Cicadas: A new appreciation for an old Chinese herb
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Return of the Cicadas: A deeper appreciation of an unusual “Chinese herb”

Each Chinese herb has a story to tell

Appreciating the story behind each Chinese herbOne thing I love about Chinese herbal medicine is its ability to pay attention to the world around us, and notice the nature of things. Fruits that grow in summer tend to be the remedy for hot days. Root vegetables that grow in winter tend to keep our bellies warmer on those cold nights. We can learn a lot about the the medicine available to us, when we watch how it grows: What is it able to tolerate? What is it able to do? One such ‘Chinese herb,’ 蝉蜕 (Chan Tui, Cicada Moult) is an amazing example of just how rich a story a Chinese medicinal can tell!

A closer look at the Chinese herb: 蝉蜕 (Chan Tui)

Chinese medicine’s use of Chan Tui dates back to the 神農本草經 (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, “Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica), our oldest materia medica. Today we use this Chinese herb for its diaphoretic, anticonvulsive, sedative, antipyretic, and antiallergic effects. In traditional terminology this translates to treating:

  • early febrile disorders (including loss of voice)
  • rashes and itching
  • superficial visual obstruction and red eyes
  • spasm

I remember the first time I had it in my formula for psoriasis I was shocked, not knowing it was only the moult. I wonder if I would have felt the same if I took the time to appreciate this Chinese herb’s story. Finding the following video recently, I thought — how beautiful and appropriate for folks to learn more about this valuable medicinal!

Return of the Cicadas

If we go back to the roots of Chinese medicine, and the power of observation for intelligence gathering, we see there is so much that Cicada teaches. With Cicada’s big eyes, it is no surprise Chan Tui brightens the eyes. As a shed skin, it’s no surprise Cicada moult is able to vent skin rashes. With Cicada’s beautiful and loud song, of course this Chinese herb treats loss of voice. If we see Cicada’s ability to navigate the winds, we understand Chan Tui’s ability to treat spasms (which, in Chinese medicine, is considered a symptom of “internal wind”).

Imagine if we took the time to appreciate each plant, mineral and animal medicinal in such a way? May we all see such beauty and eloquence in the bounty of this earth!

Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Treating Infertility in the Philippines with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

treating infertility//

Retrospective Research on Treating Infertility with Chinese Medicine

Article: The Effectiveness of Chinese Medicine in Treating Infertility in the Philippines

Author’s Key Points

  • In following up on 572 out of 1653 infertility cases that were reported at St. Francis Natural Health Care (2006-2014), 173 infertility cases were chosen for review from the 370 success cases.
  • Of these cases researched, all patients shared the same Chinese medicine differential diagnosis: Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency.
  • Western medicine diagnosis for these same cases ranged from PCOS, to immune-related, endometriosis, uterus fibroids, premature ovarian failure, fallopian tube problem and “unexplained.”
  • Of the 173 participants treating infertility, 98 received a combination of acupuncture (30 min sessions), moxa and Chinese herbal medicine treatment; while 75 participants opted out of herbs, going only with acupuncture and moxa.
  • Average course of treatment was 6.5 months, with no herbs taken during menstruation.

Acupuncture points used

Basic Points

The main points used calm the Spirit, nourish qi and blood, gently move the blood, and warm the Spleen-Stomach:

  • DU24, DU20, UB4 (bilateral), LIV3 (bilateral), ST36 (bilateral with moxa)

Follicular Phase Additions

During this phase, more yin tonics and local points are included in the prescription:

  • SP8, R12, ST25 (bilateral), R4, EP Zi Gong Xue (bilateral), SP6 (bilateral), Master Tong Points Huan Chao and Fu Ke (alternate, L/R)

Luteal Phase Additions

Points added during this phase strengthen the Heart-Kidney-Tian Gui-Chong-Ren axis:

  • P6 (left), H7 (right), K9 (bilateral), SP4 (right), K3 (left).

