How TCM can help Anxiety and Depression

How Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can affect Mental Health

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mood disorders. During this time of Covid-19, with the shutting down of cities and urging to staying home, mental health is at the forefront just as much as wearing a mask, washing your hands and not touching your face. 

Although there is limited research on the efficacy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for treating anxiety and depression, some clinical trials have reported a therapeutic effect comparable to medication, with fewer side effects.

TCM practitioners believe that physical health issues are connected to a person’s emotional state, and, a person’s emotional state is connected to health issues.

Practitioners of TCM view emotions as an integrated aspect of organ functions, and sometimes, the root cause of disease. TCM classifies emotions into seven categories;

  • anger
  • joy
  • fear
  • worry
  • grief
  • fright
  • sadness

Each of these emotions correspond to a particular organ. For example, the lungs are commonly linked to grief and the ability to let go. 


In terms of anxiety, TCM describes this as a person having excessive energy, also referred to as heat or energy (qi), in the head. Symptoms of anxiety akin to this idea include:

  • insomnia
  • racing thoughts
  • excessive worry

In this case, the treatment would consist of inserting needles into various points on the body, such as the fingers, hands, wrists, ankles, and feet, in an effort to redistribute the patient’s energy, in order to improve sleep and reduce worry.


Depression, on the other hand, can be described as stagnant energy within the body. This stagnation can create imbalances that lead to symptoms of depression, such as:

  • an inability to focus
  • melancholy
  • anger
  • fatigue
  • lack of inspiration

Acupuncture addresses the issue by enabling the energy to move more efficiently, balancing the organ systems and creating homeostasis. The idea is that creating balanced energy better equips a person to manage stress and steady emotions, and enables a more peaceful feeling.

Treating Anxiety and Depression with TCM 

Acupuncture and herbs are the most common Chinese medicine therapies for treating anxiety and depression. Acupuncture consists of stimulating points on the body through the skin with tiny, sterile needles. Chinese medicine practitioners may also prescribe herbs made of plant and mineral products. Herbs can be as powerful as prescription drugs, and may have side effects, so be sure any herbal prescription you take is prescribed by a licensed acupuncturist. Herbs typically come in pill or liquid form, but the most potent herbs are traditionally brewed into tea.

Additionally, since practitioners of TCM regard the body and lifestyle as a single system, they consider other factors in determining a treatment plan. These factors may result in supplemental recommendations regarding a patient’s diet and environment, as well as meditation and exercise suggestions. Regardless of what treatments a TCM practitioner uses or prescribes during a session, the goal is to treat both body and mind.

Treatment and Healing Time

TCM treatments for anxiety and depression are unique for each patient, as every person has a unique constitution and imbalances. As a patient’s symptoms and issues adjust, a practitioner will likely change his or her treatments accordingly.

Healing time depends on the patient and the severity of his or her symptoms. Some patients report relief after just one session of acupuncture. Others may feel a difference within weeks or a month’s time, while still others might take up to several months to feel back to normal. A typical treatment schedule might begin with one to two sessions a week, tapering as the patient’s symptoms begin to improve.

Dr. Yuchee Chih

Our very own Dr. Yuchee Chih has been practicing TCM & Acupuncture for decades. His wisdom and knowledge shines through during his treatments and he enjoys sharing this with his patients. 

Credit for this article belongs to Seanna Sifflet LAc and can be found in its entirety at

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