Depressing thoughts according to Chinese Medicine

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Depressing thoughts 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 depressing thoughts 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 depressing thoughts is often associated with dizziness, insomnia and night sweats in the pattern “Heart Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause depressing thoughts.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of depressing thoughts 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 depressing thoughts.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause depressing thoughts

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

Heart Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Fine (Xi), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

This pattern developed from Heart Blood Deficiency. It shares similar symptoms as the latter one, such as insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, easily to be scared, poor memory and anxiety, but it also has additional empty Heat symptoms. It can be caused by Kidney Yin Deficiency or other factors such as bad diet, overwork or long term exposure to stress or hot environment.

In addition to depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Heart Yin Deficiency include dizziness, insomnia and night sweats.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Heart Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation or Postpartum Depression.

Heart Yin Deficiency is often treated with Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan, a herbal formula made of 14 herbs (including Unprepared Rehmannia - Di Huang - as a key herb). Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish the heart and calm the mind", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic: Nourishes Yin, Blood and Vital Essence of the Heart and Kidney".

Read more about Heart Yin Deficiency here

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

Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation.

In addition to depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation include scanty periods, irritability and breast distention.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

Liver Qi Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Liver Qi Stagnation 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 depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, scanty periods and irritability.

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 Stomach is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Stomach in Chinese Medicine

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua), Full (Shi)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red centre

Stomach Fire indicates a true Excess of Heat in the Stomach, creating symptoms such as mouth ulcers, bad breath, intense thirst and gum bleeding. Stomach Fire can be the result of excessive intake of hot, spicy, greasy and deep fried foods or other factors such as alcohol, tobacco and sugar.

In addition to depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat include irritability, dry mouth and breast distention.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is associated with health issues such as Mastitis, Breast Engorgement or Morning Sickness.

Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat is often treated with Qing Wei San, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Goldthread Rhizomes - Huang Lian - as a key herb). Qing Wei San belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Drains Stomach Fire".

Read more about Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat here

Coco-Grass Rhizomes (Xiang Fu) is the king ingredient for Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, a formula used for Phlegm in the Uterus

Phlegm in the Uterus

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

In addition to depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Phlegm in the Uterus include fatigue, chest fullness and overweight.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm in the Uterus is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation.

Phlegm in the Uterus is often treated with Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Coco-Grass Rhizomes - Xiang Fu - as a key herb). Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan 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: "Resolves Dampness and Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm in the Uterus here

Five herbal formulas that might help with depressing thoughts

Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan

Source date: 16th century

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic: Nourishes Yin, Blood and Vital Essence of the Heart and Kidney. Clears away pathogenic Heat, clears Deficient Heat. Sedative.

Why might Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan help with depressing thoughts?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Heart Yin Deficiency' of which depressing thoughts is a symptom.

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

Read more about Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan here

Xia Ru Yong Quan San

Source date: 1840 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Blood. Increases breast milk supply.

Why might Xia Ru Yong Quan San help with depressing thoughts?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation' of which depressing thoughts is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Low Breast Milk Supply.

Read more about Xia Ru Yong Quan San here

Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1575 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Resolves Damp-Phlegm. Nourishes Blood.

Why might Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang help with depressing thoughts?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Low Breast Milk Supply.

Read more about Xiong Gui Er Chen 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 depressing thoughts?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat' of which depressing thoughts is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stomach Fire or Stomach Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Mastitis.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang here

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Why might Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang help with depressing thoughts?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm in the Uterus' of which depressing thoughts is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm in the Uterus can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat depressing thoughts

Why might Biota Seed (Bai Zi Ren) help with depressing thoughts?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat depressing thoughts and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat depressing thoughts as a symptom (such as Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan for instance).

Biota Seeds is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Large intestine.

Its main actions are: Nourishes the Heart and calms the Spirit. Moistens the Intestines and relieves constipation.

Read more about Biota Seeds here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with depressing thoughts?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat depressing thoughts as a symptom, like Wen Dan Tang or Bu Zhong Yi Qi 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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with depressing thoughts?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat depressing thoughts as a symptom, like Xia Ru Yong Quan San or Xiong Gui Er Chen 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 Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with depressing thoughts?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat depressing thoughts as a symptom, like Wen Dan Tang or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San 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 Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with depressing thoughts?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat depressing thoughts as a symptom, like Wen Dan Tang or Xiao Chai Hu Tang for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here