red flowers reflecting over white backgroundConcept of Blood

The concept of blood (xue) in traditional Chinese medicine is closely related to the concept of blood in Western medicine except that it goes further to include functions such as tissue nourishment.  The diagnosis of “blood deficiency” in Chinese medicine often corresponds to iron deficiency anemia in Western medicine but a patient can still have “blood deficiency” by Chinese medical standards even though testing may reveal normal blood iron level.

During female monthly cycle, blood plays a major roll in nourishing the endometrium (uterine lining) and preparing it for embryo implantation.   Endometrial tissue is very sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and as it gets closer to the ovulation, estrogen production increases which in turn provokes endometrial lining to proliferate and produce more blood vessels.   Nice and rich uterine lining creates a fertile ground for the new life to develop.  If uterine lining is too thin the process of conception becomes more difficult.  Uterine lining can be seen and measured via ultrasound and the thickness between 8 and 13 millimeters in the second part of the cycle (after ovulation) is generally considered normal.

What Causes Blood Deficiency?

Women are especially prone to blood deficiency if they have a history of heavy periods.  It is important to replenish the blood that has been lost during the period by eating blood nourishing and iron rich foods.  Inadequate protein intake is a very common contributing factor as well.  If a woman is consuming vegan or vegetarian diet she has to be especially careful to include enough protein with every meal, supplement vitamin B12 as well as include cereal grasses like wheat grass and micro algae such as spirulina and chlorella .  According to Chinese medical theory, overexercising tends to consume the blood which is why most professional athletes tend to stop menstruating.

Inability to absorb nutrients and gastrointestinal bleeding are important contributors to blood deficiency.  If a person experiences digestive issues it is important to address them first before prescribing blood tonic herbs which can be difficult to digest.  Anxiety, worry and over thinking can interact with the digestive process since the way we process our emotions is directly linked to the way we process our nutrients.  That is why our gut has been referred to as our “second brain” and functional GI disorders are closely linked to the amount of stress that we experience.

Signs and Symptoms of Blood Deficiency

Typical signs and symptoms of blood deficiency include:

-history of irregular periods

-light and short menstrual bleeding

-amenorrhea (complete cessation of periods)

-fatigue especially during and after periods

-dry skin, brittle nails, hair loss

-thin body constitution

-tingling and numbness in extremities, muscle tension

-tendency toward constipation and dry stools

-pale complexion, pale tongue, thin and weak pulse

How is Blood Deficiency Treated?

Blood deficiency responds well to dietary changes and usage of blood building herbal tonics.  To enrich blood with nutrition there are two general approaches:  improving digestive function and absorption of nutrients and adding blood building foods.   General guidelines for improving overall digestive function include:

-remove processed and denatured foods from your diet

-reduce or completely avoid sugar

-include fresh vegetables on daily basis

-eat fruit when in season

-consume only best quality organic meats

-regularly consume  fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, miso,

-drink only room temperature water and herbal tea, avoid fruit juices, coffee (especially decaf), sodas, energy drinks

Foods that are specifically used to build blood include:

-animal protein: chicken/beef liver, lamb,beef, chicken, turkey, gelatin, mussels, oysters, sardines, eggs

-grains: rice, oats, wheat, bran flakes, millet

-legumes: lentils, beans (black, kidney, navy, pinto), garbanzo beans, mung beans,

-vegetables: green leafy veggies (swiss chard, spinach, kale), beets, seaweed, sprouts, artichokes, mushrooms, cabbage, celery, watercress

-fruits: cherries, all berries (blackberry, raspberry…), grapes, dried apricots, dried figs, prunes

-nuts and seeds: almond, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, cashew

-herbs/other: nettles, wheat grass, spirulina, royal jelly, mugwort, white peony root, angelica root, rhemannia root, blackstrap molasses

General suggestions:

-chew your food properly

-sit down when you eat and avoid watching TV, reading, talking on the phone while eating

-try to rest as much as possible during your period and keep you body well dressed and warm

-don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion

-use meditation or any other mind calming exercises that help you relax


Fast Beet Root Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium beetroots, grated

1 large carrot, grated

1 onion, finely chopped

1 leek, cut into thin strips

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 liter/1 3/4 pints beef/chicken/vegetable stock (or plain water)

salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons natural yogurt

Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the vegetables and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Before the end of cooking time add salt and pepper to taste. You can add yogurt just before serving.

