercise and stress-reduction techniques will also help lower blood pressure and create an appetite for good food.

Once Joe's liver cools down with lifestyle changes, acupuncture, and herbal therapy, he will be much less prone to outbursts of anger. He can then take cooling tonics such as American ginseng, which will give him extra energy without creating all the side effects of coffee.

On the next page, find out about kidney syndromes, which can manifest themselves anywhere in the body but are exclusively of a deficient nature.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Kidney Syndromes

Kidney syndromes can have an effect anywhere in the body, since the kidneys are the source of yin and yang for the entire body. They are the storage site for the essence, the substance responsible for growth, fertility, and vitality, so the kidneys are only subject to syndromes of deficiency. Patterns of deficient qi, yin, or yang are often traced to a corresponding syndrome of deficiency within the kidneys; similarly, a long-term depletion in any organ eventually depletes the kidneys.

Kidney Yang Deficiency: The kidney yang is the source of metabolic fire (the heat needed for digestion and other bodily functions) for the entire body. When kidney yang is depleted, symptoms are cold hands and feet, frequent urination with clear urine or water retention and edema, night urination, pallor, pain in the lower back and knees, low sex drive, apathy, and an aversion to cold environments. This chronic condition can correspond to the Western conditions of nephritis, hypothyroidism, adrenal insufficiency, chronic lower back pain, depression, and sexual dysfunction. Treatment involves tonifying the "life-gate fire" by applying heat from moxibustion at a point below the second lumbar vertebra. The standard herb formula is Rehmannia Eight (Ba Wei Di Huang Wan), which contains herbs that nourish the kidneys along with hot metabolic stimulants such as cinnamon bark (rou gui) and aconite (fu zi).

Kidney Yang Deficiency with Dirty Water Flooding: This syndrome exhibits all the above symptoms of yang deficiency, but in this case the lack of yang leads to a debility in fluid transformation (fluids don't move to their proper locations; instead, they collect in organs or limbs). The specific symptoms related to this metabolic failure include edema in the lower body, abdominal fullness, nausea, difficulty breathing, cough or asthma with thin mucus, and small amounts of clear urine. This syndrome can correspond to congestive heart failure or nephritis. Treatment consists of tonifying kidney yang as above, with the addition of diuretic herbs such as Plantago seeds (che qian zi) and ginger root skin (sheng jiang pi).

Kidney Yin Deficiency: This condition of deficiency heat is due to a depletion of the yin. Typical yin deficiency signs of red cheeks, night sweats, "five palm heat," dry mouth, a red tongue with little or no coat, and a thin, rapid pulse occur. In addition, depletion symptoms specific to the kidneys occur, such as concentrated urine, nocturnal emissions of semen, premature ejaculation, overactive sex drive, vertigo, ringing in the ears, insomnia, and sore low back and knees. This pattern might match Western diagnoses of lumbago, hypertension, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and psychological or emotional disorders. The standard base formula for all varieties of kidney yin deficiency is Rehmannia Teapills (Liu Wei Di Huang Wan).

Kidney Essence (Jing) Deficiency: The kidney essence is responsible for growth, development, and reproduction. Children with this deficiency may exhibit late closure of the soft spots in the skull, slow growth, late development of speech and walking, or mental retardation. Adults may experience premature aging, fragile bones, loss of teeth and hair, infertility, and poor memory. In children, the syndrome is entirely genetic; in adults the pattern arises from old age or "burning the candle at both ends." Treatment consists of tonifying kidney yin and yang; the balance of warm and cold herbs is tailored to fit the individual situation. In addition, herbs are used that specifically strengthen the essence, such as privet fruit (nu zhen zi) and Cuscuta (tu si zi).

On the next page, discover how to identify syndromes associated with the intestines, and learn how Chinese medicine can treat these illnesses.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Small and Large Intestine Syndromes

Small and large intestine syndromes are not isolated to digestion. Although the small intestine's functions are to separate food and fluids into essential and waste components, it is considered a yang organ. As such, its patterns of disharmony are usually related to a dysfunction in a yin organ such as the heart or spleen.

Ginger root is used in traditional Chinese medicine
Various forms of ginger are effective at treating
small and large intestine syndromes.

The large intestine has the same functions in traditional Chinese medicine as it does in Western physiology: receiving food from the small intestine, separating the fluids, and passing on the remainder as waste. Dysfunctions of the large intestine typically involve a disruption in one of these activities, often due to poor dietary habits.

Small Intestine Deficient and Cold: This pattern can arise in a deficiency of spleen yang. Symptoms include pain around the navel that is relieved with pressure and heat, watery diarrhea or loose stools, frequent clear urination, and a gurgling sound in the abdomen. The tongue is pale with a white coat, and the pulse is deep, empty, and slow. Some corresponding Western conditions are infections with the Candida organism, food allergies, enteritis, chronic dysentery, or stress-related digestive disorders. Treatment involves tonifying spleen yang with moxibustion and warm, strengthening herbs such as ginseng (ren shen) and ginger (gan jiang).

