BLOOD IN CHINESE MEDICINE?
Blood (血 xuè) encompass the Western concept of the word and much more. Blood and Qi are as inseparable and interconnected as Yin and Yang. Qi moves and directs the flow of Blood, while Blood provides substance through which Qi can move and nourishes the organs that produce Qi.
Functions of Blood in TCM:
- Houses the Shen. Shen is often translated as “spirit” but it also encompasses the concept of “mind” and “consciousness”. If Blood is deficient the Shen “has no home” and becomes scattered and disordered. This explains why patients with Blood deficiency often feel mentally scattered, have difficulty focusing or remembering, feel emotionally vulnerable, anxious, timid, are easily frightened, suffer from palpitations, and have trouble sleeping. (If Blood is stagnant, as often happens after trauma, it also has mental/emotional ramifications: depression, severe insomnia).
- Moistens Organs, Tissue, and Meridians. Healthy Blood gives our skin a rosy glow, provides luster and life to our hair, and gives us strong nails. Blood deficiency is implicated in many skin issues that have symptoms of dryness, itching, and pallor. Healthy Blood lubricates our tendons and muscles. Chronic tension and stiffness is a sign of Blood deficiency. Blood nourishes the eyes. Deficient Blood causes blurred vision and other vision issues.
- Allows For Sensation and Movement. Localized blood deficiency can lead to a lack of sensation and function such as numbness or atrophy.
- Anchors Qi. The moist substance of Blood keeps Qi from moving upward recklessly as in some cases of headaches and tinnitis.
- Menstruation. Healthy shows itself in normal menstrual blood that is red and of medium volume. Symptoms of Blood deficiency include delayed period (body takes a long time to build up the uterine lining), pale blood, and scanty volume.
WHAT WEAKENS BLOOD?
- Excessive mental work and stress.
- Excessive or pathological bleeding such as internal bleeding or heavy periods.
- Qi deficiency.
DIET TO STRENGTHEN QI
There is an old Chinese saying that it takes “40 parts of Qi to make 1 part of Blood”. Building Blood takes more time and requires high protein foods. The best foods to build blood are animal products: liver (or desiccated liver pills), chicken, and bone marrow broth. Chlorophyll-rich greens are very important. Vegetarians will take a little longer and are more dependent on Chinese herbs. Try to eat organic as much as possible. MacClean and Littleton recommend a diet of 30-40% carbohydrates, 40-50% vegetables, and 20-30% protein.
Specific foods to strengthen Blood: liver, eggs, chicken, beef, bone marrow, bone broth, pork trotters, oyster, mussel, tempeh, miso, quinoa, rice, beans and legumes (especially black beans), carrots, beets, go ji berries, longan berries, mulberries, jujube dates, black sesame seed, wheatgrass, blue-green algae, spinach, kale, collards, swiss chard, dill, cilantro, parsley, dark beer (small quantities).
Avoid or limit: excessive raw food, chemicals, refined food.
LIFESTYLE TO STRENGTHEN BLOOD
- Rest during menstruation and postpartum.
- Balance self-care with nurturing others.
- Balance activity with rest. Sleep an extra hour after a tough workout or a hard day.
- Practice meditation, qigong/taichi, or other stress-relieving activity.
TIMES WHEN BLOOD IS WEAKENED
- Women during menses, postpartum, and menopause.
- After a period of blood loss.
- Periods of stress and extreme mental exertion.