Blood in Chinese Medicine
The quality of our Blood reflects a measure of the available nourishment circulating in our body.
Blood nourishes the muscles, organs, brain, every part of us. Its quality depends upon the quality of the food we eat and our ability to absorb nourishment. Blood is therefore dependent on the Spleen, which transforms food into nourishment (see Spleen Qi Deficiency: What Is It? Blog)
The functions of Blood, in Chinese medicine, are to provide nourishment, to moisten and lubricate the muscles and tissues and, to house the Mind. In Western medicine we know that Blood carries the neuropeptides that are the chemical messengers of the brain/Mind, so we can see how this latter function of housing the Mind was attributed to the Blood by the Chinese medicine practitioners of old.
It is a maxim of Chinese medicine that women are intimately linked with the nature of Blood through menstruation and pregnancy. It is especially important for women that the Blood is abundant and that the reservoirs do not become depleted. Patterns of Blood Deficiency underlie most kinds of menstrual difficulty, infertility and postpartum exhaustion.
How Does the Blood Become Deficient?
The Blood normally becomes deficient against a background of Spleen weakness and insufficient nutrition. Sometimes a background of Dampness can interfere with normal digestive processes.
Blood Deficiency is perhaps one of the easiest to work with as it can be resolved with good nutrition.
Recognising the symptoms of Blood Deficiency:
- Insomnia/restless sleep
- Dream disturbed sleep
- Headache/migraine (possibly linked to menstrual cycle)
- Dry eyes/skin
- Blurred vision or floaters
- Night sweats
- Pale complexion
- Pale dry tongue
- Scanty menstruation
A person will probably not have all of these symptoms but you will probably be familiar with more than a few if you tend towards Blood deficiency!
Blood is very easily improved with diet and is also strengthened with a balance between exercise and rest.
Blood nourishing diets are mineral and vitamin rich and contain deeply nutritious foods.
Almost all good quality foods will nourish Blood but we need particularly to include dark green leafy vegetables and chlorophyll (the green colour in veg.) rich foods and good quality proteins and grains.
As a general guideline, the darkness of food is an indication of it’s ability to nourish Blood– dark red and black beans, dark fruits, dark green veg, black sesame seed, beetroot etc.
If possible use organic foods, meat and dairy particularly. Also use full fat dairy products.
Blood nourishing recipes are best to be warm and cooked. Avoid cold and raw as much as possible (allow salads etc. from the fridge to come to room temperature at least)
Foods to include:
- Aduki, kidney, black beans, chickpeas
- Apricots, cherries, fig, date, grapes, stewed fruits good!
- Spinach, kale, watercress, savoy cabbage etc.
- Squash, sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, turnips, peas, onions, leeks, mushrooms
- Seaweed, kelp
- Beef, liver, chicken
- Sardine, mussels, mackerel, tuna, anchovies
- Dark chocolate
- Parsley, ginger, garlic
- Use good stocks from vegetables &/or bones as the basis of soups and stews
Foods to avoid
- Processed food
- Very hot spices
As always, try and make a list of meals that you’d like, then a list of the ingredients you need. There’s nothing worse than a trolley full of food that doesn’t even make one meal!!
- Stew (from stock) containing sweet potato and pearl barley
- Scrambled/poached eggs with spinach
- Sunday roast with 4 different veg from the list
- Cheese omelette with mushrooms and spinach
- Coconut milk smoothies – with the fruits mentioned
- Chilli with black and kidney beans
- Poached pear and honey
- Yoghurt with fruits and honey
- Container of seeds and nuts
- Dried apricots and figs to add to breakfast
- Date and walnut flapjack – molasses not syrup