Using TCM for anxiety allows you to beat anxiety naturally. You can heal both your body and mind to feel calmer and happier using Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Reading time: 8 minutes
After reading this article, you will feel empowered to overcome anxiety and fear.
You will learn about:
- the causes and effects of fear and anxiety on the body, and
- detailed natural remedies to off-set the harmful effects of fear and anxiety
How TCM views fear and anxiety
To begin, let’s look at the definitions of fear and anxiety. The two are related.
Fear (Kong ?) is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. According to TCM, the most severe type of fear is shock. Shock stems from a trigger in the real world, such as feeling an airplane bouncing violently, being in a fender bender, or worse.
Unlike shock, fear can result from your imagination as well. You might perceive something as likely to be dangerous or cause pain without physically experiencing either. What you believe could be based in reality or not. The effect on your mind and body is the same.
Anxiety (You ?) is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Just like fear, your anxiety can come from your imagination and thoughts. Whether what you think is based on reality or not does not change how your body reacts.
Proper levels of both fear and anxiety keep you alive. If you never worried or felt fearful, you could put yourself in harmful situations. The problem arises when you have too much of either.
According to TCM, your body’s reaction to your thoughts affects your health, and your body in turn affects your thoughts.
TCM anxiety and fear treatments address your body and your mind.
To illustrate you can understand it this way. You have seen movies where people suffer a great shock and urinate or defecate in their clothes. According to TCM, the kidney system, which includes the adrenal glands and bladder, relates to fear. That’s why when people experience a sudden fear or shock they wet their pants.
The lungs relate to worry and anxiety. That is why people suffer asthma attacks or have a hard time breathing when they feel anxious.
To further illustrate, the lungs and the kidney system have a close relationship. If one is weak, the other suffers. That is why anxiety and fear often occur together.
If you have a weakkidney system, you are more likely to feel fear. Some symptoms of weak kidneys include:
- tinnitus and other hearing problems
- premature graying or balding (before 50)
- pain in your knees and/or lumbar back
- loose teeth or other problems with the teeth
- night sweats
- shortness of breath
In addition, if you have weak lungs, you are more likely to suffer from anxiety. Some symptoms of weak lungs include:
- coughing with or without phlegm
- night sweating
- spontaneous sweating
- pale complexion
- speaking in a low voice
The role of the kidneys and lungs for anxiety and fear
In Chinese medicine, qi (energy) moves throughout your body, much like electricity through your home. If a section of this energy circuit is blocked, it is like a broken light switch. The energy cannot get where it needs to go.
The kidneys are one of the primary sources of qi in the body. They house congenital qi, or the qi with which you were born. They also store your jing essence, your vital life energy. If lifestyle choices or health problems weaken your kidney energy, you can suffer from anxiety and fear. You are more likely to imagine problems that do not exist as well. You can learn which lifestyle choices are best for your body by taking the TCM Body Type quiz.
Furthermore, if your kidneys stay weak for too long, your lungs suffer as well. The lungs are a primary source of qi. Your lungs and kidneys have a close relationship. If one is out of balance, the other will suffer.
Now you know why you have problems breathing when you feel anxious. TCM for anxiety tells you that kidney weakness affects your lungs. Still more, problems breathing can increase feelings of worry and anxiety. It is a vicious circle.
TCM Anxiety Food remedies
Over thousands of years, Chinese medicine practitioners identified how specific foods support you physically and emotionally. They discovered that foods have the power to heal certain organs, which in turn balances your emotions. You can use this information to beat anxiety.
Here are food recommendations and recipes to strengthen your kidney system and lungs.
Black sesame seeds
This Chinese super food nourishes your liver and kidney yin energy. What this means is that black sesame seeds strengthen your blood and improve circulation. When your kidney yin is strong and blood is plentiful, you have better control over your emotions.
Do not eat black sesame seeds if you have diarrhea. Do not eat too often to avoid blockages in your intestines.
Walnuts strengthen the kidneys and warm the lungs. If you have symptoms such as pain in your knees, a weak back or bladder, or urinary incontinence, you are more prone to anxiety. Walnuts help treat these issues naturally. They also relieve constipation.
Do not eat walnuts if you have diarrhea.
Black Sesame and Walnut Recipe for Anxiety and Fear
- 1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
- 2 Tbsp raw walnuts
- Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees
- Place black sesame seeds and walnuts on a baking sheet
- Cook in the oven for 5-7 minutes
- When you can smell the nuts, you will know they are ready
- Add the nuts to cooked steel cut oats, millet, or polenta (grits)
Fresh or dried mulberries to beat anxiety
Another great food remedy is dried or fresh mulberries which cool and moisturize the lungs. Eating mulberries is especially helpful if you experience:
- weakness of your lower back
- dry stools
- premature gray hair
There is no specific recipe. You can add the dried or fresh mulberries to warm dishes. They are a nice addition to a chicken or beef dish, warm rice, or cooked grains. You can also use 3-6 grams of dried mulberry fruit or leaves to make tea.
If you have a weak digestive system and/or often have loose stools, you should use mulberries with caution.
TCM anxiety theory teaches you to eat pomelo fruit. If you can find Hu You, which is more orange inside, it works even better. The bitter taste is good for nourishing the lungs and cooling heat.
Pomelo is also good for beautiful skin, losing weight, and calming your nervous system. In addition to helping the lungs, pomelo can ease pain in your liver and calm your temper. Furthermore, it helps reduce bloating and improves digestion by nourishing the stomach and spleen.
Do not eat during the early stages of a cold. Do not eat too much or you may increase phlegm in your body.
Pomelo and Orange TCM Anxiety Tea Recipe
- 1 pomelo peeled and separated into slices
- 3 oranges peeled and separated into slices
- 4-6 cups water (Add enough water to fill an inch above the slices)
- Bring water to a boil
- Add pomelo and orange slices
- Boil for another three minutes
You can steam orange sections as a remedy for a cough, if you don’t have pomelos.
TCM anxiety theory and qigong exercises
One of the best ways to nourish your kidney system and lungs is by doing qigong exercises. They provide two benefits.
- As you do the exercises, you breathe calmly and deeply. This strengthens your lungs and soothes your mind.
- The motions open up blockages along the meridians. This is like a plumber cleaning out your pipes. As you move, blood and qi can flow. When you move, your organs heal. Also, you can more easily balance your emotions.
15-minute Qigong flow to release anxiety
Be present in the here and now instead of worrying about the future with this qigong exercise sequence.
It will help you beat anxiety and other emotional imbalances by strengthening your liver, spleen, and kidneys. This will help keep your mind and emotions in balance and your body healthy.
1-minute Qigong exercise flow to strengthen your kidneys
Follow along with these super fast and easy movements to release muscle tension in your neck, shoulders, and spine. The twisting motion gives your kidneys and lungs an internal massage, releasing fear and anxiety.
TCM anxiety natural treatment – Acupressure massage
Acupressure massage is another way to open up blockages in your body. By massaging the outside of your body, you can heal your internal organs as well. Keeping you kidneys and lungs healthy will help beat anxiety and fear.
9-minute Acupressure eye massage
Follow along with this soothing qigong eye massage flow that helps reduce anxiety, boost immunity, strengthen your eyes, and improve your overall health.
These techniques have been proven effective for strengthening your eyes and improving your health by detoxifying the liver. The liver is connected to the eyes and affects your lungs and kidney system.
Massaging the eyes detoxifies the liver and allows qi and blood to flow, improving your mood, immunity, and health.
References for TCM Anxiety Treatments
Zhang, Y. (2021). Learn more ways to heal naturally with TCM foods in Dr. Zhang’s books.