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Blood Deficiency in TCM: Is It Why You Feel Wiped Out?

When’s the last time you thought about your blood? Was it the last time you got a paper cut? Or when you sliced some skin chopping vegetables? Maybe it was when you had some blood work done during your annual physical? 

Most people don’t think about their blood very often. But they should. Both the quality and quantity of blood in perhaps millions of Americans is lacking. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the pattern of Blood Deficiency gives rise to many symptoms that indicate poor circulation, low energy and diminished vitality. 

If you feel like you’re dragging, either energetically, emotionally or spiritually, it’s time to contemplate your blood. 

Feeling wiped out or exhausted, including when there’s no obvious explanation for it, can be caused by Blood Deficiency. Females who have problems with their menstrual cycle typically also have this pattern. 

So what exactly is Blood Deficiency and why does it develop in the first place? Let’s find out…

What is Blood Deficiency in TCM?

In simplest terms, Blood Deficiency refers to the TCM pattern where a specific organ system (or systems) is improperly nourished—either because of insufficient blood flow or the lack of quality of the blood itself, or both. 

Feeling wiped out or exhausted, including when there’s no obvious explanation for it, can be caused by Blood Deficiency.

But how did ancient TCM physicians know if somebody had Blood Deficiency? After all, they didn’t have microscopes and therefore couldn’t analyze the chemical make-up of blood droplets. TCM doctors of centuries past couldn’t examine the ratio between red blood cells and white blood cells nor could they test for adequate hemoglobin levels. 

In TCM, Blood Deficiency patterns are detected by a person’s appearance. Not only that, their mood and emotional well-being can be tell-tale signs…

Symptoms of Blood Deficiency  

The most common manifestations of having an insufficient amount of blood or insufficiently-nourished blood include pale skin, lethargy and tiredness, dry skin, brittle hair and nails, numbness and occasional dizziness. Furthermore, Blood Deficiency can result in cognitive difficulty (including what would be called “brain fog”) and poor sleep quality. 

But for the most part, it’s people who complain about being “burned-out” or say they are exhausted or depleted that typically have a Blood Deficiency pattern. 

It makes sense from a TCM perspective that Blood Deficiency causes tiredness. This is because Blood produces Qi, the overall energy of the body. And if there’s insufficient Qi, there’s poor blood flow because Qi moves Blood to the organ system(s) where it needs to go. 

What Causes Blood Deficiency?

Obviously, a traumatic injury in which there is a severe amount of blood loss would cause blood deficiency. But not all causes are so obvious. For example, working too hard, especially physically-taxing jobs can cause it. So, too, can high-intensity exercise as well as nutrient deficiencies and certain prescription medications. 

Dang Gui: The “Angelic” TCM Herb That Fights Blood Deficiency

Dang Gui is a Chinese herb that goes by “Angelica Root” or “female ginseng” in the west. A potent blood tonic in Chinese herbal medicine, Dang Gui helps build the blood, especially in the Spleen and Liver channels, which makes and stores blood, respectively, according to TCM theory. 

The Heart channel in TCM regulates blood circulation, which for women is critical during the menstrual cycle. Thus, for females that experience problems with the menstrual cycle, Dang Gui and other blood tonics may help support a normal, healthy blood flow.

Men may also benefit from taking Dang Gui extract. This legendary Chinese herb also has a calming effect, which is something anybody who works too much and Blood Deficient can benefit from. 

Best TCM Blood Tonic Formulas

ActiveHerb.com offers several formulas that may help nourish and tonify the blood. If you’re looking for a formula with Dang Gui to support your menstrual cycle, read about our formula Tonics4.

Suggested Reading:

A TCM View of Menstrual Health

What Is Blood in TCM?