Do you have a memory like an elephant, able to remember events, people and places from decades ago? Are you able to complete the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle and Sudoku without a struggle? If so, be grateful for your sharp mental acuity. If you want to keep it that way, here’s what you need to know about brain health from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine.
But what if your memory and mental acuity is more pedestrian … is it possible to avoid the seemingly inevitable consequences of being old such as forgetfulness?
A normal, healthy mind doesn’t have to decline with age. And that’s good news because declining brain health affects more than just memory and being able to perform menial tasks. It also can negatively affect sleep, heart function, mood, and, of course, trouble concentrating.
How Does Chinese Medicine Explain Declining Brain Function?
In western medicine, declining brain health is caused in part by abnormal brain proteins that cause damaged neurons. Neurons in the brain lose connections to each other and eventually die.
A normal, healthy mind doesn’t have to decline with age
But if cognitive function declines, traditional Chinese medicine offers another theory: disharmony between the Heart and the Kidneys. In addition, normal mental function necessitates harmony between the Sea of Marrow (brain) and the Shen (spirit).
As for the relationship between Heart and Kidneys, homeostasis of these organs is vital to preserve intellectual vitality. The Kidneys are especially influential when it comes to short-term memory retention, whereas the Heart controls long-term memory.
After years of working hard and not having enough relaxation and recreation, the body can become “burned-out” in colloquial parlance. The Heart and Kidney are most affected by stressful lifestyles. Moreover, the aging process, especially if it’s coupled with a stressful lifestyle, deprives the brain of Qi flow.
How Can Chinese Medicine Support Cognitive Health?
Some people have way too much going on in their lives. They don’t manage stress through meditation or Tai Chi. And instead, they expose themselves to even more stimulation at night (TV, Internet). As a consequence, the Heart suffers from overstimulation. Sleep then becomes problematic and worry and fear become commonplace. Fear and worry negatively impact the theoretical Kidneys and Spleen organ systems, which as mentioned above, are the organs responsible for memory and intellect.
Thus, the key to supporting cognitive function may be, at least in part, managing stress. Moreover, there are TCM supplements specifically formulated for supporting cognitive function (when cognitive function is already normal). How they work is by the following mechanisms:
- Nourishing the Heart (as well as Liver to clear anger-producing toxic heat)
- Tonifying the Kidneys
- Calming the Spirit
- Dispelling Phlegm
- Dispersing stagnant Qi
- Promoting Blood circulation
TCM Herbal Formula For Supporting Brain Health
If you can relate to living a “burned-out” type A lifestyle, consider taking BrainNew, a Kidney-tonifying elegant formula that harmonizes the function and relationship of the Kidneys and Heart.
If your mind is already racing with fear and occasional anxiousness, consider SpiritCalm. A very common formula for people in China who have trouble with occasional sleeplessness, SpiritCalm nourishes Yin energy of the Heart system. By nourishing Yin, hyperactive Yang energy is subdued and insufficient Blood is resolved. These actions result in the calming of the Heart, which leads to a nourishing of Shen (spirit). (In traditional Chinese medicine theory, Shen is housed in the Heart.)
HeartVigor also calms the mind and spirit, and may be especially beneficial for those who present with warm and moist palms and soles, dry mouth, dry stool, or even mouth and tongue ulcers.
And finally, if you have poor digestion and/or lack of appetite as a result of excessive studying or work, our formula SpleenVive nourishes the Spleen, thus supporting digestive function and nourishing Blood. This in turn benefits the Heart function, which consequently settles Shen (spirit).
One thing these four formulas have in common is they resolve Blood deficiency. Blood deficiency can negatively impact brain health, resulting in sleeplessness and mental fogginess.
Supporting Brain Health, Naturally
Supporting cognitive function requires a holistic approach, including through diet and exercise. TCM herbal formulas may also be used to support brain health and memory, in individuals that already have normal brain function.