Beetroot is nutritious and energizing, rich in potassium, silica, iron, amino acids and vitamins A, V and C. It is ideal blood tonic in anemia and is traditionally used in debilitating diseases and convalescence. Beef stock provides vital amino acids and nutrients for strengthening muscles and bones.

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Learn How to Cure Blood Deficiency with Food
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16 thoughts on “Learn How to Cure Blood Deficiency with Food

  • January 15, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I’ve read in Henry Lu’s book that honey is also a good food for improving blood deficiency, increasing hemoglobin counts. Your thoughts?

  • March 4, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Draga Jelena,

    juče sam bila na pregledu kod Vaše mame i imala prvi tretman. Ona mi je ukazala na Vaš članak “Learn How to Cure Blood Deficiency with Food”.Većina simptoma se poklapa sa mojim stanjem. Nadam se da će mi pomoći saveti u članku.

    Puno pozdrava iz Beograda,


  • April 2, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    extremely helpful and informative. Thank you !!!!!

  • April 29, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Thank you so much for all this information! It makes so much sense to me now, why I’ve had a white tongue, fatigue, and craving almonds!Can’t wait to see some possitive results when I eat the foods that will rebuild my blood.

  • May 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Draga Mirjana,

    Hvala Vam na komentaru. Nadam se da ce vam pomoci moja informacija. Sve najbolje,

  • May 22, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Hi Kelly,

    Honey can be helpful but I would recommend black strap molasses as a stronger blood tonic.


  • August 17, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Very clear and helpful. Now I will try the suggestions and see how they work- THANKS :)

  • March 10, 2011 at 9:07 am

    There is a book that i consider to be the best on Food and healing – named healing with Wholefoods by Paul Pitchford. It has a levels of detail that are hard to find elsewhere, it explains good general points about diet and health, as well as the nutritional and TCM roots of many individual foods –

    but, in saying all that – the article above is useful and good. Keep em coming!

  • February 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Greetings! I have Polycythemia Vera, a type of slow-growing,”terminal”, bone marrow cancer. I’ve been treated with phlebotomies for 2 1/2 years & am finally giving out to anemia, a miserable life. Are any of these blood-building remedies clot-inducing, for that is basically my problem, My marrow is producing too many red & white blood cells & platelets. Ty for any advice! Carré Nölscher

  • February 27, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    While I find all of the above information very useful, I am also curious about the TCM concept of Blood as it relates to the Shen. Could blood deficiency lead to a rise in anxiety and nervousness?

  • April 5, 2012 at 1:33 am

    i have read your suggestions and liked it…… letz c how it works on me… well….. thak u ….. :-)

  • April 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks for some other fantastic article. Where else may anybody get that type of information in such an ideal way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am at the search for such information.

  • July 11, 2012 at 2:51 am

    thanks so very much for the information you have provided. May Almighty Allah bless u.

  • August 7, 2012 at 10:21 am

    The facts provided were great reinforcement. The statement relative to the requirement for iron absorption (as well as intake) was invaluable, as well the intricate link between a positive state of mind with how effectively nutrients are processed. On the whole an extremely holistic article.

  • January 13, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Absolutely! Blood and Shen are closely connected. Blood deficiency can lead to anxiety, nervousness, insomnia….There are numerous Chinese herbal formula that can help with these symptoms. Diet rich in iron is also very important in such cases. Thank you for bringing that up.

  • January 13, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Dear Carre, I am sorry that you are struggling with cancer. Unfortunately, I am not qualified to answer your question. Sorry and wish you all the best.

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