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We are most vulnerable to colds and influenza during the long winter, Many people suffer not only from the respiratory symptoms of cold and flu, but can also fall victim to various complications of these diseases, some of which can be serious. Children, the elderly, and people with chronic illness or compromised immune systems are especially prone to complications. Parents worry about their children bringing home infections from school. Right now, the best way Western medicine has of dealing with these diseases is the widespread use of flu shots, which encourage the immune system to “gear up” for the most prevalent type of flu. However, while flu shots can avert the most serious consequences of infection, they cannot prevent or cure the common cold.

The common cold is an acute viral infection that generally causes inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. It is the most common infectious disease in humans, and accounts for more time lost from work or school than any other disease. Flu is an acute and contagious infection of the respiratory tract. Its symptoms include running nose, cough, chills, headache, fever, and severe aching in the muscles and joints. Although flu affects all age groups, schoolchildren have the highest incidence. Although colds and flu are generally of brief duration, they can lead to complications in the very young, the elderly, and those with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems.

Because both cold and flu are viral infections, conventional medicine has no cure for them. Bed rest and increased fluid intake are generally suggested to make the patient more comfortable. Aspirin, nasal decongestants, and other medications such as steam inhalation, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, amantadline, or rimantadine are prescribed.

A friend of mine traveled to China last winter. She told me that when she visited a college there, she saw every student in the cafeteria drinking a kind of herbal tea for the prevention of cold and flu before their lunch. She thought that was very interesting and asked me what they were drinking. I told her that every school in China, from grade school through college, offers herbs to the students during the flu season to prevent cold and flu. There are quite a few teas and herbal formulas available for prevention purposes.

In China, these anti-cold and flu formulas will be found in every family’s medicine cabinet. It would be almost impossible to find a person in China who has never taken one. Most of these effective and time-tested herbal formulas come from two important schools in traditional Chinese medicine: the school of cold-induced febrile diseases, represented by Zhang Zhongjing (150-219 AD), and the school of seasonal febrile diseases, represented by Wu Jutong (1758-1836).

Using herbal formulas to prevent and treat colds and flu is one of the best-developed and most successful aspects of traditional Chinese medicine. Specific treatment practices and formulas have been handed down unbroken from the earliest schools to the modern universities of China. In this country, more and more people are becoming aware of the existence and efficacy of the ancient cold and flu formulas. At our clinic, TCM Health Center, we see increased demand for this type of treatment, especially among school teachers, who are constantly being exposed to colds. Our clients say that their doctors have been surprised by the effectiveness of Cold & Flu Formula (Yin Qiao San), which is a common and popular formula in China.

Top Antiviral Herbs in Chinese Medicine

Woad Root (Ban Lan Gen) is one of the leading anti-viral herbs. In a study of over 11,000 people who were exposed to mumps, the infectious manifestation was forestalled by using a decoction of woad root. Woad root tea is the most popular herbal tea to prevent and treat flu in China.

Woad Leaf (Da Qing Ye) shares similar properties with woad root. In a study of 100 people, only 10% of the treatment group that took a woad leaf decoction twice daily had upper respiratory infections during the study period, while 24% of the control group had infections.

Forsythia Fruit (Lian Qiao) is a pointed, oval-shaped capsule with a hard shell. Because of its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and immunity-enhancing properties, forsythia fruit is widely used to treat common cold, influenza, swelling and pain in the throat, and skin inflammation.

Honeysuckle Flower (Jin Yin Hua) is named “gold-and-silver flower” in Chinese. Research indicates that this flower bud can deactivate the PR8 strain of influenza virus. The study also indicates that honeysuckle works wonderfully to treat other infectious diseases, including pneumonia and viral conjunctivitis.

Baical Skullcap Root (Huang Qin) is the dried root of scutellaria. It is an anti-viral agent, effective against influenza viruses. This herb and its active substance, baicalin, are used in the treatment of upper respiratory infections, either bacterial or viral.

Effective Herbal Formulas in Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, patterns are differentiated according to the imbalances of the body and the causes and stages of the disease. Herbal formulas (combinations of herbs) are always recommended by practitioners because they are stronger and more effective than single herbs. I will discuss three patterns of cold and flu symptoms, and the appropriate formulas for each type.

Wind-Heat Pattern: Symptoms of the Wind-Heat pattern include: fever; headache; sweating; a running nose with yellowish-colored mucus; dry mouth; thirst; sore throat; productive coughing with thick yellowish phlegm; a thin, yellow tongue coating; and a floating and rapid pulse. Cold and Flu Formula (Yin Qiao San) is the most popular herbal formula to treat the Wind-Heat pattern. Wind-Heat Clearing(Sang Ju Yin) and Lung Heat Clearing (Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang) are also basic formulas for cold and flu of the Wind-Heat pattern.

