Origin Of Blood In Chinese Medicine
It is said in Chinese medicine that blood is a denser form of qi; qi gives life and movement to blood, but blood is what nourishes the organs that produce the qi. Thus, like yin and yang, one cannot be without the other.
The function of blood in the body through TCM perspective is to nourish and moisten body tissues, and to support the “shen” (aka the spirit). When blood is to be strengthened, through herbs, dietary means, or even acupuncture, we must also not forget to strengthen and move the qi.
The organs that have a close relationship with blood include the Liver, Kidney, Heart, Lungs and Spleen. The Spleen and Kidneys however are the main organs targeted in treatment for fortifying the blood. The spleen represents the “post heaven qi” (mainly energy derived from food post birth) and the kidneys represent “pre-heaven qi” (the strength of your bodily constitution derived from your parents).
What are the causes?
Blood deficiency is a very common condition to which women in particular are especially prone to. Since women lose blood on a regular monthly basis, if it is not sufficiently regenerated through a healthy nutrient dense diet and proper rest, this deficiency can easily develop. And although women are more prone to blood deficiency than men, men that continuously overexert themselves with work and stress and do not take in enough good nutrition can develop blood deficiency as well.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of blood deficiencies typically present themselves in the following organs:
Liver blood deficiency:
Liver houses/ stores the blood; supplies the uterus with blood and nourishes the tendons and muscles.
- dry brittle hair and nails, dry skin
- pale tongue
- insomnia and excess dreaming
- scanty or missing periods
- blurred vision/ floaters/ dry eyes
- numbness (anemia) and cramps
Heart blood deficiency:
The heart controls the blood vessels and blood circulation, and is also where the Shen (spirit) lives.
- mild insomnia
- poor memory
- dull, pale complexion
Produces food qi; the basis for production of blood and qi.
- poor appetite
- tiredness, listlessness
- loose stool
- weakness of limbs
- pale lips
- dull, pale complexion
5 Ways To Fortify The Blood And Resolve Symptoms
Blood cells are regenerated roughly every 120 day, therefore you can drastically transform your deficiency and the state of your blood in only a few months! Here are a few natural approaches:
TCM has numerous formulas that have a fortifying action on the blood such as:
– Si wu tang
– Ba zhen tang
– Gui pi wan
– Ren shen yang rong wan
– Dang gui wan
– Ba Zhen Yi Mu Wan
– Shao yao gan cao tang
…and the list goes on!
Although the overarching function of these formulas is to strengthen blood, it is important to remember that they are all slightly different in that they may have secondary actions that may or may not be appropriate for your specific condition. Therefore you should ALWAYS have a licensed acupuncturist physician properly diagnose and prescribe the most appropriate formula tailored to you. This will ensure the most powerful and effective treatment with minimal side effects. In fact, if you get the right formula, you will often experience side benefits.
2. COMMON SINGULAR HERBS:
There are a number of individual herbs commonly used to fortify blood in TCM:
– Shu Di Huang → (Rehmannia, Chinese Foxglove Root)
– Dang Gui → ( Chinese Angelica Root)
– Gou Qi Zi → (Goji Berries)
– Bai Shao Yao → (White Peony Root)
– Sang Ji Sheng → (Mulberry Mistletoe Stem)
– Long Yan Rou → (Plum Flower Longan Fruit)
– Da Zao → (Jujube Chinese Date)
3. DIETARY THERAPY:
In TCM, diet should be used strategically to assist in our effort to maintain homeostasis and health. In western medicine, a banana and yogurt would be a great start to the day but for someone who has an excess of yin or too much dampness in the body, this would actually exacerbate their condition. Therefore, we must take our constitution into account and eat nourishing food that is right for our body type.
In blood deficient patients, qi must be tonified right alongside the blood, since qi plays an essential role in circulating the blood to where it is needed by the body. In addition, it is imperative to increase the function of the digestive system so that it may successfully extract the necessary nutrients from the foods to produce blood.
Here is a list of some great blood-building foods:
- Grains: barley, oats, long grain rice, sweet rice, bran (however, grains should be kept to a minimum)
- Vegetables: alfalfa sprout, artichoke, beetroot, button mushroom, cabbage, celery, dandelion leaf, dark leafy greens, kelp, shiitake mushroom, spinach, watercress, wheatgrass, asparagus, spinach, broccoli
- Fruit: apple, apricot, avocado, date, fig, grape, longan, mulberry, tomatoes, bananas, all kinds of berries (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, etc)
- Beans: adzuki, black, kidney
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, black sesame, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa (yes it is considered a seed!)
- Fish: mussel, octopus, oyster, sardine, tuna (however be cautious of both heavy metal and radiation containing fish – check the source from which it comes)
- Meat: all red meat especially bone marrow and liver (beef, pork, sheep) – choose organic, free roaming, hormone free sources (try a bone marrow soup – delicious!)
- Poultry: chicken, turkey, eggs
- Oils, condiments: molasses, pollinated raw honey, coconut oil (great for cooking and baking), olive oil, flax oil (for salads and cold foods) – oils should be cold pressed
- Beverages: kombucha, ginger tea – both promote digestion and thus extraction of nutrients for blood building
Common supplements: algae (i.e. chlorella & spirulina) and bee pollen
* To keep in mind: It is great to combine foods rich in iron (such as lean, free roaming organic red meat) with foods rich in enzymes and vitamins (such as a colorful salad) as it helps the body absorb the iron more effectively. Additionally, the fats in the nuts/seeds, meats, and oils help your body absorb the essential vitamins and minerals from the fruits and veggies while the fiber rich fruits and veggies help your body expel the excess wastes and toxins.
Did you know that initially, sleep deprivation increases white blood cell count? This means that the body responds to sleep deprivation the way it would to an illness or disease. Because the immune system is a metabolically expensive process, chronic stress from chronic sleep deprivation will quickly deplete the body of its resources.
Chronic low grade inflammation → immunodeficiency.
Lack of sleep can also suppress bone marrow formation which is a function related to the kidneys in chinese medicine.
Acupuncture and other energy balancing therapies will have a regulatory effect on your whole system. Acupuncture balances the autonomic nervous system which helps shift the body more into the “growth” state rather than the “protection” state of stress.
Chronic stress depletes blood cell count and leads to a disruption of the gastrointestinal tract and the immune system. Therefore it is essential to restore the harmonious flow of energy so as to encourage the body to build up again.