Chinese Herbal Formula Used

Yu Lin Zhu Formula

  • Ren Shen 2-4g
  • Bai Zhu 2g
  • Fu Ling 2g
  • Lu Jiao Zhuang 2-4g
  • Shu Di 2-4g
  • Dang Gui 2g
  • Chuan Xiong 2g
  • Tu Si Zi 2-4g
  • Du Zhong 2-4g
  • Bai Shao 2g
  • Chuan Jiao 2g
  • Zhi Gan Cao 2g

Patients were prescribed Yu Lin Zhu to warm the Spleen-Stomach and tonify the Heart-Kidney. They took one pack per day with warm water, divided into two doses. The following adjustments were made based on affecting factors:

Follicular phase additions

Increased dosage of yin tonics.

Luteal Phase Reductions

Removal of blood movers Chuan Xiong and Dang Gui.

Other Modifications

In the case of Liver qi stagnation, Xiao Yao San was added at 4-6g.

In the case of blood stagnation, Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang was added during the ovulatory period at 4-6g.

In the case of Kidney deficiency with weak Ming Men fire, You Gui Wan was added at 4-8g.

Fascinated yet?

How could all these women with diagnoses ranging from PCOS to endometriosis receive the same Chinese medicine diagnosis? It’s amazing, Chinese medicine! Our diagnostic system is notably different from Western medicine, we’re able to feel and see the different organs’ health through the pulse and tongue, as well as assess heat and cold in the body based on these same factors combined with other symptoms and signs. Want to experience it for yourself? Come on in for an appointment!

Are Chinese herbs safe?
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Are Chinese herbs safe: A closer look at heavy metals and manufacturing

 What are the concerns with Chinese herbs?

Just as we can have contaminants in our water, such as lead and arsenic, we can also find them in the plants that drink up that water. For this reason ongoing testing is large part of answering the question, “Are Chinese herbs safe?” Unfortunately, the New York’s Department of Health (DoH) recently sent out an advisory notice to healthcare providers after discovering high levels of heavy metals in an over-the-counter Chinese formula. Their announcement read:

In January 2016, DOHMH identified elevated levels of lead and/or mercury in a dietary herbal supplement called Emperor’s Tea Pill purchased over-the-counter in NYC. According to the product packaging, this supplement, manufactured in China by Lanzhou Traditional Herbs, could be used to ‘help maintain body’s natural balance.’ The levels of heavy metals found in Emperor’s Tea Pill ranged from being slightly elevated with up to 3.7 parts per million (ppm) lead, which is approximately two times the permissible limit for lead for certain food additives, to 200 ppm mercury, which is 200 times the permissible limit for mercury.

When I called NY Poison Control to receive more information on the supplement (as suggested by news reporting on the subject), they suggested to me that the DoH would pull all FDA-unregulated “Emperor’s Tea Pill” products (i.e. Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan), regardless of brand. Due to the health risks involved with heavy metal toxicity, including damage to the brain, kidneys, and nervous and reproductive systems, they are strongly encouraging anyone who has been taking this product be tested. If this includes you, please contact your healthcare provider about heavy metal testing.


If you look at the herbs in question (see: above cited news report), the packaging looks quite similar to another brand, Min Shan:

Are Chinese herbs safe: Counterfeits

Min Shan is a brand exclusive to the distributor, Mayway, a reputable distributor in the US who employs third-party testing. I emailed Mayway after receiving the DoH announcement, requesting they release a statement to clarify. Their response, “It’s Not Ours!” goes into detail around counterfeits, how to spot them, and more on the safety measures of their own product. If you’re buying herbs from a local mom-and-pop store in Chinatown or the International District, you want to be sure to note the differences!

What makes Chinese herbs safe?

