Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture for Constipation

Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture for Constipation

TCM Herbs for Constipation

Information on this site is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your own physician or another medical professional. We make no claim as to efficacy or safety of herbs or herbal medicine appearing on this site. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. 

Good digestion, like good overall health, depends on good flow. Constipation is an obvious sign of poor flow. Herbs for constipation can help restore good flow. 

Chinese Herbs for Constipation
photo: joelschreck.com

Specific Herbs for Constipation (Depending on Symptoms)

Excess Type Constipation

Bowel obstructions, drug reactions, parasitic, viral, or bacterial invasions, and depletion of fluids by high fevers are examples of excess type constipation. This type of constipation is often extreme and sudden and requires the use of strong purgative herbs. Herbs such as senna (fang xie ye), rhubarb (da huang), and epsom salts (mang xiao), as well as formulas such as Da Cheng Qi Tang,  which combine some of these safely, are useful in cases of obstruction needing purgation, where constipation is accompanied by marked abdominal pain, excess dryness, heat and/or fullness.

Deficient Yin Type Constipation

Deficiency of blood, or other body fluids can lead to constipation. Lacking enough water, the body reabsorbs too much from the stool, creating dry stool and constipation. These deficiencies are often accompanied by other signs of dryness such as dry skin, dry eyes, dry scalp, itching or thirst. Internal “heat” may also be a factor in depleting the fluids. A good remedy for this kind of constipation is Moisten Intestines Pill, also known as Rhubarb Pill, Peach Kernal Pill, or Run Chang Wan. A remedy for Yin deficient heat is Da Bu Yin Wan.

DEFICIENT QI TYPE CONSTIPATION
Deficient qi or deficient yang can cause constipation in elderly or extremely weak people. An excellent formula for this is Benefit the River Powder, JI CHUAN JIAN  first published in 1624 AD.  See below.

Herbal Formulas For Constipation

EXCESS TYPE CONSTIPATION – Cheng Qi Tang Family Formulas

Da Cheng Qi Tang (Major Order the Qi Decoction) 
Da Huang                     Radix et Rhizoma Rhei  (rhubarb root)
Mang Xiao                    Mirabilitum   (Epsom Salt)       
Zhi Shi                         Citri Aurantii, Fructus Immaturus (immature bitter orange)
Hou Po                        Magnoliae Officinalis, Cortex (magnolia bark)

a gentler version of Da Cheng qi Tang used when symptoms are not as severe and sometimes tried first before giving Da Cheng Qi Tang  is the same formula minus the mang xiao which draws fluids into the intestines.  This is called:

Xiao Cheng Qi Tang (Minor Order the Qi Decoction)

Da Huang                     Radix et Rhizoma Rhei  (rhubarb root)
Zhi Shi                         Citri Aurantii, Fructus Immaturus (immature bitter orange)
Hou Po                        Magnoliae Officinalis, Cortex (magnolia bark)

There exists a third clinically useful and related formula in this family called Tao He Cheng Qi Tang used for when constipation is accompanied by blood stasis. Patients needing this formula will often exhibit uncontrollable behavior, a glossy and flushed complexion and a large full abdomen and a forceful pulse.

TAO HE CHENG QI TANG (Peach Kernal Qi Ordering Decoction)

Da Huang                  Radix et Rhizoma Rhei  (rhubarb root)
Mang Xiao                Mirabilitum   (Epsom Salt)       
Zhi Gan Cao               Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata  (honey fried licorice)
Gui Zhi                       Ramulus Cinnamomi (cinnamon branch)
Tao Ren                     Semen Persica (Peach Pit Kernal)

There are many herbs in the TCM pharmacopeia used for constipation, however, one stands out, and is most often used, DA HUANG, also known as Chinese Rhubarb Rhizome.

Even in Marco Polo’s time, everyone knew about using Chinese rhubarb for as an important choice of herbs for constipation. Rhubarb rhizome was the most sought after medicine of its time and a big reason for East-West trade for almost a thousand years.

The fact is that during Marco Polo’s time, many people in Europe were constipated.  This was largely due to a lack of fresh produce in their diet, especially during the winter months.  None of the herbal medicines at that time worked nearly as well as the Rhubarb rhizome that Marco Polo brought back from China.

Today, this herb is used in many formulas used to relieve constipation.  It is widely preferred over senna (FANG XI YE), another Chinese herb which is popular in the West as a constipation remedy but can have a harsher effect.

Perhaps the most popular and useful formulas containing  DA HUANG, is RUN CHANG WAN, (Moisten Intestines Pill)

This remedy, also known as Rhubarb Rx, and Peach Kernel Pill,  is an herbal blend that brings out the best qualities of Chinese rhubarb. Safer than senna or other laxatives, it’s a tonic (strengthening) formula with a laxative effect, not a simple purgative. These qualities make it better for long-term use than common laxatives.

 

Deficient Type Constipation

RUN CHANG WAN aka Moisten Intestines Pill aka Peach Kernel Pill aka Rhubarb Pills

Ingredients and functions:

Rhubarb rhizome, Rhei Rhizoma Da Huang
Moves stool, drains heat, invigorates the blood, detoxifies fire poison

Chinese Foxglove root, Rehmannia Glutinosa Radix, Sheng Di Huang
Nourishes YIN and Blood, Generates Fluids, Clears Heat, Cools Blood

Ophthipogon tuber, Ophiopogonis, Tuber, Mai Men Dong
Moistens the Intestines, Nourishes the YIN, Clears Heat

TANG KWEI root, Angelica Sinensis, Dang Gui
Tonifies Blood, Invigorates Blood, Moistens the Intestines and Moves Stool.

Peach seed kernel, Persica Semen, Tao Ren
Breaks Congealed Blood, Moistens Dryness, Lubricates the Intestines

Unripe Bitter Orange, Citri Immaturus Fructus, Zhi Ke
Directs the Qi Downward, Moves Stool, Breaks Stagnations, Reduces Accumulations

or

Benefit the River Powder (Ji Chuan Jian)

Rou Cong Rong            Cistanches Deserticolae, Herba  
Dang Gui                      Angelicae Sinensis, Radix
Niu Xi                           Achyranthis Bidentatae, Radix
Ze Xie                           Alismatis Orientalis, Rhizoma     
Zhi Ke (Qiao)                Citri Aurantii, Fructus                
Sheng Ma                     Cimicifugae, Rhizoma   

If constipation lasts more than a week, it is prudent to consult a physician.

Using this or any laxative during pregnancy should be avoided.

 

SOURCE
Shen Shi Zun Sheng Shu (Master Shen’s Book for Revering Life), by Shen Jin-Ao, 1773 AD, and Pi Wei Lun (Treatus on the Spleen and Stomach) by Li-Ao, 1249 AD

 

ACUPUNCTURE FOR CONSTIPATION

Acupuncture helps restore proper circulation and balance the body. In Chinese medicine, constipation is often caused by a deficiency in the spleen and stomach. It is also a result in dryness of the large intestines.

Particular acupuncture points have an effect on gastrointestinal mobility, serving as a remedy for constipation. Acupuncture treatments can relax the colon, spleen and stomach to stimulate movement. In addition, herbs can be made especially for constipation, which will relax stuck Qi and restore intestinal function.

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