Stress, anxiousness, sadness, or mental fatigue got you down? In our fast-paced society, stress and the emotional blues have become more common, and people are constantly seeking natural ways to enhance their mental well-being. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been revered for centuries for its holistic approach to health and well-being, including mental health. In this article, we will explore the best herbs for mental health, their uses and benefits, as well as a few other tips to help improve your mental well-being from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.
Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine and Mental Health
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a system of health that has been practiced for over 2,500 years. It revolves around the concept of creating balance within the body by recognizing patterns and observing natural changes. Forces known as Yin and Yang, and the flow of vital energy, or Qi, are part of the foundational theory. When this balance is disrupted, physical and mental ailments can occur.
Traditional Chinese Medicine theory believes that the mind and body are interconnected, and maintaining balanced mental health is as crucial as physical health.
There are multiple approaches when it comes to recognizing and treating mental well-being from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective. The term Shen is used to describe the spectrum of emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of being human.
Our Shen, or mind-body connection, is an aspect of ourselves that governs and explains various mental and emotional states of being, and is associated with, the activity of thinking, consciousness, self, insight, emotional life, memory, and volition,” states Giovanni Maciocia, a Chinese medicine scholar.
Traditional Chinese Herbs and Modern Science
Traditional Chinese herbs have piqued the interest of modern science and researchers worldwide. Many studies have been conducted to understand their potential benefits for mental health. Some Chinese herbs have been incorporated into pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements due to their efficacy. These herbs can offer a natural and holistic approach to mental well-being, without the side effects associated with certain "modern options".
A study published in the Current NeuroPharmacological Journal recognized the importance and efficacy of utilizing herbal medicine for anxiety, depression, and anxiety. This study in particular notes the benefits of well-known herbs like Ginseng, Peony, and Albizzia.
The Best Herbs For Mental Health and Wellbeing
In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, herbal medicine is often employed to help bring more balance and ease to the body and mind. Herbs can be used to calm the Shen, lessen stares of anxiety, or even promote better sleep. Some of the best herbs for mental health are as follows;
- Huang Qi (Astragalus Membranaceus)- Astragalus Membranaceus, often referred to simply as Astragalus or milk vetch, is a potent herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its ability to boost energy, digestion, and vitality. While it primarily focuses on "tonfiying Qi", or boosting energy and immune system support, its effects can indirectly improve mental well-being. When you have more energy, you're better equipped to cope with stress and maintain a positive outlook, which is crucial for mental health. It is found in many formulas such as Gui Pi Tang.
- Chai Hu (Bupleurum)- Known commonly as Thorowax root, this herb is often used for it potential to help decrease states of stress, irritability, and depression. It is a very important herb in the popular formula known as Free and Easy Wanderer, Xiao Yao San.
- Suan Zao Ren (Zizyphus jujuba)- Also known as Chinese red date, is a Traditional Chinese herb that is often recommended for promoting relaxation and improving sleep, which can indirectly contribute to mental well-being. It is an important herb in Gui Pi Tang, Chai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Wan, Gan Mai Da Zao Wan, and many other formulas that can promote mental health, better digestion, or boost immunity.
- Ling Zhi (Reishi)- Rieshi mushroom is one of the most well-known and well-researched TCM herbs. It is a medicinal mushroom that is known to help boost overall vitality while supporting relaxation, lowering stress, and calming your nervous system. It is not known for one to see immediate changes when taking this herbal remedy but for long-term use and benefits.
Incorporating Traditional Chinese Medicine into Your Routine
If you're interested in leveraging Traditional Chinese herbs, some of which we consider the best herbs for mental health, and the related philosophy for your mental well-being, there are several ways to incorporate them into your daily routine:
- Herbal Formulas- Traditional Chinese herbs are available in powders and tablets for ease of use and dosing. Ensure you purchase from reputable sources and follow the recommended dosages.
- Herbal Teas- Many Chinese herbs can be consumed in the form of herbal teas and decoctions. These teas can provide a soothing and calming effect while benefiting your mental health.
- Tinctures and Extracts- Liquid extracts and tinctures are another way to consume Traditional Chinese herbs, though not as widely used. They are easy to add to your daily routine and can be more concentrated than teas.
- Mindfulness Practices- Alongside herbal remedies, consider incorporating mindfulness practices like meditation, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong into your daily routine. These practices align with Traditional Chinese Medicine principles and can further enhance your mental well-being.
- Acupuncture- Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal medicine and acupuncture share the same guiding principles and are focused on mental well-being through boosting or subduing Qi, calming the Shen, and bringing balance to the body and mind.
In a world that often prioritizes quick fixes and pharmaceutical solutions, Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a more encompassing perspective on mental health. Traditional Chinese Medicine, with its focus on balance, harmony, the use of natural herbs, and healthy lifestyle modifications, can be a valuable addition to our modern approach to mental well-being.
With some of the best herbs for mental health such as Huang Qi, Chai Hu, Suan Zao Ren, and Reishi you can take proactive steps to maintain and enhance your mental health naturally. Remember that mental health and emotional wellbeing is an integral aspect of health and wellness and some conditions may be more serious than a person can deal with alone, so seeking professional support is advised especially in cases of extreme emotions.
Liu L, Liu C, Wang Y, Wang P, Li Y, Li B. Herbal Medicine for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015;13(4):481-493.
Shen and Hun. Giovanni Maciocia. Accessed 11/13/23.
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 otherTraditional 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.