Chinese herbal medicine quality varies greatly between brands based on a number of factors. Here are a few of the top differences:


Good manufacturing practice (GMP) is the effort to maintain consistency and control throughout the manufacturing process. WHO explains, “GMP covers all aspects of production; from the starting materials [e.g. herb identification testing], premises and equipment to the training and personal hygiene of staff.” They go on to explain that while they have developed detailed GMP practices, many countries have formulated their own. These guidelines are employed throughout the day. The important thing to note here is not all countries adhere to the same GMP practices; so “GMP-compliant” doesn’t always mean exactly the same thing. Nonetheless, a GMP-certified product will be one that you know has undergone some level of manufacturing regulation. So, are Chinese herbs safe if they have a GMP label?  Well, you might have noticed that the photo included with the article on the contaminated formula (see: report above) features a “GMP” sticker….

Are Chinese herbs safe (or safer) if manufactured outside of China?

As a subcategory here, you may be interested to know there are popular [Chinese] herbal brands coming out of China, Japan, Taiwan, and the US. While some Chinese herbs are grown locally in the US, most are not. You might think of herbs like wine – with terroir being a factor in their successful cultivation and efficacy. For this reason, I wouldn’t make any assumptions about the sourcing of the original material based on brand.


So, once a product is “GMP-certified” they might opt-into the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) certification. TGA certification comes through Australia, and its purpose is to “[ensure] that therapeutic goods available for supply in Australia are safe and fit for their intended purpose.” When an international company chooses to receive an on-site inspection and certification through the TGA, you can know their manufacturing practice has been double-checked and held to stringent guidelines. Once certified, facilities are re-assessed no more than once a year.

Independent, third-party testing

When a distributor (or manufacturer) chooses to verify for their self that their final product holds to their purported standards, they may choose to hire a third party to test their finalized product, such as Eurofins. Whereas the GMP-compliance standard likely includes testing each batch of individual herbs for microbes and heavy metals, third-party testing is usually reserved for random batches.

FDA registration

At the time of writing this, I am only aware of one Chinese herbal distributor (who has their own herbal line) that is registered with the FDA: Kamwo. They are open to random inspection by the FDA. The FDA considers dietary supplements a “type of food” (p3) so herbs are not regulated as prescription medications are, and FDA-registration is not required. To have this feather in your cap is more an informal way of saying, ‘I have nothing to hide!’ more than it’s saying, ‘Here’s one more protocol I’m using to ensure my products are safer than others.’

Are my Chinese herbs safe to take?

I hope you’re getting a sense now that all herbal products are not created equal. This is not an exhaustive list, of course, of safety measures and/or concerns. Many of same things affecting the question of “Are my Chinese herbs safe?” equally apply to our diet and environmental exposures. The answer isn’t just ignoring the issue *or* avoiding Chinese herbs. It’s a question well-worth examining. If you are gluten-free and rely heavily on rice products in your diet, I strongly encourage you to read the 2012 (updated 2014) Consumer Report on arsenic in rice.

My recommendation

While seeing a “GMP” sticker on the packaging might have been enough before, I’d suggest only buying a brand that employs third-party testing and that provides you the opportunity to view a Certificate of Analysis (usually completed on request). If you have questions about the products you’ve been taking, call your certified herbalist and/or the distributor to inquire into their safety standards. Heavy metal accumulates over time; so it’s not necessarily something you’d see the effects of right away. It’s not worth guessing about!

Chinese Dietary Therapy Cookbook
Chinese Herbs & Supplements, Self-Care

Chinese Dietary Therapy Cookbook – Free Online Resource

Chinese Dietary Therapy Cookbook

Chinese Dietary Therapy: Self-Care Recipes for Health

Acupuncture is pretty magnificent when you think about it — that something we do for 20min to 1h in a day could affect how we feel during all the remaining hours! Like meditation, yoga, taiji, etc – building these small windows of self-care into our day can create profound changes over time. So, what about diet? Chinese medicine has so much to say on the subject. Some even consider Chinese dietary therapy to be its own pillar of Chinese medicine, distinct from herbal medicine, and complementary to acupuncture and qi gong practices.

