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, palpitations and insomnia 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, palpitations and insomnia.

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 Blood Deficiency

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

Tongue color: Pale

The Liver stores Blood, that is the reason any Blood Deficiency often involves the Liver. This pattern has an impact on areas the Liver relates to, such as the tendons, eyes, nails and menstruation. It arises from the same causes of general Blood Deficiency, such as poor diet, hemorrhages or Kidney Qi or Essence Deficiency.

In addition to depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, scanty periods and insomnia.

Liver Blood Deficiency is often treated with Si Wu Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Si Wu Tang 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: "Restores and nourishes Blood".

Read more about Liver Blood Deficiency here

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

Kidney Yin Deficiency

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

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can be caused by prolonged overwork, excessive sexual activity, chronic long term illnesses, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Kidney Yang tonics herbs, smoking and Kidney depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar, and fruit juices.

In addition to depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, scanty periods and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome, Prolonged Periods or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang 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: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency here

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a formula used for Qi And Blood Stagnation

Qi And Blood Stagnation

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

In addition to depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Qi And Blood Stagnation include dizziness, scanty periods and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi And Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Absence Of Menstruation or Menopausal Syndrome.

Qi And Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Qi And Blood Stagnation 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, poor appetite and irritability.

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

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

Bu Gan Tang

Source date: 1742 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and regulates the Blood. Nourishes the Liver Yin.

Why might Bu Gan Tang help with depressing thoughts?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Blood Deficiency include dizziness, scanty periods and insomnia.

Read more about Bu Gan Tang here

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San

Source date: 2002 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver Fire from Stagnant Liver Qi.

Why might Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San help with depressing thoughts?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Prolonged Periods.

Read more about Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San here

Si Wu Tang

Source date: 846 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Restores and nourishes Blood. Stimulates Blood circulation.

Why might Si Wu Tang help with depressing thoughts?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi And Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Absence Of Menstruation.

Read more about Si Wu Tang here

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Why might Xiao Yao 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 Xiao Yao San here

Acupuncture points used for depressing thoughts

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 Bu Gan Tang or Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San 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 Si Wu Tang or Bu Gan 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 Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or 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 Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with depressing thoughts?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat depressing thoughts as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Bu Gan Tang for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here