In

Original Case by: Ye Tian-Shi (叶天士)

[Patient] Zhao (44) [suffered from] chronic constraint and clumping. The five emotions had lead to ascending qi fire. There was Stomach qi counterflow resulting in a stifling sensation of the gastric cavity and no appetite. [This was a pattern of] excessive ascendant Liver yang and wind fire intimidating the orifices. Inevitably there was dizziness and painful obstruction of the throat. There was a feeling of cold, but this was not true cold. All of these signs are due to qi painful obstruction and lack of free flow. This disease [can be understood] from [the classic] phrase, “All clenching, shuddering, and chattering [of the jaws] belongs to fire.” [In addition] Dan Xi said, qi that ascends is from Liver and Gallbladder ministerial fire that does not have a place to reside.

sheng di huang (Rehmanniae Radix)
e jiao (Asini Corii Colla)
xuan shen (Scrophulariae Radix)
mu dan pi (Moutan Cortex)
shi hu (Dendrobii Herba)
hei dou pi (black bean skin)

Translated by: Jason Blalack

Original Chinese: 赵(四四) 郁勃日久。五志气火上升。胃气逆则脘闷不饥。肝阳上僭。风火凌窍。必旋晕咽痹。自觉冷者。非真寒也。皆气痹不通之象。病能篇以诸禁鼓栗属火。丹溪谓上升之气。从肝胆相火。非无据矣。 生地 阿胶 玄参 丹参 川斛 黑 豆皮

Source: Case from the constraint chapter of Case Records as a Guide to Clinical Practice (Lín zhèng zhî nán yï àn) 《临证指南医案》.

Commentary: I found this case quite instructive. This is a classic Ye Tian-Shi case in that there are multiple symptoms that can be viewed in many ways (secondary patterns) yet Ye focuses on the underlying pathodynamic, addressing all of them in a simple elegant formula.

The way I like to read such cases is to examine how these “other” symptoms can be caused from the pathodynamic that is addressed. That is,we know that such a patient could have red eyes, dry mouth, thirst, a rapid and thin pulse, etc. These are not mentioned because they are obvious. However, the key unusual symptoms are mentioned and this is what we focus our learning on. For example, a question to ask is, why is there low appetite, painful obstruction of the throat, stifling sensation in the gastric cavity, a sensation of cold and how is it related to the diagnosis, the pathodynamic, and addressed in this formula? One can assume that Ye believes that these symptoms will be eliminated with the above formula, which is addressing the root.

Hence from such cases, we can learn that we need not load our formulas with unnecessary symptomatic herbs (that may even be counterproductive) if we properly address the underlying pathodynamic, consequently, teaching us how to keep our formulas small and compact.

Therefore we see a focus on yin and blood deficiency with heat even though there is ascending wind, yang, and fire. Ye only uses the mild hei dou pi (black bean skin) to calm and descend the Liver yang, which also nourishes yin and blood (and enriches the Kidney yin). {BTW, this is also called 穭豆衣 (lu dou yi) and I have used this herb and idea successfully often in the clinic.}

We also learn that a fire condition can produce a sensation of cold and one does not need to warm the patient. This is often occurs  from constraint. I also find it interesting that there are clear signs of stomach involvement (low appetite, stifling sensation) and Ye does not move qi (which would damage to yin). The only moving herb is mu dan pi. He also does not try to tonify qi (with warm medicinals) just because there is a low appetite. Hence we learn that the Stomach involvement (even the stifling sensation) can arise from yin deficiency. If one addresses the root and the symptoms improve. Clearly, there was not enough evidence to lead Ye to believe that there was a true underlying Spleen and Stomach deficiency which might make the digestion of yin tonic herbs difficult. This is of course inferred.

The phrase “qi that ascends is from Liver and Gallbladder ministerial fire that does not have a place to reside” simply illustrates the need to build yin (place to reside) to control yang. Also “painful obstruction of the throat” is not only painful but often red and swollen.

I would love to hear what others see in this case…

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