#HEALTH
How TCM Can Help Your Mental Wellness

Find out how Traditional Chinese Medicine can help alleviate some symptoms of anxiety.

By Steve Thio      27 October 2021

More people are suffering from mental anxiety or getting burnt out due to the ongoing pandemic. Seeking relief, some are also turning toward Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments to help alleviate their condition.

We speak to Physician Tan Pei Jing, associate senior physician at ECON Traditional Chinese Medicine and a fully registered TCM practitioner, on some of the causes of mental anxiety and how TCM can help. Physician Tan also shares some useful DIY treatments you can try on your own.

Q: Do you think this pandemic has affected people seriously and how?

Photo: ANTHONY SHKRABA production from Pexels

Physician Tan: In recent months, we’ve seen a significant rise in the number of people seeking treatment for anxiety and depression in our TCM clinics. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused overwhelming emotional stress due to issues like working from home, job insecurity, taking care of elderly at home and even side effects from vaccination. Many students are distressed with home-based learning and coping with exams. Some women during this period of time may also develop heightened feelings of irritability, or panic attacks during menopause due to the fluctuation of their hormones.

Q: In the TCM context, what would be the main cause(s) of mental anxiety now?

Photo: Eren Li from Pexels

Physician Tan: In the TCM context, mental anxiety is closely related to the functions of the liver, spleen, heart and kidney. TCM strongly believes that our emotions are the main cause of disturbance to our natural balance and it affects the Qi (vital energy) and blood flow in these organs. Also, unhealthy diet habits such as overconsumption of heaty food and food that is high in fat and sugar, consumption of alcohol, and irregular eating habits can weaken our digestive system and aggravate mental anxiety. In addition, insufficient rest or poor quality of sleep may cause internal heat to accumulate in the body and disturb the mind.

Many people feel burnt out having to cope with work and family, and they seek natural methods such as TCM treatments to manage their physical health and mental well-being.

Q: What are some of the physical or mental symptoms of mental anxiety and how would you consult with your patients?

Physician Tan: The body constitution of each individual is unique. During a one-to-one TCM consultation, I would conduct a systemic examination of the symptoms, tongue and pulse. After analysis of the body’s condition, I would diagnose the TCM syndrome and recommend a personalised treatment plan for the patient.

Examples of Physical Symptoms

Examples of Mental Symptoms

  • Tension headaches or migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Gastro-intestinal disorders such as
    bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, gastric
    reflux and poor appetite
  • Increased muscle aches and soreness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chest tightness
  • Breathing heavily
  • Fatigue
  • Hypertension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Constantly worrying and nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Decreased memory

Q: What treatments would you recommend to someone going through mental anxiety and how do these treatments help alleviate the condition?

Physician Tan: TCM believes in a holistic approach towards healing and mental wellness. Each TCM treatment plan is different and is specially customised to suit your body constitution.

TCM treatments such as acupuncture, cupping, tui na, herbal medication and food therapy can help to restore the body’s natural balance and alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. The type, frequency and duration of the treatment is dependent on the patient’s age and body conditions.

Q: How do acupuncture, cupping and tui na help metal anxiety?

Photo: Ryutaro Tsukata from Pexels

Physician Tan: Acupuncture on the scalp and hands can help to calm the mind, improve sleep quality and relieve stress. Stimulating certain acupoints on the legs and abdomen can help to strengthen the spleen function, improve digestion and boost the vital energy.

Cupping and tui na can help to soothe stiff muscles and remove wind and dampness from the body, thereby improving the overall blood circulation. Head and neck massage can help to relieve tension headaches, improve lymphatic circulation and relax the scalp for better sleep. For children below the age of 12, TCM Child Massage can also help to improve the child’s concentration in school, boost memory and promote better sleep.

Q: And how do herbal medicines help?

Physician Tan: TCM herbal medication is prescribed to restore the internal harmony in the organs and harmonise the flow of Qi and blood in the body. Herbal medication can also help to prevent panic attacks and improve the overall body function.

Q: Besides TCM treatments, what other advice would you offer to patients that can help them resolve this issue in their day-to-day lifestyle?

Physician Tan: Prevention is better than cure. Besides TCM treatments, I would advise DIY acupoints massage and food therapy to improve their anxiety issues in their day-to day lifestyle. Regular exercise and meditation can help you to relax and improve your mood.

Q: What is DIY acupoints massage?

Physician Tan: An acupoint is a specific location on the body through which Qi flows. By performing gentle massage on these acupoints for 2 to 3 minutes daily, you can help to alleviate some of the anxiety symptoms and improve your quality of life. Here are some pointers on the acupoints:

Nei Guan (内关)

Location: On the palmar side of the forearm, between the 2 tendons on the arms, about 3 fingers from the wrist

Benefits:

  • Relieves nausea and vomiting
  • Aids in gastric reflux and relieves chest tightness
  • Calms the mind and improves the quality of sleep
  • Also suitable for people who experience pain or numbness in their hands

Feng Chi (风池)

(L-R) Feng Chi, Tai Chong

Location: Top of the back of the neck, small depression at base of skull

Benefits:

  • Relieves tension headache and stiff neck
  • Improves dizziness and vertigo
  • Removes wind pathogen in the body, aids in the relief of the common cold and runny nose

Tai Chong (太冲)

Location: On foot, small depression distal to 1st and 2nd metatarsal bones.

Benefits:

  • Reduces stress, controls anger and irritability
  • Helps in insomnia
  • Alleviates eye issues such as dryness, redness and swelling
  • Regulates menstrual issues such as menstrual cramps
  • Lowers blood pressure

Q: And how does food therapy help?

Physician Tan: Some foods that are good for anxiety include:

  • To strengthen the digestion: dang shen (党参), Chinese yam (淮山), dried tangerine peels (陈皮).
  • To calm the mind and improve sleep: dried longan (龙眼肉), lotus seed (莲子), lily bulb (百合)
  • To clear body heat and improve the eyes: chrysanthemum (菊花)
  • To promote Qi circulation: dried rose buds (玫瑰花)

Stress and anxiety have a negative impact on our physical health in the long run. It is important to know your body signals well and seek professional help early.


SAFRA Member Privileges

ECON CHINESE MEDICINE (Econ Healthcare group)
*10% off following services:

  • Acupuncture (U.P. $25 – $50)
  • Child Massage (U.P. $25 – $55)
  • Cupping / Scraping (U.P. $10 – $30)
  • Herbal Medication (U.P. $8 – $150)
  • Tui Na (U.P. $30 – $55)

*For terms and conditions, information and contact details, visit www.safra.sg/promotions/healthcare-products-and-services#econchinesemedicine

ORIENTAL REMEDIES
*25% off TCM Initial Consultation
*10% off Cupping / Acupuncture services

*For terms and conditions, information and contact details, visit www.safra.sg/promotions/healthcare-products-and-services#orientalremedies

Share your experiences with TCM remedies with us at magnsman@sph.com.sg!


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