Online Chinese Dietary Therapy Cookbook

To this end, I was looking up a recipe for a patient recently when I came across this cookbook: Traditional Chinese Medicine Medicated Diet Recipe Book. What a great reference! As an extension of Chinese herbal medicine (you’ll find a lot of Chinese herbs in the ingredient lists), it’s important to note Chinese dietary therapy requires a Chinese medicine differential diagnosis. Once you know you’re diagnosis, you can look up remedies under the header or “Actions/Indications/Functions” sections included with each recipe. The easiest way to do this, is run a search on the pdf for your keyword, e.g. “Lung” or “yin deficiency,” then you can skip to related recipes. As with all medicine, please consult your certified Chinese herbalist before exploring self-care options.

Sample Recipes

What are your favorite recipes?

Have a favorite Chinese dietary therapy recipe? Let us know in the comments!

Walnuts for healthy sperm
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Study finds eating walnuts makes for healthy sperm

Walnuts for semen quality//

“Findings demonstrated that walnuts added to a Western-style diet improved sperm vitality, motility, and morphology.” (Source)

Study on Walnuts for Healthy Sperm

Walnuts Improve Semen Quality in Men Consuming a Western-Style Diet: Randomized Control Dietary Intervention Trial

Study Key Points

[wproto_divider style=”gap”]Walnuts: A Chinese medicinal called “Hu Tao Ren” (胡桃仁)

Chinese herbalists have been using walnuts (aka 胡桃仁, Hu Tao Ren), as a medicinal remedy for hundreds of years; the remedy was first published in the 備急千金要方 (Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang), 7th C CE. I loved seeing this study because it reinforces what we already believe and know to be true in Chinese medicine — that walnuts tonify the Kidney (Chinese medicine term; not the same as the Western organ) and replenishes the jing (i.e. “essence”). It’s considered a warm and sweet medicinal that enters both the Kidney, Lung, and Large Intestine channels.

Maintaining and Protecting Healthy Sperm

The Kidney in Chinese medicine is responsible for reproductive function and storing the essence, which is thought to be carried by sperm in men and eggs as well as menstrual fluid in women. For this reason, Chinese medicine not only encourages nourishing Kidney jing in men and women to increase fertility, but also strongly cautions against the loss of jing through ejaculation in males. William Collinge, author of Subtle Energy: Awakening to the Unseen Forces in Our Lives explains:

“The male orgasm involves an outward explosion and release of jing whereas the female orgasm is an inward explosion. When a man ejaculates he is releasing vital essence or energy which is carried out of his body by the ejaculatory fluids. In the taoist perspective, the sperm carry the man’s jing or sexual essence. …The temporary feeling of depletion that men have after ejaculation is thus a true representation of what has happened. As men age and their natural reservoir of jing diminishes, their recovery period after ejaculation — before they are capable of another erection and ejaculation — increases.”

What else can I do?

The Taoists went to some extreme measures to protect their jing (I’ll leave that to you to pursue if you’re that interested!). And while men looking to nurture healthy sperm might not want to follow all their recommendations at first, there are some easy places to start in supporting male fertility. Start with diet and limiting exposure to glues, solvents, paints, heavy smoking and heavy marijuana use. In addition, consider acupuncture and Chinese herbs to tonify the Kidney, nourish essence, and reduce stress.

Natural prozac alternative: Turmeric
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Turmeric: A natural prozac alternative for depressive disorders?

