Stress and Chinese medicine

Dr. Steve Collins, DAOM

The Chinese medicine approach to stress is unique and very powerful. There is no singular word for “stress” in Chinese. To understand this, you have to understand a little about how Chinese medicine sees emotions.

Chinese medicine seeks to treat root causes, as opposed to symptoms. Granted, as many of my clients know, I can put out fires, such as resolving headaches. But I always look for what is causing the headache, or in this case, the stress. Chinese medicine sees every emotion as tied to a particular organ, such as the Lungs or Kidneys. When I talk about the Kidneys, for example, I’m talking about a whole constellation of things that the Kidneys are responsible for. Some of these include its married partner the Bladder, the bones, the hair on your head, Winter, salty foods, libido, thyroid-type issues, and the emotion of fear.

Every organ is tied to a particular emotion. For the Kidneys, it is fear. For the Heart, it is joy or a sudden shock, and so on. For this reason, when someone says to me that they are stressed, I have to know exactly what kind of stress it is. As an example, if you are at a bus stop waiting for a friend who you haven’t seen in years, you’re happily excited and a little “stressed.” That’s the Heart. The bus is late by at least 20 minutes and the loudspeaker announces that there is a delay. Now you wonder what could have caused the delay and play out all sorts of scenarios in your mind. That’s the Spleen. The loudspeaker announces that there was an accident with injuries. Now you’re terrified for your friend. That’s the Kidneys. Suddenly, your friend walks in the door and tells you that she drove herself and wanted to surprise you. Your first response is anger, followed by the joy of seeing her safe. That is the Liver, followed again by the Heart.

So, you see, to treat stress properly, instead of prescribing herbs that sedate you, Chinese medicine takes a healthier approach. The effects of stress can be managed quite well with acupuncture and the proper choice of a formula, if necessary. If you are experiencing stress of any kind, consider Chinese medicine to help manage it.

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