Blood plays an important role in our mental and physical well-being in Chinese medicine. The Shen (our spirit and consciousness) is believed to be anchored in the Blood so when the Blood is depleted we can experience feelings of disconnection; we might become easily startled, find we are not able to bring our focus firmly into the present so become easily forgetful, or feel uneasy and anxious. The Shen is said to reside in the Blood at night so if the blood is not strong we might experience difficulty falling asleep. On a physical level the blood brings nourishment and lubrication to our muscles, sinews, organs and brain. If there is a lack of vitality in our blood we might feel weak and easily tire, experience postural dizziness and cramps, and our hair may become dry and our nails brittle.
Looking after our Blood requires attention to both what we eat and our lifestyle. It’s not enough to just eat the right things we need to support the body to be able to get the most out of what we put in. This means getting rest and avoiding excessive exercise regimes. A rest in the afternoon is especially beneficial to replenish the Blood.
A gentle reorientation in diet can lead to a really positive impact on the Blood. In Chinese medicine we recommend a balanced diet with an emphasis on foods with a strong lifeforce (qi); in other words seasonal foods which have not been denatured for their production, transportation or consumption. Foods can then be added to address imbalances however any diet should be adopted in a way that can be sustained not as a quick fix. Foods to add to strengthen the Blood include chlorphyll-rich and leafy green vegetables combined with grains, meat, fish, seafood and many beans. Animal organs are especially enriching to the Blood.
Specific foods which tonify Blood are: aduki bean, apricot, beef, beetroot, black soybean, bone marrow (make a chicken stock soup, for example), cherry, eggs, dates, figs, grapes, kale, kidney beans, liver, mussels, nettles, octopus, oyster, parsley, sardine, spinach, squid, tempeh, watercress.