Finding Focus with Chinese Medicine
Most of the time in practice we focus on how to treat the heavy hitters like digestion, immunity, pain, stress, etc. because they’re incredibly common. Flying under the radar are all of the cognitive (or mental) functions that can be improved by Chinese medicine too. Things like focus, mental clarity, absent mindedness, being scatter brained, mental fatigue, poor memory or brain fog. These issues are also common (we’ve all experienced them from time to time), but are rarely the chief complaint of people that come through the door. Usually it’s a secondary side effect of other more prominent problems like stress. So how do we explain what brain function translates to in Chinese medicine? This is where it gets a little tricky.
In Western terms, the brain is responsible for all emotional and mental capabilities. In Chinese medicine, it is a little more complicated than just one organ. First off, the brain houses the “shen” or mind, which is obviously important in one’s presence in the world; meaning our vitality, mental health, and consciousness as we walk through life. A function all on it’s own! However, there are other organs that contribute to how well the brain works. Those organs are the spleen, kidneys, and heart according to Chinese theory. The spleen is in charge of the intellect of the brain or a person’s ability to concentrate, study and learn, and have deliberate focus. The kidneys are responsible for will power and memory; like remembering people’s names, faces, places, etc. And the heart contributes to the mix by shunting the qi (energy) and blood to the brain for optimal function. This piece isn’t that far fetched from western medicine. If the qi and blood are flush, a person’s ability to think clearer, sleep better, focus more, and maintain a healthy emotional state go way up!
Our job as practitioners is to identify which organ system might be out of whack when it comes to how the brain operates. If someone is having brain fog, that might be related to the spleen energy. If they can’t focus, that could be related to the heart energy. Or if someone’s memory is poor, the kidney energy might be at play. Along with taking the tongue and pulse, we would be able to identify what is happening in the system and choose how to optimize mental health with certain acupuncture points, the use of moxibustion and Chinese herbs.
Other ways to power up in the brain department are to make sure you stay hydrated, get your omega 3’s and drop some bad habits like smoking and drinking alcohol. For any other ideas, be sure to ask Karen or me in your next appointment!