At least three different TCM conditions are diagnosed as arthritis by modern physicians.

  • Bi-Syndrome
  • Liver Not Smoothing the Qi
  • Third Stage Injuries.

All these conditions obstruct flow in the joints and can cause calcification and joint pain. Treating arthritis effectively with Chinese herbs requires diagnosing which of these conditions are the probable causes of the joint pain, then choosing the correct course of treatment. Diagnosis is made according to the Four Examinations.


1. BI SYNDROME (weakened immunity)

A diagnosis of Bi-syndrome, indicates that our defensive energy (WEI QI) has become weak.

WEI QI is what we view today as the immune system. When our defensive energy is weak, atmospheric conditions can penetrate our bodies, obstruct flow, and cause pain or stiffness

  • Four kinds of BI Syndrome are recognized.  
  • Hot-BI is usually diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis or gouty arthritis. 
  • Cold-BI is usually diagnosed as osteoarthritis. 
  • Damp BI gets worse in damp weather
  • Windy-Bi acts like the wind, moving around the body from joint to joint. Like gusts of wind, it can spring up and subside quickly. 


2. Liver Not Smoothing the Qi

A function of the “Liver System" according to in Chinese medicine, is to insure the smooth flow of QI. When damage to this system occurs, the smooth flow of qi may be impaired and pain results. Since the Liver also governs the joints and tendons, pain in the joints and tendons can happen.  Though these symptoms are ususally diagnosed as arthritis or bursitis, we diagnosi this as deficiencies of the Liver and Kidneys.


3. Third Stage Injury

Obstructions remaining from an old injury in the joints, tendons, and muscles can be painful and are often diagnosed as arthritis.  Note that some forms of arthritis improve with exercise, however pain due to injury requires rest.



Internal Herbs for Arthritis

Herbs taken internally can be very useful in treating patterns diagnosed as arthritis, but they must be prescribed according to a TCM diagnosis. 


Topical Herbs for Arthritis 

There are a number of excellent remedies that are applied topically to reduce pain and stiffness. These require no diagnosis to use.  Some of the more popular are:





Acupuncture and acupressure promote the movement of qi and blood to relieve pain and promote normalcy and can be helpful in treating these conditions. 

Moxibustion (heat treatment) is extremely beneficial in treating cold conditions such as cold-bi, damp-bi, and third stage injuries. It is NOT appropriate in hot conditions such as Hot BI (rheumatoid arthritis).


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Acupuncture for Arthritis & Joint Pain

Several studies have shown that acupuncture can help people with arthritis and related auto-immune diseases.

In one Scandinavian study 25 percent of arthritis patients who had been scheduled for knee surgery cancelled their operations after acupuncture treatment. In the study, researchers compared acupuncture with advice and exercise for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the hip.  One group received acupuncture, and the other group received advice and hip exercises over a 6-week period.

Patients in the acupuncture group showed significant improvements, while no significant changes were reported in the group that received advice and exercise therapy. 

Another study at the University of Maryland showed that elderly arthritis patients with knee pain  improved significantly when acupuncture was added to their treatment.


Seventy-three patients were randomly divided into 2 groups. One group received twice-weekly acupuncture treatments and conventional therapy for 8 weeks, and the other group received conventional therapy only.

Patients who received acupuncture had significant pain relief and showed improvement in function. Those who did not receive acupuncture showed no significant change. 


Information on this page is meant for educational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your health care provider. These statements have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.