By Alex A. Kecskes
Anxiety is a mental disorder that affects literally millions of people. It’s an illness that often dovetails with depression and alternates from mild discomfort to almost uncontrollable panic with physical symptoms. While some medications have been known to ease anxiety, they may also suffer from undesirable side effects, suppressing the symptoms while making individuals chemically toxic.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach to anxiety problems is to treat them as disorders of Shan You Si, which are believed to affect the Zang Organs. The Heart Zang stores the Shen or spirit and each Zang Organ is responsible for one’s emotions. The Liver Zang is tied to anger, the Spleen Zang to excessive worry, the Kidney to fear, and the Lung with grief and anxiety. A disturbance in one or more of these Zang Organs can cause an imbalanced emotional state.
The Role of Acupuncture in Treating Anxiety
TCM classifies the cause of a specific mental disorder according to how much each Zang Organ has been disturbed and how its Qi is affected. The flow of Qi or energy can be interrupted by several factors, including anxiety, stress, anger, fear or grief. Acupuncture seeks to restore any imbalance between Yin and Yang. By inserting needles into the fine points of energy, the body’s own healing process is stimulated to restore its natural balance. Treating depression and related conditions such as seasonal affective disorder or dysthymic disorder (chronic depression) with TCM requires the proper evaluation of the signs and symptoms of these conditions. Specific acupuncture techniques are advised to treat each condition. Changes in lifestyle and the adoption of self-help recommendations are also part of the healing process.
Complementary TCM Techniques for Anxiety Management
Sometimes, even Tong Ren Therapy may be used. This therapy is designed to internally heal a patient’s energy system using the collective unconscious. Patients sit, relax and quietly receive the healing energy. There are no special diet, exercises or religious beliefs required to practice Tong Ren. As more people practice Tong Ren healing, the stronger the healing force becomes. All participants become part of the collective unconscious state and are thus able to benefit from Tong Ren’s healing energy.
Dietary Adjustments to Alleviate Anxiety Symptoms
Supplementing these methods with changes in one’s diet can also help. Too much refined sugars, for example, can cause wild fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels, which can significantly affect one’s mood and mental health. They also deplete B vitamins from the body, which can affect the nervous system. Excessive amounts of caffeine can create “toxic heat” in the liver, causing a rise in anger and anxiety. As an adrenal stimulant, caffeine can ultimately lead to adrenal exhaustion and depression. Substituting refined sugar and caffeine with low glycemic foods and beverages can result in a reduced anxiety.
The Use of Chinese Herbal Medicine in Treating Anxiety
TCM methods to treat depression and anxiety also involve the use of Chinese herbal medicine. These have slowly been accepted in the West, primarily because of the non-toxic nature of the treatment. Chinese medicines have been used to treat stress and to reduce the effects of the body’s aging process. Herbal medicines are combined in creams, gels, ointments, serums, powders, and tonics. The Chinese herb formulations used most often to treat anxiety are:
- Polygonum Root
- Jujube Date
- Rehmannia Root
- Polyrachis Ant
- Duanwood Reishi
- Licorice Root
- Dang Gui Root
- Cynomorium Herb