Cold & Flu Formula (Yin Qiao San)


Forsythia (Lian Qiao)
Honeysuckle (Jin Yin Hua)
Platycodon (Jie Geng)
Mint (Bo He)
Bamboo Leaf (Dan Zhu Ye)
Licorice (Gan Cao)
Schizonepeta (Jing Jie)
Soy Bean (Dan Dou Gu)
Arctium (Niu Bang Zi)

Wind-Cold Pattern: Symptoms of Wind-Cold pattern include: aversion to cold; mild fever; absence of sweat; chest congestion; sneezing; running nose with clear mucus; itching throat, or a cough with clear mucus; a thin, white tongue coating; and a tight pulse. Wind-Cold Formula (Jiu Wei Qiang Huo Tang) is commonly used for cold and flu of the Wind-Cold type. Among others, Cinnamon Decoction (Gui Zhi Tang), Minor Blue Dragon Decoction (Xiao Qing Long Tang), and Cnidium and Tea Formula (Chuan Qiong Cha Tiao San) are also widely used.

Wind-Cold Formula (Jiu Wei Qiang Huo Tang)

Notopterygium (Qiang Huo)
Ledebouriella (Fang Feng)
Cang Zhu (Atractylodes)
Asari (Xi Xin)
Cnidium (Chuan Qiong)
Dahurian Angelica (Bai Zhi)
Rehmania (Shen Di Huang)
Skullcap (Huang Qin)
Licorice (Gan Cao)

Deficiency Pattern: Most people with chronic illness fall into the Deficiency category. They are the targets of cold and flu during every seasonal change and in every flu season. Their energy is low, their immune systems are weak, and they have trouble recovering from prolonged illness. Women with a Deficiency condition often catch a cold before every menstrual cycle. When Deficiency-pattern people are hit by cold or flu, they should use either Cold & Flu Formula or Wind-Cold Formula, depending upon whether their illness falls into the Wind-Heat type or the Wind-Cold type. Once cold or flu symptoms are gone, other formulas can be taken to strengthen the immune system and prevent recurrence of disease. Immunenergy (Shi Quan Da Bu Wan) is a well-known tonic for the immune system. Chi Spleen Tonic (Bu Zhong Yi Qi Wan), Spleen Heart Tonic (Gui Pi Wan), Kidney Yin Tonic (Liu Wei Di Huang Wan) and Kidney Yang Tonic (Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan) are also popular formulas which tonify the immune system. Consult a Chinese medicine practitioner to determine the best formula for you.

Immunenergy Formula (Shi Quan Da Bu Tang)

Angelica (Dang Gui)
Cnidium (Chuan Qiong)
Peony (Bai Shao)
Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang)
Ginseng (Ren Shen)
Atractylodes (Bai Zhu)
Poria (Fu Ling)
Licorice (Gan Cao)
Astragalus (Huang Qi)
Cinnamon (Rou Gui)

By Wei Liu, TCMD, MPH, LAC and Changzhen Gong, PhD, MS - The American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM)


Candidiasis has become a “hot” topic over the past few years among health-conscious individuals in the United States. Candidiasis is a condition that results from the overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus calledCandida albicansCandida cells are part of the normal flora of our bodies found in our mouth, vagina, intestines, and other organs. When they grow unchecked, they can cause a number of health problems, including digestive disorders, fatigue, and vaginal yeast infections. Whether candidiasis is to be considered a disease or a syndrome is still controversial in conventional medicine, but the general public has accepted it as a valid disease, apart from lab tests or theoretical constructs. Some practitioners even claim that “everybody has it.” Almost every day in my clinic, people walk in asking for help with this problem. Although Chinese medicine does not have a traditional diagnosis of “candidiasis,” we can find a diagnostic framework and a treatment approach to candidiasis from the patients common symptoms and complaints. I do not believe that “everyone has it,” but it is a very common problem in the United States. Many Chinese medicine practitioners are amazed by how prevalent candidiasis is here. When you know the causes of candidiasis, it is not surprising that people are more prone to have it here than in other countries.

There are a number of medications that promote the overgrowth of yeast cells, either because they kill beneficial bacteria, or because they interfere with normal hormone functions. These medications include: antibiotics; chemotherapy; hormone replacement; corticosteroids; and oral contraceptives. Improper diet, such as over-consumption of yeast products, sugar, or alcohol, also can promote yeast growth. In traditional Chinese medicine, these foods disturb the balance of the Spleen, produce Phlegm, and create the perfect environment for yeast overgrowth.

Those people with immune system or endocrine gland disorders are more prone to candidiasis, such as patients with AIDs, cancer, or diabetes.

In Chinese medicine, balance is the most important concept in maintaining health. Yin and Yang, the eternal opposites of the universe, also form the basic substance of our bodies. They must be in balance for us to be in good health. It is the same for the yeast cells and bacteria in our bodies: too many yeast cells, and a condition of candiadiasis results; too many bacteria, and infection can be present; when there is balance, we are in good health.

