Home » Oketsu and Blood Clots Treatment with Chinese Medicine
Blood circulation is crucial to life, and blood clots are one of the major haematological problems seen in the circulatory system. They can slow blood flow, make it more difficult for our cells and tissues to get enough oxygen, and impair their normal functions. This slowing or stasis of blood flow is called “Oketsu” in Kampo , a unique school of Chinese herbal medicine (and also where the name of our clinic comes from). Kampo has developed a method that can identify blood stasis at an early stage, and with the use of herbal medicine and acupuncture, the issues can be addressed safely, effectively improving the quality of blood circulation.
Oketsu is an important concept in Kampo pathology. It can be translated from Japanese as “Blood Stasis” or “Toxic Blood.” It is a pathological state of the blood that can affect organ systems and even the whole body. Oketsu can be present physically such as with blood clots, masses, or changes to the color and texture of skin, but it can also present subjectively as pain or mental disturbance. Some biomarkers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate(ESR), can be detected in severe cases. Oketsu has a sibling concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) called “YuXie.” Some schools and practitioners of Kampo and Chinese Medicine think that Oketsu/YuXie is the source of all diseases; therefore, reducing or eliminating Oketsu is necessary when treating any disease.
The main diagnostic method for determining Oketsu is through Fukushin, an abdominal palpation that Kampo practitioners use to identify pathological patterns in order to create proper treatment strategies to address the root causes of dysfunction. Oketsu is usually found in the lower abdomen below the umbilicus. By pressing their hands into the area, the practitioners feel for texture, temperature, tension, nodules, masses, or any other abnormalities, as well as observing the patient’s reaction and asking for subjective feelings such as pain and sensitivity. Both objective and subjective findings—location, shape, size, firmness, level of discomfort—are taken into account for diagnosis. There are many other ways that help Kampo/TCM practitioners diagnose blood stagnation, and each method can serve as keys on their own, or as supporting evidence for the final conclusion. These can be:
Some conditions are not directly diagnosable, but are considered risk factors for Oketsu, such as stubborn skin diseases, chronic infections (biofilm formation is a form of Oketsu), severe injury or trauma, major surgeries (these can cause internal stasis, which is the reason Western Medicine sometimes prescribes blood thinners afterward).
Oketsu/YuXie treatments have been used to help in many diseases and across different organs and systems:
Why is Oketsu helpful for so many different conditions?
Modern science may provide some insight into this. From the latest biomedicine research, scientists found a close relationship between the coagulation and inflammation processes. From this study: “Extensive cross talk between coagulation and inflammation, whereby activation of one system may amplify activation of the other, a situation that, if unopposed, may result in tissue damage or even multi-organ failure.”
From the knowledge we have now, it is thought that inflammation is behind most, if not all, diseases. Once again, modern science has validated ancient wisdom. Maybe the Kampo physician who claimed Oketsu is behind every disease was right.
From the perspective of an alternative medicine clinician, the diagnosis and treatment of Oketsu is extremely useful. Most age-related diseases: cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases, auto-immune diseases, and even cancer can be put into the category of “chronic inflammationchronic inflammation.” However, focusing on inflammation alone has not gone far enough, blood clot issues need to be addressed safely to achieve the best therapeutic outcomes. Considering the side effects of anticoagulation medications, Kampo, or Chinese medicine in general, can provide alternative solutions to help solve a problem that plays a heavy burden on our society.
(If you suspect you have blood clots problems, please consult with your medical doctor first.)After Oketsu is identified, a Kampo practitioner will then create herbal formulas to treat it. There are hundreds of herbs that have anti-coagulation actions. Through thousands of years of practice, Chinese medicine herbalists have sorted out several dozen herbs that have the strongest effect on improving blood circulation and breaking down blood clots. Using them, we have created many formulations to address the issue of blood stasis. Each formula has its own clinical indication and strength in tackling the complex mechanisms of blood coagulation and the inflammatory process.
There are several blood formulas that I keep in my clinic to treat patients with Oketsu. Dan Gui Shao Yao San, Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, and Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan are among my favorites. Each of these formulas has its own unique indication for treating things such as constipation, cramps, muscle flaccidity, etc. We chose the formula that best fits the picture we see.
The reason we don’t use a single herb to address blood clots is that the formation of blood clots requires many physiological process that cannot be covered by a single herb. This is the case for anticoagulant drugs as well. A complex issue requires a complex solution such as Kampo herbal formulas.
In reality, Oketsu treatments are often combined with other Kampo patterns, such as happened in my cases for Cystic Acne and Chronic eczema. Many post-COVID-19 patients are also dealing with blood clots issues. You can read one of my cases of using Chinese medicine for Post-COVID issues here.
If you think you may have blood clots or related problems that are currently affecting your health, You can consider using Chinese medicine as an alternative options. please call us to discuss your condition or book your appointment with Kampo Health Chinese Medicine clinic in Toronto.
Oketsu is, as mentioned, translated to Toxic Blood in some texts. You can think of it as pathological blood, meaning the blood is no longer performing normal physiological functions, but is creating harmful issues such as blood clots, inflammation, chronic infection, pain, edema, or hypoxia. Any of these would disturb normal functions in the body. In Chinese medicine, the word “toxin” refers to anything that the body doesn’t need for its normal function. Even water can be toxic if it gets in the way of normal physiological functions. Which may sound contrary to the current health dogma of water intake, which suggests that in all cases, the more water we drink the healthier our body is.
In general, the Kampo-style diagnosis is solution driven, not mechanism driven. This is a main difference of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) from Western medicine. The purpose of Kampo’s Oketsu diagnosis is to give guidance to the practitioner to determine the treatment or herbal formulas, not to generate a theory/hypothesis about why and how the problem happened. Nor is it to find what singular pathogen, i.e bacteria or virus, caused the disease. Often referred to as “germ-theory” this thinking was developed in the early days of Western Medicine and continues to dominate the methodology still used today.
I think Kampo medicine is a pragmatic medicine; everything is oriented toward finding the solution, not to finding a perfect explanation of what’s happening before working on the actual treatments.
If you are interested in using an alternative medicine to take care of your health, Kampo Health is a trusted Chinese medicine clinic in Toronto. Give us a call today.
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