Anxiety according to Chinese Medicine

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Anxiety can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like anxiety here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here anxiety is often associated with insomnia, dizziness and night sweats in the pattern “Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause anxiety.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of anxiety we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat anxiety.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause anxiety

In Chinese Medicine anxiety is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to anxiety, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include insomnia, dizziness and night sweats.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Vaginal Itching.

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency here

Baikal Skullcap Roots (Huang Qin) is the king ingredient for Qing Re Gu Jing Tang, a formula used for Heat in Uterus Blood

Heat in Uterus Blood

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to anxiety, other symptoms associated with Heat in Uterus Blood include red face, constipation and heavy periods.

Heat in Uterus Blood is often treated with Qing Re Gu Jing Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Baikal Skullcap Roots - Huang Qin - as a key herb). Qing Re Gu Jing Tang belongs to the category of "", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Empty Heat".

Read more about Heat in Uterus Blood here

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

Phlegm-Fire harassing the Heart

Pulse type(s): Overflowing (Hong), Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

In addition to anxiety, other symptoms associated with Phlegm-Fire harassing the Heart include insomnia, palpitations and dream disturbed sleep.

Phlegm-Fire harassing the Heart is often treated with Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Hot Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm-Fire harassing the Heart here

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to anxiety, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, palpitations and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

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

Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to anxiety, other symptoms associated with Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation.

Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency is often treated with Dang Gui Di Huang Yin, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Dong Quai - Dang Gui - as a key herb). Dang Gui Di Huang Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes Blood".

Read more about Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with anxiety

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with anxiety?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency' of which anxiety is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here

Qing Re Gu Jing Tang

Source date: 1988

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Clears Empty Heat. Tonifies the Kidney Yin. Stops bleeding. Supplies Body Fluids.

Why might Qing Re Gu Jing Tang help with anxiety?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heat in Uterus Blood' of which anxiety is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Heat In Uterus Blood include red face, constipation and heavy periods.

Read more about Qing Re Gu Jing Tang here

Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1852 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears Hot Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder Heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang help with anxiety?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm-Fire harassing the Heart' of which anxiety is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Phlegm-Fire Harassing The Heart include insomnia, palpitations and dream disturbed sleep.

Read more about Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang here

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Wen Dan Tang help with anxiety?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which anxiety is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with anxiety?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency' of which anxiety is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Blood and Kidney Essence Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Acupuncture points used for anxiety

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat anxiety

Why might Tortoise Plastron (Gui Ban) help with anxiety?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat anxiety and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat anxiety as a symptom (such as Zuo Gui Wan for instance).

Tortoise Plastrons is a Cool herb that tastes Salty and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Nourishes the Yin and holds down the Yang. Strengthens the Kidneys and strengthens the bones. Cools the Blood, stops uterine bleeding. Nourishes the Heart. Promotes Healing.

Read more about Tortoise Plastrons here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with anxiety?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat anxiety as a symptom, like Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang or Wen Dan Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with anxiety?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat anxiety as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with anxiety?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat anxiety as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Shen Qi Si Wu Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with anxiety?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat anxiety as a symptom, like Shen Qi Si Wu Tang or Huang Lian E Jiao Tang for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Spleen and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here