Triple Burner: A Concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine
The Triple Burner is one of the six Yang organs in the body. It includes the Upper Burner (the Heart, and Lung), Middle Burner (the Spleen and Stomach) and Lower Burner (the Liver, Intestines, Bladder and Kidneys). As stated in the classical medical textbook, Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, “the Upper Burner opens outwards, spreads the five tastes of the food essences, moistens and pervades the skin, fills the body, and is like mist. The Middle Burner receives vital energy, expels the wastes, steams the body fluids, transforms the refined essence of food, and connects upwards with the Lungs. The Lower Burner directs the separation of the clean fluids from the dirty fluids, and facilitates the excretion of urine.” Notice that the Triple Burner is described in terms of what it does. It is called a “concept” because it really exists as a function, rather than as a physical organ. In Chinese medicine, the Triple Burner regulates the activities of the other internal organs and participates in fluid metabolism.

Traditional Chinese medicine recognizes the development and proliferation of Candida in the body as a Triple Burner-related condition. The Middle Burner, and particularly the Spleen, is seen as the key to this health issue. The Spleen is responsible for taking the food and fluids that we ingest and processing them into the Chi and Blood that are the true “fuel” of our bodies. When the Spleen is functioning well, Chi and Blood are in balance, intestinal flora are in balance, there is no excess fluid or phlegm in our system, food is properly digested and distributed, and the immune system is being nourished by Chi and Blood. In most cases of candidiasis, the problem starts with a Spleen imbalance, which may then progress to digestive disorders, irregular bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation, and/or fatigue. In the absence of treatment, or with improper treatment, the disorder will then spread from the Spleen and Spleen meridian to other organs and meridians. At this stage, the condition will be diagnosed as a systemic yeast infection. When the Spleen system is weakened, Damp Heat accumulates in the Lower Burner, and an ideal environment for yeast overgrowth is developed. Symptoms such as a white, cheesy vaginal discharge, genital itching, or vaginitis might occur. When the Spleen system is disturbed, Heat and Fire can accumulate in the Upper Burner, causing an infection of the oral cavity called thrush to develop.

With candidiasis, there are cases when symptoms only appear in one Burner; but in many cases, symptoms spread to all three Burners. As explained above, Middle Burner disorder (Spleen and Stomach) is the key factor in candidiasis. When Spleen energy is weakened by poor diet, medications or other factors, its ability to transform phlegm and nutrients is diminished. The Spleen then fails to properly absorb and utilize nutrients from the foods we eat, and is therefore unable to produce healthy amounts of Chi and Blood. So the earliest stage of candidiasis is almost always a Spleen (Middle Burner) disorder. If treated appropriately at this stage, with re-balancing of the Spleen and Stomach, the problem will resolve with no yeast-related symptoms. But candidiasis is not a well-defined disease pattern. It is difficult to diagnose at the early stages, and many people are completely unaware that they are developing a severe problem. Then the disease gains ground, spreading to the Upper Burner (thrush, cough, etc.), or to the Lower Burner (vaginal infection, etc.), or both. As with many diseases, the best way to head off trouble is with early detection and treatment.

A Two-Step Treatment Plan with Chinese Medicine
Step 1. Cleansing
In Chinese medicine, a thorough cleansing is the first step in dealing with candidiasis. When our systems are full of the waste, phlegm and toxins which contribute to yeast overgrowth, clearing them out of the system is necessary. “The constitutional energy is endangered when an internalized evil is there,” says the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.

Many people try to clear out their yeast overgrowth with diet cleansing methods. For candidiasis, diet management alone is not strong enough to clear the system, or it can take a very long time. Combining proper diet with Chinese herbs and acupuncture can achieve this goal much faster. With herbal cleansing therapy, the goal is to clear the system of Dampness, Phlegm, and Heat. These are seen as the causative factors of candidiasis. The herbs are not intended to mechanically clear out the large intestine; rather, they promote the clearing-out of the pathological factors of Phlegm and Heat toxins. Commonly-used herbs include gentiana (long dan cao), melia (chuan lian zi), agastachis (huo xiang), cardamon (bai dou kou), saussurea (mu xiang), skullcap (huang qin), coptis (huang lian), and phellodendra (huang bai).

Damp Heat Clearing Formula (Long Dan Xie Gan Wan) and Coptis Formula (Huang Lian Shang Qing Wan) are powerful herbal combinations to promote the cleansing process. Damp Heat Clearing is used most often when Lower Burner symptoms appear, and also with some Middle Burner problems; Coptis Formula is more effective with Upper and Middle Burner symptoms.

Damp Heat Clearing Formula (Long Dan Xie Gan Tang)
Gentian (Long Dan Cao)
Scullcap (Huang Qin)
Gardenia (Zhi Zi)
Akebia (Mu Tong)
Plaintain (Che Qian Cao)
Alisma (Ze Xie)
Buplerum (Chai Hu)
Rehmannia (Di Huang)
Angelica (Dang Gui)
Licorice (Gan Cao)

Coptis Formula Formula (Huang Lian Shang Qing Wan)
Coptis (Huang Lian)
Da Huang (Ruhbarb)
Scullcap (Huang Qin)
Phellodendra (Huang Bai)
Gypsum (Shi Gao)
Gardenia (Zhi Zi)
Forsythia (Lian Qiao)
Chrysanthemi (Ju Hua)
Schizonepeta (Jing Jie)
Angelica (Bai Zhi)
Viticis (Man Jing Zi)
Cnidium (Chuan Qiong)
Ledebouriella (Fang Feng)
Mint (Bo He)
Inula (Xuan Fu Hua)
Platycodon (Jie Geng)
Licorice (Gan Cao)

Some commonly-used acupuncture/acupressure points for this cleansing process include LIV3, LIV2, ST40, UB57, and LI4.