Curcuma longa roots: Prozac Alternative Turmeric

2013 Study on Turmeric: A safe and natural Prozac alternative?

Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Researcher Highlights

  • Adverse effects of antidepressants continue to impel researchers to find safer alternatives
  • In this study, (1) group I received fluoxetine 20 mg/day in the morning (2) group II received curcumin 1000 mg/day (500 mg BD, containing total curcuminoids 88% and volatile oils 7% from rhizomes of Curcuma longa Linn); group III received fluoxetine 20 mg/day and curcumin 1000 mg/day (500 mg BD).
  • Curcumin dose was calculated using data from Chinese medicine using dry rhizome of Curcuma longa at 3–9 g/70 kg adult for treatment of depression like disorders.
  • Curcumin has been shown to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, anti-cancer and neuroprotective properties.
  • Curcumin’s anti-depressant effects include: “Neurogenesis in the hippocampus and rise in the serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline brain levels by inhibiting monoamine oxidase enzyme.”
  • Curcumin was found to be equivalent to fluoxetine in terms of change in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D17) score from baseline after six weeks of treatment.

With researchers concluding, “curcumin may be an effective and safe agent when used as a modality of treatment in patients of MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders,” turmeric may just be the safe Prozac alternative they’ve been looking for!

Turmeric in Chinese Herbal Medicine

Interestingly enough, in Chinese medicine we have three different herbs that come from the plant genus Curcuma: 郁金 (Yu Jin), 姜黄 (Jiang Huang), and 莪术 (E Zhu). Jiang Huang is the only herb that exclusively comes from Curcuma longa (that which is cited above). However, Yu Jin can also come from this plant (specifically from the root tuber, as opposed to the rhizome, which is Jiang Huang).


While, Jiang Huang, Yu Jin and E Zhu have unique properties and are used to treat different symptoms and signs in Chinese medicine, these three herbs are all in the same class of herb: Herbs that Regulate the Blood. For this reason, in our medicine, Jiang Huang is considered contraindicated during pregnancy and Yu Jin contraindicated in case of obstruction due to qi deficiency.

As always, please consult a certified herbalist to make sure an herb is appropriate for your condition and your constitution before deciding on what would constitute a safe Prozac alternative for you.


acupuncture for restless leg syndrome

Acupuncture & Herbs for Restless Legs Syndrome

Acupuncture helps resolve RLS (restless legs syndrome) plus additional side effects include leg pain and insomnia.

Source: Acupuncture and Herbs Relieve Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

2014 Study on Acupuncture and Herbs for Restless Legs Syndrome

眼针与针药结合治疗不安腿综合症21例 (“Eye acupuncture and combined acupuncture and medicine in the treatment of 23 patients with restless legs syndrome“)

Key Points

  • This study focused on two approaches to treatment: (1) body acupuncture combined with herbal medicine, and (2) body acupuncture and herbal medicine, with additional eye acupuncture.
  • Acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment was found to be both safe and effective for the treatment of restless legs syndrome.
  • The total effective rate for body and eye acupuncture combined with herbs was 95.24%.
  • Interestingly enough, the number of cases cured doubled when practitioners added acupuncture points in the eye-region.

Nutritional Deficiencies and RLS

In addition to acupuncture, there are a few nutritional deficiencies to watch out for in cases of RLS, including:

For this reason, while acupuncture can be great at treating the symptoms, it’s always worth getting your levels tested by your primary care physician to prevent future bouts. (Especially up here in the Pacific NW, low vitamin D levels are always a consideration.)

Energy work for RLS: Moving forward[wproto_divider style=”double-gap”]Restless Legs Syndrome and Energy Work

The legs in energy work represent our ability to move forward. If you find you are experiencing restless legs, you might consider reflecting on the questions:

  • How would I like to move forward?
  • What do I feel is holding me back?
  • When I consider moving forward, what am I afraid of?
  • What do I need to move forward with confidence and joy?

In addressing the deeper questions alive in this condition, I always recommend Reiki energy work and affirmations. Know that no matter what’s going on in the body, it’s happening for good reason. All fear is noble. By uncovering where we hold fear, we can discover where we perceive vulnerability. Only when we learn what’s needed can we actively tend to it. In actively tending to what is needed, our fear can be relieved. So, let your legs talk; and may you come to hear their message!

