Chinese Herbs for “Food Stagnation”

By Marcie Bower, Lic.Ac.

This post is copied from our older, original blog. Original post date 4/11/2014.


There is a concept in Chinese Herbal Medicine theory called “Food Stagnation” – you can probably guess what this is. Food Stagnation often occurs after eating too much or too quickly, or eating food that doesn’t agree with your body. Symptoms of food stagnation include an uncomfortable feeling of fullness, bloating, pain in the stomach, nausea, vomiting (if severe), loss of appetite, and constipation. The stuck food can cause our normal digestive Qi (energy) to become stuck, too, leading to additional symptoms. If there is regular food stagnation, over time this can weaken the digestive energy, leading to more chronic symptoms of indigestion and pain.

There are some very effective Chinese Herbal formulas to treat food stagnation, and when appropriate, a licensed practitioner can prescribe them for you to have on hand just in case of discomfort following a meal. Here are some of the most common herbs that we use in herbal formulas to deal with Food Stagnation:


Shan Zha

This herb, Hawthorn fruit, specifically reduces food stagnation and also improves the appetite. We can use it to treat bloating, fullness, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It is specifically good for stagnation from meat or excessively greasy foods. Preliminary research shows that it may be helpful in treating hypertension, coronary artery disease, and hyperlipidemia.


Lai Fu Zi

Lai Fu Zi is the Chinese name for Radish seed, and it is great at reducing Food Stagnation, particularly when signs of Phlegm (an abnormal processing of fluids) are involved. As such, it can treat symptoms like bloating, fullness, and abdominal pain following meals.


Shen Qu

This herb particularly reduces food stagnation due to overconsumption of grains. Note that it is made from a mix of fermented grains and does contain gluten, so should be avoided in cases of gluten intolerance or sensitivity.