Step 2. Tonifying
After the waste, toxins, and phlegm have been cleared out of our systems, we then have to tonify our bodies, repairing the damage and restoring the balance, or the pathological factor(s) will return. “If sufficient vital energy exists, a pathological factor cannot attack us” (Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine). This is also a very important step to prevent recurrence of yeast infections. Commonly used tonifying herbs include astragalus (huang qi), codonopsis (dang shen), atractylodes (bai zhu), and dioscorea (shan yao). GI Strength Formula (Xian Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang) is a popular formula for tonification, especially of the Middle Burner.

GI Strength Formula (Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang)
Ginseng (Ren Shen)
Atractylodis (Bai Zhu)
Poria (Fu Ling)
Licorice (Gan Cao)
Tangerine (Chen Pi)
Pinella (Ban Xia)
Amomi (Sha Ren)
Saussurea (Mu Xiang)

Commonly used tonifying acupuncture/acupressure points include ST36, SP9, SP6, LI10, LIV8, REN6, and REN4.

A Recommendation for Your Diet
People who are familiar with a yeast-free diet stay away from bread, cheese, mushrooms, vinegar, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, black fungus, and white fungus. But there are other yeast-based foods such as crackers, pretzels, dry cereal, miso, tempeh, canned vegetables, pickled vegetables, beer, root beer and other fermented beverages which are often overlooked by those with yeast infections.

Grains, noodles, non-yeast bread and white rice are recommended. They are easy to digest. Brown rice and wild rice have more nutrients than white rice, but they take more energy to digest, and it is better for Spleen Chi Deficient people not to eat them often. Certain vegetables are extremely therapeutic for those with yeast infections, such as Daikon radish, which can help cleanse your system and is known as a “phlegm cleanser”.

The family of yellow-colored foods such as yam, winter squash, and pumpkins are strongly recommended from the viewpoint of traditional Chinese medicine, as they tonify and strengthen the Spleen and Spleen meridian.

Yeast-based medications such as penicillin, mycin, chloromycetin, and tetracyclines should be avoided, as well as yeast-based Vitamin B supplements.

By Wei Liu, TCMD, MPH, LAC and Changzhen Gong, PhD, MS - The American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM)


Breast lumps or cysts are the most common reason for women to seek medical consultation in the United States. Like every other part of our bodies, our breasts are subject to various types of problems. Breast lumps can occur in women of any age, but are more common in middle age. Although the majority of breast lumps are benign or non-cancerous, women still experience the discomfort of tenderness, pressure or distention within the breast. Conventional medicine provides women with a variety of treatments for breast lumps. Traditional Chinese medicine, which has accumulated abundant experience and knowledge in treating and preventing breast lumps over its long history, is another option for achieving and maintaining healthy breast tissue.

Understanding Breast Lumps
Breast lumps fall into two categories: benign lumps or cysts, and malignant tumors. Breast lumps are frequently, but not always, associated with the conditions of premenstrual breast distention, infertility, irregular periods, and menopausal syndrome.

Breast Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that may develop in the breast. Breast cysts may cause breast pain. The most common conventional medical interventions are to withdraw fluid from the cyst with a needle, or to surgically remove the cyst if necessary.

Fibrocystic Breasts normally contain small, nodular lumps and cysts. Most of these lumps and cysts are located in the upper, outer area of the breasts. Although most women with fibrocystic breasts do not have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, women who have fibrocystic breasts are more likely to develop breast cysts.

Fibrous Breast Lumps are small, solid, non-cancerous lumps that are composed of fibrous and glandular tissue. Fibrous breast lumps usually appear in young women. these lumps can be removed surgically, but they often recur.

Breast Cancer is a malignant, hard, stony lump or mass in the breast. Breast cancer may start from the milk glands, milk ducts, fatty tissue, or connective tissue. Statistics indicate that one out of eight women will develop breast cancer at some time in her life. Conventional treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone-blocking drugs.

In traditional Chinese medical theory, benign breast lumps or cysts are classified as Ru Pi (breast nodule), while malignant breast tumors are classified as Ru Yan (breast stone). Even the earliest Chinese medical literature had records for diagnosing and differentiating the patterns of both Ru Pi (breast nodule) and Ru Yan (breast stone). In the following section, we will focus exclusively on non-cancerous breast lumps.

Breast Lumps and the Liver Connection
Jane is an artist and free-lance writer. Whenever she has an argument with her husband about his ongoing affair with his former girlfriend, swelling lumps appear in her breasts, and she experiences distention and tenderness in her breasts. Jane visits my clinic regularly for help with her emotional and physical complaints. Breast lumps are extremely susceptible to emotional disturbance.

