Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency

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Pattern factsheet

Chinese name: 心肝血虚

Pinyin name: Xīn Gān Xuè Xū

Associated TCM concepts: Liver Heart Blood


Common symptoms: Cramps Anxiety Insomnia Dry hair Dry skin and eighteen other symptoms

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

Tongue description: Pale, Thin and slightly dry

The Heart controls Blood circulation while the Liver stores Blood. Only when Heart Blood is plentiful does the Liver have Blood to store. And when Liver Blood is Deficient, Heart Blood is certain to be Deficient also.

As such signs of Heart Blood Deficiency almost always occur along Liver Blood Deficiency. This is why generally speaking, this combination of patterns is more likely to start with Liver Blood rather than Heart Blood Deficiency.

Both the Heart and Liver are involved in mental activities and mood: the Heart because it rules the Mind (Shen), the Liver because it houses the Ethereal Soul (Hun) and is in charge of the smooth and regular flow of Qi to all parts of the body.

Insomnia, for instance, is a characteristic "mental" symptom that can be attributed to both Heart Blood or Liver Blood deficiency as both the Mind and the Ethereal Soul play a role in sleep. The Mind is anchored in Heart Blood and the Ethereal Soul in Liver Blood: when either is deficient, one or the other ‘wanders’ at night, causing insomnia. 

The combination of Heart Blood and Liver Blood deficiency is also frequently seen in postpartum depression. It is often caused by the massive blood loss suffered during childbirth which induces Liver Blood Deficiency. As the Liver is the Mother of the Heart, this in turn induces a Deficiency of Heart-Blood. Deficient Heart-Blood fails to house the Mind and the woman becomes depressed and suffers from insomnia.

Diagnosing Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Diagnosing a pattern in Chinese Medicine is no easy feat and should be left to professional practitioners.

In particular one has to know how to differentiate between different types of pulses and tongue coatings, shapes and colors. Here patients with Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency will tend to exhibit choppy (Se) or fine (Xi) pulses.

Practitioners also learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Here patients with Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency might experience symptoms like palpitations, dizziness, insomnia and dream disturbed sleep (full list here above).

Herbal formulas used to treat Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Formula summary

Gui Pi Tang is a 12-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Ginseng (Ren Shen), Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi), Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu) and Liquorice (Gan Cao) as principal ingredients. Invented in 1529 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that tonify Qi and Blood.

Besides Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency, Gui Pi Tang is also used to treat Qi Deficiency or Blood Deficiency.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang

Sheng Yu Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Preserves the Blood.

Formula summary

Sheng Yu Tang is a 6-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Dong Quai (Dang Gui) as a principal ingredient. Invented in 1336 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that tonify Blood.

Besides Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency, Sheng Yu Tang is also used to treat Blood and Qi Deficiency.

Read more about Sheng Yu Tang

Diet recommendations

Eat a balanced diet including a lot of meat and grains. Eat only cooked foods (i.e. nothing raw) and do not skip meals.

Meditation and contemplation is also known to help with this pattern.

Most important herbs used to treat Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency