Anxiety in Chinese medicine is almost always associated with a disturbance of the Heart energy. Chinese medicine believes that the Heart houses the mind. The Heart energy is susceptible to being agitated by heat in the body and may result in anxiety, insomnia and restlessness.
Giovanni Maciocia, author of “Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese Medicine”, devotes a whole chapter to the explanation and treatment of anxiety during pregnancy. In most cases, anxiety can be explained by Heat in the body during pregnancy.
For a proper diagnosis and treatment, Heat in the body must be identified as excess (or Full Heat), deficient (or Empty Heat), or Phlegm Heat. Anxiety and mental restlessness could be present in all patterns of Heat.
As with all differential diagnosis in Chinese medicine, a trained acupuncturist asks questions about many aspects of the patients physical and emotional health. The tongue picture and pulse are important to arrive at a correct diagnosis.
Excess Heat might be accompanied by outbursts of anger, thirst and constipation. Sleep may be disturbed by vivid dreams. The tongue would be red, possibly with redder sides and a dry yellow coating. The pulse would be rapid and have a wiry quality to it like a guitar string. Emotional problems like worry, anger, resentment and frustration often cause energy in the body to become stuck. On a prolonged basis, stuck or stagnant energy, generates Excess Heat.
Deficient Heat is more often associated with feeling warmer and fidgety towards evening. Night sweats and palpitations are common complaints. The tongue is red, often with many cracks and no coating. The pulse is rapid, but very thin and with little force. Constitutionally, a woman may tend to be Yin deficient before becoming pregnant. If she overworks during the pregnancy, this deficiency may be aggravated because her body is using her Blood to nourish the fetus. Yin deficiency causes Empty Heat.
Phlegm Heat symptoms include dizziness, nausea and heaviness in the chest. Anxiety is often more extreme to the point of feeling phobic. The tongue is red with a sticky yellow coating. The pulse is also rapid, but with a slippery feel and pearl-like shape to the trained touch of the acupuncturist’s fingers. Poor diet, especially the consumption of spicy or greasy foods, or a diet of excess dairy can lead to the formation of Phlegm Heat in the body.
Although there are some very good herbal formulas that address anxiety due to all of the above patterns, acupuncture, especially in the first three months of pregnancy, is the preferred method of treatment because it does not introduce any substances into the body.
Acupuncture points would be chosen to address both the symptom of anxiety by using points known to calm the mind, and points to clear the specific type of Heat in the body.
About the Author:
Joyce Marley is a licensed acupuncturist that provides acupuncture therapy in New Hartford, NY. She writes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) health articles about acupuncture and Oriental medicine.