A Chinese Medicine Approach to Understanding and Treating Brain Fog

by John G. McGarvey |

A Chinese Medicine Approach to Understanding and Treating Brain Fog

Like many health and wellness conditions, Traditional Chinese Medicine theory provides both insights and solutions to experiences that might otherwise be considered challenging to understand or explain from a pure modern conventional approach.  The recent discussions surrounding “brain fog” is a classic example, where working with an Acupuncturist or Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine can help solve for the sluggishness, the forgetfulness and the lackluster sleep - but also the underlying condition as well - leading to a longer term sustainable solution. 

“Brain fog” is nothing new, but recent headlines discussing on-going, residual brain fog, lack of energy, and disruptions to natural sleep have been widespread and are likely to continue so.  From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine however, the experience represents a classic “root presentation”, with herbs and acupuncture providing natural solutions.


DAO Labs Co-Founder and Chief Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine is currently concluding a Fulbright Scholarship in Taiwan, where some of his research and observations touch on this very topic. He notes, “The key to people experiencing ‘brain fog’ seems to most likely be tied to what we describe as Qi Deficiency, as the classic symptoms like sluggishness, disrupted sleep, lack of focus, are all signs pointing to this ‘root presentation’ - or condition”.        

In addition, Dr. Karchmer notes that from the perspective of Chinese medicine theory, doctors in Taiwan have argued that “brain fog presentations” can also be understood by a 13th century theory of “Yin Fire”, with competing interpretations of what this means, but perhaps the most widely accepted explanation is that it is a form of deficient heat caused by deficiencies of the spleen, stomach and Qi.  

Two Chinese Medicine Herbal Formulas Worth Considering for Brain Fog

Through his studies, Dr. Karchmer recommends to classic Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine formulas:

  • Restore the Spleen Decoction (Gui Pi Tang) is the formula Dr. Karchmer has recommended most often given that disrupted sleep has been a major complaint with the people he has worked with.  This formula is available from DAO Labs as Mental Tranquility
  • The classic “Tonify the Middle and Supplement Qi Decoction (Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang)

Don’t Forget Acupuncture

We recommend that everybody have an Acupuncturist as part of their wellness toolkit, but this is an example where working with one closely can be particularly invaluable.  Not only can they assist with any deficiency you are experiencing tied to brain fog, but also assist with other lingering or long term symptoms that might be plaguing you.  Appointments are typically less than an hour, and can provide incredible benefit to the mind, body, and spirit.

More Information

Brain fog isn’t fun, but it can be addressed through the power of Chinese medicine.  Aren’t sure where to get started? 

  • Consider a Virtual Consultation with one of our Acupuncturists. They can answer questions, provide at-home care (such as acu-pressure points, diet adjustments, and other behavioral changes that can help with brain fog) and can also recommend an Acupuncturist in your community for further care.
  • Consider Mental Tranquility for sleep related issues and the herb’s ability to help with next day.  

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    Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations  from a healthcare provider.  This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease.  That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options.  If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on hello@mydaolabs.com

    John G. McGarvey is a co-founder of DAO Labs and a regular contributor to The Way. A frequent visitor to China and Asia for both business and pleasure, he is an avid consumer of Chinese medicine. He can be reached at john@mydaolabs.com.

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