Warming foods to tonify yang
Chinese Herbs & Supplements, Self-Care

Warming Foods to Tonify Yang and Dispel Cold

Los Olivos: Born To Run Ultra Marathon Eve//

Warming Foods for Colder Weather and Colder People

It’s officially winter!! You know what that means — time to adjust our diet, and lifestyle accordingly. As the bears go into hibernation, we too must turn inward to nourish our inner warmth during this period of ‘yin within yin.’ (Thankfully, our local produce shows us the way!) In addition to the warming foods listed in the table below, now is also a time to be mindful of how we hold cold in our life — both physically and emotionally. If you are prone to viral infections, this subject will be particularly relevant for you.

What is pathogenic “Cold”?


Physical Symptoms

In Chinese medicine, there are a number of causes of Cold; and depending on whether the cause is internal or external, treatment will be different. Symptoms of Cold, nonetheless, are consistent:

  • low body temperature or perceived chill; preference for covers or other warmth
  • lack of thirst
  • cold limbs
  • preference for lying down or curling up
  • slower heart rate (e.g. < 60bpm)
  • profuse, frequent and clear urination
  • thin or sloppy bowel movement, possibly with undigested foods
  • sharp pain or contraction
  • decreased sexual desire and/or function

Warming foods are an easy first step towards warming the body and its tissues.

[wproto_divider style=”gap”]

Emotional & Spiritual Symptoms

If we are to accept the body as an integrated whole, we cannot ignore the emotional and physical aspects of Cold. To this end, I was struck by something I read recently on the body’s response to trauma. In her book, “Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma,” author Haines writes:

“When survival actions like fighting or fleeing may bring more harm or aren’t viable…, the brain and body make a third choice — the freeze response. Survivors often talk about being very still, waiting until the abuse is over, or checking out…. During this response, painkilling endorphins and opioids are released, and the person shifts from action to immobility. When survivors talk about not fighting back or being able to move, this is literal. Tense muscles become still, and breathing and heartbeats slow to barely perceptible.” (p xvii)

Sounds just like Cold at work, huh? I guess that’s why they call it the ‘freeze’ response. Not everyone faces such obvious reason to withdraw, to numb, and to harden; however, in my experience, any chronic fear, insecurity, or chronic mild trauma is enough to sway the body to turn to its comfortable safety measures. Emotionally and spiritually, I would suggest to truly thaw out internal Cold, we must cultivate a deep self-love, a faith in our resourcefulness, and a grounded orientation towards kindness in our life.

Foods to Warm the Body and Tonify Yang

[table id=11 /]

You may also want to be mindful of avoiding or limiting cooling foods as you increase your warming foods. Increasing qi tonic foods will also be beneficial.

Food preparation for increasing warmth

The best ways to prepare your warming foods include:

  • Baking
  • Boiling/simmering
  • Broiling
  • Cooking with alcohol
  • Frying or roasting
  • Grilling

Preparing stews are an ideal way to increase the yang of your foods.

Warming foods to tonify yang

Baking and broiling: Your new best friends.

Beyond food, how else is one to warm the body?

You know what I’m going to say — cultivate self-love, cultivate an unfailing orientation towards kindness, work on releasing your fears and your doubts. Let what you eat be a welcoming of more warmth into your life. Perhaps less clear, is avoid *too much heat* — like hot yoga, saunas, extra long baths, a lot of chili or pepper. As soon as you start to sweat, the body has started its cooling process — that’s not what we want here! Lastly, your acupuncturist and herbalist will have great tools to work with when it comes to warming up the body and releasing pain: Warming Chinese herbs, moxibustion, and a TDP heat lamp. If you need more help, go get it!


Kastner, Joerg. Chinese Nutrition Therapy. 2004.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. 2002.

