TCM Recommends: Dietary Therapy

by Dr. Robert Benhuri, D. Ac, Synergy Wellness Center

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), your mental well-being relies on the state of something called shen. The word shen means “mind” or “spirit” and it is responsible for keeping you calm, happy and able to think clearly.

When your shen becomes sick, you may suffer from symptoms such as depression, anxiety, restlessness, agitation, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, confusion or poor memory.

Your shen can become disturbed for a number of reasons. It may be due to holding onto emotions like sadness or anger for a long time or after abusing recreational drugs or alcohol.

Another cause of unhappy shen is a deficiency of blood. This is because the shen is said to reside within the heart and be nourished by the blood.

In TCM terms, one of the best ways to ensure emotional wellness is by keeping your blood healthy, and one of the best ways to do this is by making some adjustments to your diet.

The best foods for nourishing blood tend to be dark in color and rich in nutrients. Some of the most effective blood-nourishing foods are beets, kale, seaweed, spinach and other leafy greens. Fruits such as apricots, cherries, grapes, dates and figs are helpful, as well as adzuki, black soy and kidney beans. Many meat products are considered blood tonics including beef, bone broth, eggs and liver. Even some seafood such as mussels, octopus and squid are considered to be good for the blood in TCM.

By incorporating more of these foods into your daily diet, you will ensure that your blood is healthy and that your shen has a solid foundation to keep it stable and balanced. This should go a long way toward keeping your emotions balanced and your mental well-being at its peak.

There also are a number of Chinese herbs good for treating the shen directly and relieving symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, many of these are made from minerals that can be slightly toxic in high doses — they should only be used when prescribed
by a qualified professional.