Chinese medicine believes that the diagnostic pattern called “Liver Qi Stagnation” is the mechanism primarily responsible for the development of breast problems, including breast lumps. In traditional Chinese medicine, the two main functions of the Liver are to store the Blood and to regulate Qi. The Liver regulates Qi by promoting its free flow, and encouraging smoothness of flow. When the Liver is dysfunctional, Qi does not flow freely and smoothly, and Liver Qi Stagnation is one result. Chinese medicine considers emotions to have a very powerful effect on the functioning of the internal organs, and strong or unresolved emotions can damage the organs with which they are associated. Although anger is the primary emotion associated with the Liver, the Liver is responsible for keeping all the emotions in a state of smooth flow. Therefore, when there is emotional stress or psychic trauma, and the Liver is overwhelmed, several types of Liver dysfunction can result, among which is Liver Qi Stagnation. Among the possible Liver disorders, Liver Qi Stagnation stands out sharply as the main cause of breast lumps. One reason for this is that the Liver meridian (energy pathway) is connected by internal pathways to the breasts. Liver Qi Stagnation based in emotional stress is especially common among women, and traditional Chinese gynecology places a lot of emphasis on keeping the Liver on an even keel. Regulating the Liver, soothing the Liver, cleansing the Liver, calming the Liver, and softening the Liver through Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture and dietary therapy are common treatment strategies in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine gynecology.

Patterns of Breast Lumps and Leading Herbs for Treatment
The following four patterns are differentiated for non-cancerous breast lumps.

  • Qi Stagnation. Emotional problems are the main cause of this pattern of breast lumps. Symptoms of this pattern include: growing lumps with dull pain; enlarging or shrinking lumps with emotional disturbance; depression; a feeling of distention under the rib cage; a thin white tongue coating; and a wiry or thin-choppy pulse. The leading Chinese herbs for treating this pattern include immature tangerine peel (Qing Pi), buplerum (Chai Hu), nut-grass rhizome (Xiang Fu), melia fruit (Chuan Lian Zi), and vaccaria seed (Wan Bu Liu Xing).
  • Phlegm Accumulation. The excessive consumption of dairy products, fats and sweets leads to this pattern of breast lumps. Symptoms of this pattern include: variably-sized lumps with no pain or slight pain; dizziness with a feeling of heaviness; no appetite; thick or puffy tongue body; and a deep, wiry and slippery pulse. The leading Chinese herbs for resolving Phlegm include atractylodes (Bai Zhu), poria (Fu Ling), and Job’s tears (Yi Yi Ren).
  • Excessive Heat. The habitual consumption of greasy, hot, spicy foods, deep fried foods and alcohol, or long-standing anxiety or anger lead directly to the Excessive Heat pattern of breast lumps. Symptoms of this pattern include: lumps with burning pain; irregular periods; hot flashes; anxiety; dizziness; disturbing dreams; red tongue tip; and a deep-thin-wiry-rapid pulse. The leading Chinese herbs for eliminating the Excessive Heat pattern include peony bark (Mu Dan Pi), gardenia (Zhi Zi), gentiana (Long Dan Cao), coptis (Huang Lian), and skullcap (Huang Qin).
  • Chronic Disharmony. Chronic illness, or slow recovery from surgery or childbirth are the sources of the Chronic Disharmony pattern of breast lumps. Symptoms of this pattern include: growing and disappearing lumps with menstrual cycles; breast distention; irregular periods; lassitude; dark eyelids; insomnia; back pain; pale-red tongue; and “soggy” pulse. The leading Chinese herbs for balancing the Chronic Disharmony pattern include astragalus (Huang Qi), rehemannia (Di Huang), angelica (Dang Gui), and Fu Ti (He Shou Wu).

Top Herbal Formulas for Breast Lumps

Mood Smooth (Jia Wei Xiao Yao San) is a classical formula which functions to harmonize the Liver and the Spleen. It has been in use for a thousand years. It is one of the favorite herbal formulas among women in China and other Asian countries. It is used to relieve breast lumps, and is also widely used to soothe mood fluctuations, relieve depression, and treat the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Like many other traditional Chinese herbal formulas, this formula also reflects the underlying philosophy of treating the whole body instead of concentrating on one part while ignoring or hurting another part.

Mood Smooth (Jia Wei Xiao Yao San)
Bupleurum (Chai Hu)
Mint (Bo He)
Angelica (Dang Gui)
Peony (Bai Shao)
Atractylodes (Bai Zhu)
Poria (Fu Ling)
Licorice (Gan Cao)
Ginger (Sheng Jiang)
Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi)
Gardenia (Zhi Zi)

LumpEASE is a formula which was developed recently by Dongzhimen Hospital (affiliated with Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine), and has already won wide acceptance and acclaim from women in China who suffer from breast disorders. Literally translated as “Breast Lumps Disappearance,” this formula is widely used and sold in every hospital and pharmacy in China.

