Nervous exhaustion according to Chinese Medicine

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Nervous exhaustion 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 nervous exhaustion 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 nervous exhaustion is often associated with poor appetite, fatigue and anus prolapse in the pattern “Large Intestine collapse”. As you will see below, we have in record three patterns that can cause nervous exhaustion.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of nervous exhaustion we’ve identified three 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 nervous exhaustion.

The three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause nervous exhaustion

In Chinese Medicine nervous exhaustion is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Large Intestine collapse

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

In addition to nervous exhaustion, other symptoms associated with Large Intestine collapse include poor appetite, fatigue and anus prolapse.

Large Intestine collapse is often treated with Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Milkvetch Roots - Huang Qi - as a key herb). Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner)".

Read more about Large Intestine collapse here

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

Lung Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

The Lungs govern Qi and respiration. In case of Lung Qi Deficiency, Qi's protecting, dispersing and descending function can not be performed properly.

In addition to nervous exhaustion, other symptoms associated with Lung Qi Deficiency include shortness of breath, weak voice and aversion to speak.

Lung Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Lung Qi Deficiency here

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

Spleen Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu)

Tongue color: Pale

Spleen Qi Deficiency is one of the most commonly seen TCM pattern. It is caused by unhealthy diet such as fat raw or cold food, bad eating habit, emotional stress or damp environment. It is the central pattern to all other Spleen disharmonies, because many other Deficiency patterns derive from it.

In addition to nervous exhaustion, other symptoms associated with Spleen Qi Deficiency include poor appetite, fatigue and weak voice.

Spleen Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Spleen Qi Deficiency here

Three herbal formulas that might help with nervous exhaustion

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 nervous exhaustion?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Large Intestine collapse' of which mental exhaustion is a symptom.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang here

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with nervous exhaustion?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency' of which nervous exhaustion is a symptom.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with nervous exhaustion?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Spleen Qi Deficiency' of which nervous exhaustion is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat nervous exhaustion

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with nervous exhaustion?

Because it is a key herb in Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency' (a pattern with nervous exhaustion as a symptom)

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here

Why might Milkvetch Root (Huang Qi) help with nervous exhaustion?

Because it is a key herb in Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Large Intestine collapse' (a pattern with nervous exhaustion as a symptom)

Milkvetch Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Wei Qi and stops perspiration. Tonifies the Spleen Qi and the Yang Qi of the Earth Element. Tonifies the Qi and Blood. Expels pus and assists in the healing of wounds. Helps to regulate water metabolism in the body and reduce edema.

Read more about Milkvetch Roots here

Why might Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) help with nervous exhaustion?

Because it is a key herb in Liu Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Spleen Qi Deficiency' (a pattern with nervous exhaustion as a symptom)

Tangerine Peel is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs.

Read more about Tangerine Peel here

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

Because it is a key herb in Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency' (a pattern with nervous exhaustion as a symptom)

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

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 Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with nervous exhaustion?

Because it is a key herb in Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Lung Qi Deficiency' (a pattern with nervous exhaustion as a symptom)

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here