Small Intestine Excess Heat: Excess heat in the heart can be transferred to the small intestine, since the two organs are paired in a yin/yang relationship. When this occurs, the symptoms include frequent dark burning urine, thirst, a red tip on the tongue, mental restlessness, and a rapid, full pulse. Although the cause is often emotional hyperactivity, the excess heat shows up in the urine in a typical Western diagnosis of urinary tract infection. The treatment principle is to clear heat from the heart and small intestine with acupuncture and herbs such as Lophatherum (dan zhu ye) and lotus sprout (lian zi xin).

Small Intestine Qi Pain: Often associated with stagnant liver qi, this pattern exhibits distention and pain in the lower abdomen that feels worse when pressure is applied, distention and pain in the groin, gurgling sounds in the abdominal area, pain relief after passing gas, a pale tongue with a thin, white coat, and a deep, wiry pulse. Corresponding Western conditions might be hernia of the small intestine, colitis, food allergies, and enteritis. Since it is a disorder of stagnant qi, acupuncture and stress reduction are particularly helpful to treat it. Herbal therapy includes herbs to regulate qi, such as Bupleurum (chai hu), white peony root (bai shao), and Cyperus (xiang fu).

Large Intestine Excess Heat: This excess syndrome is characterized by constipation, a bloated, painful abdomen, fever, explosive burning diarrhea with a bad smell, concentrated urine, thirst, a red tongue with a thick yellow coat, and a full, rapid pulse. It is associated with acute bacterial dysentery or any serious infection. Treatment involves clearing excess heat from the large intestine with cooling purgative herbs such as rhubarb (da huang) and Mirabilite (mang xiao).

Large Intestine Damp Heat: This pattern is similar to the excess heat syndrome described above, with the addition of the influence of dampness, which makes recovery slower than with simple excess heat. The dampness also creates the additional symptoms of fatigue, a sensation of not being finished when defecating, blood or pus in the stools, intermittent fever, a slippery pulse, and a greasy yellow tongue coating. This pattern corresponds to acute amoebic dysentery or hemorrhoids and is treated with herbs that clear dampness and heat from the large intestine, such as Coptis (huang lian) and Pulsatilla (bai tou weng).

Large Intestine Closed and Knotted: This excess pattern has symptoms of abdominal bloating with pain that gets worse when pressure is applied, constipation, nausea, vomiting, deep, full pulse, and a greasy, thick white coat on the tongue. It is seen in intestinal blockages due to a hernia or scar tissue and is often seen in children. Typically, surgery is required. If the blockage is only partial, acupuncture and strong purgative herbs such as Croton (ba dou) can alleviate the symptoms.

Heat Stagnation in the Large Intestine: This excess pattern, which combines excess heat with qi and blood stagnation, causes sharp, fixed abdominal pain that worsens when pressure is applied, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, vomiting, fever, a deep-red tongue with a thick yellow dry coat, and a full, wiry, rapid pulse. Possible Western diagnoses are appendicitis, diverticulitis, and some dysentery. This is a serious condition, and proper medical intervention is essential. An acupuncture point on the leg known as Lanwei is specific for appendicitis. Since this condition can be caused by hardened feces blocking the appendix, stimulating this point could dislodge the blockage, explaining this point's effectiveness in treating early-stage appendicitis. Treatment includes cooling, purgative herbs such as rhubarb root (da huang) and herbs such as tree peony root (mu dan pi) to move stagnant qi and blood.

Large Intestine Fluid Deficiency: The fluid deficiency in this syndrome can arise from old age, dehydration after an illness, delivery of a baby, or chronic infections. The symptoms are chronic constipation, dry mouth, dry stools, small and rapid pulse, and a dry, red, and cracked tongue. The treatment principle for this syndrome is to clear heat and moisten the intestines with herbs such as Cannabis seeds (huo ma ren) and Rehmannia root (sheng di huang).

Large Intestine Deficient and Cold: Usually a result of spleen yang deficiency, this pattern has symptoms of watery diarrhea without a strong smell, abdominal pain relieved by pressure and warmth, gurgling abdominal sounds, a worsening of symptoms after eating cold food, deep weak pulse, and a pale, swollen tongue with teeth marks. Treatment includes herbs that tonify spleen yang, such as dried ginger (gan jiang), as well as moxibustion to points on the abdomen.

On the next page, learn more about another organ of the digestive tract -- the stomach. Chinese medicine can be quite effective in treating stomach syndromes.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Stomach Syndromes

Stomach syndromes typically include digestive disturbances because all the stomach's functions involve breaking down food. Since the stomach and spleen are intimately related in a yin/yang polarity, imbalances in one organ often affect the other.

Stomach Fire: This syndrome of internal excess heat is characterized by a burning pain in the upper abdominal area, excessive hunger even after eating, thirst, bad breath, canker sores in the mouth, pain and bleeding in the gums, nausea, vomiting, red tongue with a thick, dry yellow coat, and a strong, rapid pulse. Some parallel Western diagnoses might be gastric ulcer or stomatitis, and treatment involves herbs that clear stomach fire, such as Coptis (huang lian).