LumpEASE (Ru Kuan Xiao) Salvia Root (Dan Shen)
Citrus Seed (Ju He)
Vaccaria Seed (Wan Bu Liu Xing)
Eupolyphaga (Tu Bie Chong)
Melia Fruit (Chuan Lian Zi)
Honeylocust Spine (Zao Jiao Ci)

By Wei Liu, TCMD, MPH, LAC and Changzhen Gong, PhD, MS - The American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM)

If you have missed three periods in a row and you are not pregnant or menopausal, this is a matter of serious concern. You should be especially concerned if you are dealing with infertility issues, or are at risk for osteoporosis. Under these circumstances, it would be wise to visit a doctor or consult a women’s health specialist. The absence of menstruation in pre-menopausal women is called amenorrhea. If menstruation has not begun by the age 16, it is called “primary amenorrhea.” If previously normal menstruation stops for more than three months in a woman who is not pregnant or breast feeding and is not nearing menopause, it is called “secondary amenorrhea.”

Amenorrhea in Conventional Medicine
From the viewpoint of conventional Western medicine, normal menstrual cycles are based on a complex feedback system between the hypothalmus, the pituitary gland, and the ovaries, as well as the cyclical reaction of the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) to sex hormones. Primary amenorrhea is considered to be caused by one of the following disorders: hypothalamic disorder, such as deficiency of thyrotropic, adrenocorticotropic or gonadotropin-releasing hormones; pituitary insufficiency; or an ovarian disorder, such as a sex-chromosome problem. Secondary amenorrhea can be caused by any of the following disorders: pituitary dysfunction; ovarian dysfunction; adrenal gland dysfunction; thyroid dysfunction, etc. Quite a few hormones are involved in the absence of menstruation, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), prolactin, estrogen, progesterone, androgen, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).

Because menstrual irregularities are so strongly linked to hormone imbalances, it is natural for doctors to prescribe hormone therapy to regulate menstrual cycles. Progesterone and estrogen are given to start or restart the periods. Estrogen supplements are frequently prescribed to help prevent osteoporosis in women with no underlying disorder if the amenorrhea has lasted for more than six months. Birth control pills are the most popular form of estrogen replacement therapy. If hormone replacement therapy is recommended to you, it is important for you to know about the functions of these hormones, as well as their side-effects and long-range effects. In this article, we will focus on secondary amenorrhea in the framework of Chinese medicine.

Amenorrhea in Chinese Medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine, the most important organs that regulate Blood and menstruation are the Liver, Spleen, and Kidneys; and the key Fundamental Substances are Chi and Blood. The Liver “stores the Blood,” and is responsible for maintaining a smooth and even flow of Blood, Chi, and emotions through the body. Emotions such as anger, irritation, resentment, and anxiety can lead to stagnation of Liver Chi, which in turn can lead to Blood Stasis (especially in the lower body). A main function of the Spleen is to produce Chi and Blood. If the Spleen is weak, there will eventually be a deficiency of Chi and/or Blood, so there will not be enough blood for normal menstruation, or enough Chi to regulate normal cycles. Also, if the Spleen is too weak, it can lead to a condition of Dampness in the body, and Phlegm-Damp can obstruct the uterus. The Kidneys are the organ responsible for conception, reproduction, and aging over time. Kidney-essence is the ultimate origin of menstrual blood.

Amenorrhea can be differentiated into Deficiency patterns or Excess patterns. With Deficiency patterns, the Blood is exhausted or deficient. With Excess patterns, Chi or Blood may be stagnant, retention of Phlegm-Dampness can lead to obstruction of menses, or there is Blood Stasis.

Besides the mechanisms discussed above, some lifestyle factors can cause amenorrhea. Long-term use of contraceptive pills can bring about Blood Deficiency or Kidney Chi Deficiency. Excessive physical exercise or participation in sports, with over-use of the muscles and sinews, can lead to a deficiency condition of the Spleen and Liver. The Spleen fails to produce adequate amounts of Blood, and the Liver fails to store Blood properly, which leads to amenorrhea.

Patterns and Herbal Treatment of Amenorrhea in Chinese Medicine
The following four patterns are very common in cases of secondary amenorrhea. The first two patterns, Kidney Liver Deficiency and Chi Blood Deficiency are Deficiency patterns. To treat these two patterns, the Deficiency must be tonified. The other two patterns, Chi Stagnation with Blood Stasis, and Phlegm Dampness Retention, are Excess patterns. For these two patterns, the Excess should be eliminated through the use of Chinese herbal medicines.

Kidney Liver Deficiency.General weakness, malnourishment of the Kidneys and Liver, or an irregular sex life are the origins of this pattern. Symptoms include: absence of menstruation for a significant period of time; a thin body; dizziness; palpitations; back and knee soreness; insomnia; dream-disturbed sleep; chest congestion; anxiety; hot flashes; excessive perspiration; a red tongue body, absence of tongue coating, or cracks on the tongue; and a wiry-rapid-thin pulse. Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang), dioscorea root (Shan Yao), and angelica (Dang Gui) are the leading herbs that tonify Kidney-essence and Liver Blood. Restoring Kidney Formula (Gui Shen Wan), which includes these herbs, is a wonderful formula for this pattern of amenorrhea.

