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 palpitations 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 palpitations.

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

Heart Vessel obstructed

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Knotted (Jie), Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Heart Vessel obstructed include palpitations, frequent sighing and shortness of breath.

Heart Vessel obstructed 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 Heart Vessel obstructed here

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

Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency

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

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

Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency is often treated with Gui Pi Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Gui Pi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi and blood", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood".

Read more about Liver and Heart Blood Deficiency 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

Dong Quai (Dang Gui) is the king ingredient for Sheng Yu Tang, a formula used for Blood and Qi Deficiency

Blood and Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Weak (Ruo), Fine (Xi)

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Pale

In addition to depressing thoughts, other symptoms associated with Blood and Qi Deficiency include dizziness, scanty periods and poor appetite.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Blood and Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Menstrual Cramps or Absence Of Menstruation.

Blood and Qi Deficiency is often treated with Sheng Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Dong Quai - Dang Gui - as a key herb). Sheng Yu 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: "Tonifies Qi and Blood".

Read more about Blood and Qi Deficiency 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 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

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

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

Why might Gui Pi Tang help with depressing thoughts?

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

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

Read more about Gui Pi Tang here

Dang Gui Si Ni Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Channels. Disperses Cold. Nourishes the Blood. Unblocks the Blood vessels.

Why might Dang Gui Si Ni Tang help with depressing thoughts?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Heart Vessel Obstructed include palpitations, frequent sighing and shortness of breath.

Read more about Dang Gui Si Ni Tang here

Sheng Yu Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

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

Why might Sheng Yu Tang help with depressing thoughts?

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

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

Read more about Sheng Yu 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 Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang or Gui Pi 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 Dang Gui Si Ni Tang or Sheng Yu 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 Ban Xia Hou Pu 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 White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with depressing thoughts?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat depressing thoughts as a symptom, like Si Wu Tang or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San 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