January 31, 2013

Chinese Herbal Formulae for Knee Pain

Chinese Herbal Formulae for Knee Pain and Injury

Chinese Herbal Medicine has been used to successfully treat traumatic injury for centuries and although the surgical methods that were once part of Chinese Medicine have been replaced by modern methods, the herbal formulae and acupuncture point prescriptions are still effective today and can speed up recovery time in the case of acute injuries and often be the only alternative in chronic cases.

It is well known that the combination of Xu Duan and Du Zhong is the pairing of choice when it comes to knee pain. The literal translation of Xu Duan is "restore what is broken" or "reconnect broken parts". Du Zhong's effects are similar to Xu Duan but it is more supplementing in nature while Xu Duan is more adept at invigorating blood and repairing bone and soft tissue. They both supplement the liver and kidneys and strengthen the bones and sinews.

Du Zhong and Xu Duan are frequently prescribed for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and injury to the back and lower limbs. According to the ancient TCM literature, Du Zhong strengthens muscles and bones.

Studies have shown that extracts of Du Zhong can promote collagen synthesis and suppress osteoclast activity to inhibit osteolysis. TCM physicians have also used Xu Duan to treat patients with pain in the lower back and knee, inflammation and traumatic injuries of the leg joints and bones, and general weakness. In a study conducted on mice, Xu Duan increased bone density and altered bone histomorphology. It is no surprise then that these two herbs are primary ingredients in any formula to treat knee pain. They are slightly different however and in the acute case of knee pain due to injury, Xu Duan is the herb that is more beneficial. The following formula is based on Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang, modified specifically for Knee pain due to injury and also importantly without swelling, redness and heat. If there is swelling, redness and heat, one should add Da Huang and only use until the visible signs of inflammation have subsided. Thereafter the formula can be used without Da Huang.

  • Dang gui 6g
  • Chuan Xiong 6g
  • Chi Shao 6g
  • Shu Di Huang 6g
  • Xu Duan 9-15g
  • Xiang Fu 6g
  • Hong Hua 6g
  • San Qi 6g
  • Ze Lan 6g
  • Su Mu 6g
  • Tao Ren 6g
  • Wu Yao 6g
  • Chuan Niu Xi 6g
  • Yan Hu Suo 6g
  • Mu Gua 6g
  • Niu Xi 6g
  • Du Huo 6g
  • Gan Cao 6g


This formula should be taken twice a day for 2 weeks (5g per day of powder). Its actions are to stop pain and reduce swelling, invigorate the flow of blood, repair the bones and sinews, supplement the liver and kidneys.

It treats acute external or traumatic injuries to the lower limbs, including the legs, knees and ankles. Clinical applications include acute injuries leading to broken bones, bone fractures, joint dislocations, soft tissue injuries and generalized swelling and pain.

For chronic cases including degenerative disorders affecting the lower limbs, including the legs, knees and ankles, the following formula is more appropriate:

  • Dang Gui 6g
  • Bai Shao 6g
  • Shu Di Huang 6g
  • Dang Shen 6g
  • Bai Zhu 6g
  • Mu Dan Pi 6g
  • Ze Xie 6g
  • Fu Ling 6g
  • Shan Yao 6g
  • Niu Xi 6g
  • Zhi Mu 6g
  • Huang Bai 6g
  • Wu Jia Pi 6g
  • Du Zhong 15g
  • Qian Nian Jian 6g
  • Shen Jin Cao 6g
  • Dan Shen 6g
  • Ji Xue Teng 6g
  • Gan Cao 3g
  • Sheng Jiang 3g
  • Da Zao 3g

Historically this formula was used to treat a condition called cranes knee wind characterised by the inability or difficulty in flexing and extending the knee joint. Today it is used to treat chronic disorders of the leg such as atrophy and degeneration of the soft tissues, weakness of the muscles and joints and stiffness and decreased range of motion of the joints.

Dosage is one teaspoon(2,5g) per day.

(These formulas are available to practitioners via our prescription service, kindly contact us by email or phone if you would like us to prepare a batch.)