Chi Blood Deficiency. Chronic illness; excessive bleeding from childbirth, miscarriage, or surgery; or prolonged breast feeding are possible origins of this pattern. Typically, periods become scantier and scantier at the end of the cycle, and eventually cease altogether. Other symptoms include: a pale complexion; dizziness; palpitations; weakness of the limbs; lassitude; loose stools; a pale, thin tongue; and a thin-wiry or thin-weak pulse. Ginseng (Dang Shen) is the top Chi tonic herb. Angelica (Dang Gui) is the leading Blood tonic herb. Chi Blood Tonic (Ba Zhen Tang) is the most widely-used herbal formula for the Chi Blood Deficiency pattern.

Chi Stagnation and Blood Stasis. Emotional stress or trauma is the most common origin of this pattern. Menstruation ceases after intense or prolonged emotional stress or trauma. Symptoms include: absence of menstruation; depression; anxiety; a sensation of fullness in the chest and under the rib cage; swelling or fullness of the abdomen with an aversion to pressure; lack of appetite; thirst; desire to drink cold water; constipation; sides of the tongue are purple, with a yellow-white-sticky tongue coating; and a thin-wiry or deep-choppy pulse. Buplerum (Chai Hu), angelica (Dang Gui), and white peony (Bai Shao) are some popular herbs, and Liver Spleen Harmonizer (Xiao Yao San) is a well-known herbal formula to address this pattern.

Phlegm Dampness Retention. Chronic overweight or a deficient Spleen are a common background for this pattern, as well as the habitual consumption of cold, raw, or greasy foods (especially dairy products). Overweight and Spleen Deficiency contribute to metabolism problems, and retention of Phlegm Dampness leads to absence of menstruation. Other symptoms include: a feeling of fullness and congestion in the chest and lower rib cage; nausea; vomiting; a feeling of sticky phlegm in the mouth; lassitude; large amounts of sticky, mucoid vaginal discharge; a yellow-white-sticky tongue coating; and a thin-slippery pulse. Single herbs such as atractylodes lancea tuber (Cang Zhu), cyperus tuber (Xiang Fu), and tangerine peel (Chen Pi), and an herbal formula, Phlegm Cleansing (Cang Fu Dao Tan Tang) are widely used to address this pattern of amenorrhea.
Acupuncture vs. Medications for Amenorrhea
Besides herbal medicine, acupuncture and moxibustion are two other widely-used healing tools in traditional Chinese medicine. Although both traditional Chinese medicine and conventional Western medicine aim to achieve the same goal — restart the periods and restore the normal cycle, a significant difference exists between these two modalities. Traditional Chinese medicine stimulates the body to regulate its naturally-occurring hormones and restore the normal hormone function, while conventional Western medicine restores the function of the thalamus-pituitary-ovary axis through the use of artificial hormones. The following clinical study shows that they have very different long-lasting effects.

A clinical study was conducted at the Thousand Buddha Mountain Hospital in Jinan, China, to determine the efficacy of acupuncture vs. medication for amenorrhea. There were ninety-five subjects in the study. All the patients amenorrhea has lasted for six months or more, and was attributed to the use of birth control pills. Fifty-seven of the patients were in the Acupuncture Treatment Group, and thirty-eight patients were in the Medication Group. Two patterns of amenorrhea, Spleen Liver deficiency and Liver-Chi stagnation, were differentiated in the Acupuncture Treatment Group. Acupuncture points Ren 3 (Zhong Ji), extra point Zi Gong, Ki 12 (Da He), Sp 6 (San Yin Jiao), and BL 32 (Ci Liao) were used. BL 20 (Pi Shu), BL 23 (Shen Shu), St 36 (Zu San Li), Sp 4 (Gong Sun) and moxibustion on these points were added for the Spleen Liver Deficiency pattern, while BL 18 (Gan Shu), Liv 13 (Qi Men), and Sp 9 (Yin Ling Quan) were added for the Liver Chi Stagnation pattern. A course of treatments consisted of twenty treatments. The whole treatment consisted of six courses, with five-day breaks between the courses. In the Medication Group, patients took Stilbestrol first, then Progesteronum was injected. One month after finishing the treatments, the effective rate (cure, great improvement and improvement) for the Acupuncture Treatment Group was 96.49%, while the effective rate for the Medication Group was 97.36%. Initially, there was no significant difference between these two groups. Six months after finishing the treatments, however, the effective rate was reported at 94.73% for the Acupuncture Treatment Group, while the effective rate dropped to 78.94% for the Medication Group. This is a significant difference between the two groups, suggesting that the long-range effects of acupuncture are very positive.

Many studies in China reveal that acupuncture, moxibustion, and Chinese herbal medicine are superior to conventional medicine in the treatment of menstrual disorders, including amenorrhea.