Making Chinese Medicinal Soup
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Chinese Medicinal Soup for the Seasons, Pregnancy, Postpartum and Kids

Chinese medicinal soupChinese medicinal soup recipes

The Chinese Soup Lady is one of the most comprehensive websites I’ve seen for Chinese medicinal soup recipes. Some sample recipes for winter include:

What makes Chinese medicinal soups ‘medicine’?

It’s not uncommon in China to cook with Chinese herbal medicinals. You’ve heard me say “food is the first medicine;” and with Chinese medicinal soups folks are able to benefit even more by intentionally adding in foods or herbs that address seasonal changes or deficiency from childbirth, etc. For a number of these recipes you’d need to visit your local Asian market to procure the included Chinese medicinals. Here in Seattle, you might have your Chinese herbalist order you the necessary herbs from Bastyr (best, regulated quality) or you might visit Lucky An Dong in the ID.

What’s an example?

Looking at the above recipes, we find the following Chinese medicinals:

Any cautions?

Of course! Any time you are incorporating medicinals into your diet, you’ll want to discuss your intentions and choices with a healthcare professional familiar with the medicine. In the case of Chinese medicine, for example, Korean ginseng can be way too drying or hot for some. This might present as heightened anxiety, irritability, headache, dizziness, unusual vaginal bleeding etc. Far from ideal! Need help deciding what’s best for you? Come on in for an herbal consultation!

Acupuncture and Herbs for Insomnia 100% Effective
Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs & Supplements

‘Acupuncture and herbs 100% effective for treating insomnia’

Treating Insomnia with Acupuncture and Herbs

Acupuncture-and-herbs-for-treating-InsomniaResearchers in China found when treating insomnia, both acupuncture and a Chinese herbs were able to improve outcomes independently; however, when acupuncture and herbs were combined they yielded a 100% effective rate — with results ranging from mild improvement to completely cured.

Acupuncture protocol

The study called for two courses of treatment, with acupuncture given once every three days, with four treatments constituting one course of treatment. Points used included Yin Tang, Tai Yang, An Mian, and Si Shen Cong (see: adjacent image).

Chinese formula protocol

Patients were given Suan Zao Ren Tang, to be decocted and consumed twice daily. The formula included:

  • Suan zao ren, 30 g
  • Fu ling, 15 g
  • Zhi mu, 10 g
  • Chuan xiong, 15 g
  • Gan cao, 5 g

Not all insomnia the same in Chinese medicine

treating Insomnia with chinese herbs
In Chinese medicine, we have different diagnoses for the different types of insomnia:

  • inability to fall asleep
  • inability to stay asleep
  • waking early

Through questioning, taking the pulse, and checking the tongue, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner then looks to assess:

  • Organ* health, such as the Liver, Heart, or Kidney, etc.
  • Energy levels
  • Fluids sufficiency, such as the blood, or yin (i.e. viscous fluid)
  • Cold and/or heat

Popular Formulas for Treating Insomnia

All of this information goes into determining a differential diagnosis, for which an appropriate Chinese herbal formula is prescribed. To give you an idea of the variety of approaches, this is a list of the most popular formulas prescribed for insomnia in Taiwan, 2002, with each formula addressing different organs and/or organ-pairing:

[wproto_progress titles=”Suan Zao Ren Tang|Jia Wei Xiao Yao San|Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan|Chai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang|Wen Dan Tang|Gan Mai Da Zao Tang|Gui Pi Tang|Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan|Long Dan Xie Gan Tang|Qin Xin Lian Zi Yin” values=”31.2|21.2|15.6|12.4|11.6|11.5|6.6|6.0|4.9|4.6″]

Getting Help

There are a lot of resources for treating insomnia, and many causes of the concern. If you experience trouble sleeping, and you’re not sure where to start, consider acupuncture and herbs. It’s also helpful to watch your sleep hygiene!

[wproto_divider style=”gap”]

*Chinese medicine organ, not necessarily the Western medicine’s physical organ of the same name.


Prescriptions of Chinese Herbal Medicines for Insomnia in Taiwan during 2002