Food Stagnation: This excess syndrome, usually due to overeating, can have either cold or heat signs. Symptoms include a lack of appetite, a full, bloated feeling in the stomach, nausea, vomiting, bad breath, and acid belching. Treatment of food stagnation includes herbs that move qi in the stomach, such as green tangerine peel (qing pi), along with herbs that relieve the food stagnation itself. If the person has overindulged in fatty foods, the herb of choice is hawthorn berries (shan zha); when the syndrome results from overeating of grains, barley sprouts (mai ya) are preferred.

Stomach Yin Deficiency: Symptoms of this deficiency syndrome include a lack of appetite, thirst with an inability to drink more than a few sips, dry mouth and lips, dry stools, a thin, rapid pulse, and a red tongue with no coat, especially in the center. Since the stomach yin is the source of the tongue coat, its corresponding area in the middle of the tongue appears especially peeled. This syndrome can match a Western diagnosis of chronic gastric ulcer or chronic gastritis. The herbal treatment focuses on tonifying stomach yin with herbs such as Dendrobium (shi hu) and Ophiopogon (mai men dong).

Stomach Deficient and Cold: A pattern of deficiency typically involving the spleen, it has symptoms of "dirty water stagnation": When the person moves, it is possible to hear liquids splashing. Other symptoms of this pattern are dull pains in the stomach area that are relieved by pressure and warmth, excessive sputum in the mouth, fatigue, bloating, and diarrhea. The pulse is slow, weak, slippery, and deficient, while the tongue is pale with a greasy white coat. This pattern of deficiency could possibly correspond to a Western diagnosis of food allergies, infection with the Candida organism, or chronic gastroenteritis. Moxibustion to points on the abdomen is quite helpful in treating a cold disorder such as this. Herbal therapy includes use of herbs that are warming to the stomach such as ginger (gan jiang), tonics such as ginseng (ren shen), and dampness-draining herbs such as Poria (fu ling).

On the next page, learn about the symptoms and signs of gallbladder and urinary bladder syndromes. These syndromes are frequently affected by other organs, such as the liver and kidneys.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Gallbladder and Urinary Bladder Syndromes

Gallbladder and urinary bladder syndromes can be caused or exacerbated by problems with other organs. The gallbladder is affected by the liver, and the urinary bladder is affected by the kidneys.

This is because the gallbladder is related to the liver in a yin/yang relationship and by physical proximity. The liver produces bile, while the gallbladder stores and secretes it. Since a strong gallbladder helps a person be assertive and decisive, imbalances in the organ can lead to indecision and timidity.

The urinary bladder performs the functions of receiving waste water from the kidneys and excreting it from the body. It is paired in a yin/yang relationship with the kidneys, so a deficiency in the urinary bladder is typically related to a deficiency in the kidneys. The kidneys have no excess syndromes, so any excess pattern in the urinary tract is diagnosed as a urinary bladder dishar­mony.

Gallbladder Damp Heat: This syndrome is described in the section on liver syndromes under "Liver and Gallbladder Damp Heat."

Phlegm Confusing the Gallbladder: When the gallbladder is weak and under the influence of dampness, this syndrome can develop. Its symptoms are dizziness, blurry vision, nausea, being easily startled, indecisiveness, frightening dreams, vomiting with a bitter taste, dull pain or distention in the rib area, a pale, puffy tongue with a greasy white coating, and a slippery, wiry pulse. Corresponding Western conditions might include emotional or psychological disorders, hypertension (especially in people who are overweight), and menopausal symptoms. Treatment for this syndrome includes herbal formulas that calm the spirit and clear phlegm from the gallbladder, such as Gallbladder Warming Decoction (Wen Dan Tang).

Urinary Bladder Damp Heat: This excess pattern has symptoms of pain and distention in the lower abdomen, frequent urination that is burning and produces dark urine, possible stones or blood in the urine, low back pain, and a rapid, slippery pulse. The tongue is red with a thick, greasy yellow coating, especially in the back area of the tongue, which corresponds to the lower burner. Some possible corresponding Western diagnoses are urinary tract infection, urinary tract stones, or prostate disorders. The treatment principle is to clear lower burner damp heat with herbs such as Dianthus (qu mai), Phellodendron (huang bai), and Andrographis (chuan xin lian).

Urinary Bladder Deficient and Cold: If the kidney qi or yang is depleted, this deficiency syndrome can occur in the bladder. Symptoms are frequent urination that is clear and copious, occasional difficulty in urinating, inability to hold in the urine, bed-wetting, feelings of cold and pain in the lower abdomen or lower back, a deep, weak pulse, and a pale, moist, puffy tongue with a thin white coat. It can be diagnosed as a chronic urinary tract infection or prostate disorder, and treatment involves moxibustion on the lower abdomen. Herbal therapy focuses on tonifying kidney yang with herbs such as Rehmannia (shu di huang), Aconite (fu zi), and cinnamon bark (rou gui).

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Bill Schoenbart has been practicing traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) since 1991, when he earned a Masters degree in TCM. He teaches TCM medical theory and herbalism at an acupuncture school in California, and also maintains a clinical practice.

Ellen Shefi is a licensed massage technician, licensed acupuncturist, and registered dietician. She is a member of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Herb Association, and the Oregon Acupuncture Association.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.