By Wei Liu, TCMD, MPH, LAC and Changzhen Gong, PhD, MS - The American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM)


The concept of qi

Similar to the theory of  yin-yang, qi was derived from ancient Chinese philosophy, which believes everything is related. In traditional Chinese medicine, qi is treated as the fundamental substance of the human body, and its movements explain various life processes. Qi in its physiological sense constitutes, replenishes and nourishes the human body. Qi is often called -vital energy, because it is believed to be the motive energy derived from the essential substance for various vital processes.

Qi is often classified according to what it acts on. For example, the heart-qi refers to the force with which the heart works and the blood circulates, so it regulates the cardiac function; the stomach-qi refers to the force with which the stomach functions, so it regulates the gastric function. The qi that maintains normal functioning for resistance against disease is called zheng-qi, which means genuine energy or body resistance. The qi that warms the body and maintains normal body temperature is called yang-qi, which is similar to the heat energy. Metabolism of materials and energy also depends on the action of qi, including metabolism of blood, fluids and other essential materials.

Qi is formed from the inhaled oxygen, the dietary nutrients, and the inborn primordial qi stored in the kidney, which may be genetically related. Qi circulates along meridians and collaterals. A healthy body requires normal circulations of qi. Health problems occur if the flow of qi is stagnated. The circulation of qi is also closely related to mental conditions. Emotional instability may cause the stagnation of qi. For example, anger may lead to dizziness, headache, distress in the hypochondriac regions, or distention in the stomach with impairment of appetite. On the other hand, the exercise of mind can help the circulation of qi, which is the purpose qigong exercise.

General methods of qigong

Qigong is an exercise to regulate the mind and breathing in order to control or promote the flow of qi. Since qi plays such an important role in the vital processes of the human body, the regulation of qi flow is therefore be used to preserve health and treat disease. Medical qigong, the qi exercise practiced to prevent and treat disease, is different from general physical exercise. While physical exercise is aimed at building up health or restoring physical functioning by enhancing strength, medical qigong is focused on the mobilization of functional potentialities by regulating the mind. In other words, physical exercise is purely somatic, while qigong exercise is generally psycho-somatic. Another important difference between physical exercise and qigong is that physical exercise expends energy by tensing the muscles and accelerating the heart beat and respirations, while qigong works to ease, smooth and regulate breathing to store up or accumulate energy in the body.

Medical qigong can be divided into two main categories: internal qigong, which is practiced by the patients themselves to preserve and promote their own health, and external qigong, which is performed by a qigong master on a person with health problems. Practicing internal qigong requires regulation of the mind, body and respiration. There are many kinds of internal qigong, some with motion and others without. Qigong can be practiced while sitting still, standing upright, or lying on the back or side. The basic requirement is to stay comfortable and relaxed.


The philosophical origins of Chinese medicine have grown out of the tenets of Daoism (also known as Taoism). Daoism bases much of its thinking on observing the natural world and manner in which it operates, so it is no surprise to find that the Chinese medical system draws extensively on natural metaphors. In Chinese medicine, the metaphoric views of the human body based on observations of nature are fully articulated in the theory of “Yin-Yang” and the system of Five Elements.

The direct meanings of yin and yang in Chinese are bright and dark sides of an object. Chinese philosophy uses yin and yang to represent a wider range of opposite properties in the universe: cold and hot, slow and fast, still and moving, masculine and feminine, lower and upper, etc. In general, anything that is moving, ascending, bright, progressing, hyperactive, including functional disease of the body, pertains to yang. The characteristics of stillness, descending, darkness, degeneration, hypo-activity, including organic disease, pertain to yin.

The function of yin and yang is guided by the law of unity of the opposites. In other words, yin and yang are in conflict but at the same time mutually dependent. The nature of yin and yang is relative, with neither being able to exist in isolation. Without “cold” there would be no “hot”; without “moving” there would be no “still”; without “dark”, there would be no “light”. The most illustrative example of yin-yang interdependence is the interrelationship between substance and function. Only with ample substance can the human body function in a healthy way; and only when the functional processes are in good condition, can the essential substances be appropriately refreshed.

The opposites in all objects and phenomena are in constant motion and change: The gain, growth and advance of the one mean the loss, decline and retreat of the other. For example, day is yang and night is yin, but morning is understood as being yang within yang, afternoon is yin within yang, evening before midnight is yin within yin and the time after midnight is yang within yin. The seed (Yin) grows into the plan (Yang), which itself dies back to the earth (Yin). This takes place within the changes of the seasons. Winter (Yin) transforms through the Spring into Summer (Yang), which in turn transforms through Autumn into Winter again. Because natural phenomena are balanced in the constant flux of alternating yin and yang, the change and transformation of yin-yang has been taken as a universal law.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that human life is a physiological process in constant motion and change. Under normal conditions, the waxing and waning of yin and yang are kept within certain bounds, reflecting a dynamic equilibrium of the physiological processes. When the balance is broken, disease occurs. Typical cases of disease-related imbalance include excess of yin, excess of yang, deficiency of yin, and deficiency of yang.