The blood is a body fluid that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells. It is composed of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, nutrients, other proteins, electrolytes, and water.
In Oriental medicine terms, Blood is spirited with Qi, which moves the blood through the body so it can nourish every aspect of our body from the skin and muscles to the brain and deep organs. It doesn’t just nourish the physical body it also influences mental health.
It’s not just quantity, but the quality of Blood circulating through your system helps give us vitality, focus, and glowing complexion. When Blood is abundant you feel alive, nourished, and well-connected in mind and spirit. We allow joy and laughter into our lives and build and maintain meaningful relationships. When Blood is deficient a person will feel weak, tired, have a pale complexion, or become anemic, they may feel anxious or easily startled, have breathlessness and palpitations.
So mind well that sufficient hemoglobin count from your blood report does not necessarily mean that your all body parts are getting their required blood supply. And this is exactly the key to your health and well-being.
The Functions of Blood
Nourishes and Moistens
Blood is mainly responsible for nourishing and keeping the body moist. Internally, it circulates to the organs, and externally, it flows to skin, flesh, bones, and muscles. With sufficient nourishment from the blood, organs and tissues can function normally resulting in a healthy glow in the skin, cheeks, and hair. Nails, muscles, and bones also rely on blood nourishment to remain strong and healthy.
Maintaining healthy body movement and sensation
The Huang Di Nei Jing, a famous ancient Chinese medicine text, says, “Having received sufficient blood, the liver can support healthy eyesight. Having received sufficient blood, feet can walk. Having received sufficient blood, the palm can grasp hold of things. Having received sufficient blood, the fingers can pick up things.” This illustrates blood’s importance in healthy muscle movement and sensation. If blood is deficient, dizziness, vertigo, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or limb weakness can occur.
Aiding the mind and mental activities
Good blood supply is also important for mental health. With sufficient blood nourishment, a clear mind, good spirit, fast thought processes, and swift reaction times are possible. On the other hand, deficiency of blood leads to poor memory and insomnia and in serious cases causes mental disorders and psychiatric diseases.
Houses the Mind (Shen)
The Shen is one of 5 souls. Each soul has influenced and has responsibilities over our thoughts and emotions and together they encompass the entirety of our mental and spiritual life. Here’s a quick list of the souls and where they reside.
Mind (Shen) Heart
- Ethereal Soul (Hun) Liver
- Corporeal Soul (Po) Lungs
- Will Power (Zhi) Kidneys
- Thought/Intention (Yi) Spleen
When our Shen, is housed in our Heart, it is nourished with abundant Blood we respond appropriately to our environment. It allows us to build meaningful relationships, be calm, experience joy, and to feel rooted and to be able to adapt. When the Shen is unsettled or not anchored with Blood, emotional problems arise.
Why do we become Blood deficient?
- Irregular eating habits
- Lack of adequate rest or sleep
- Constitutional (born with it) factors such as weak Heart, Kidney, Lungs or Spleen
- Excessive blood loss including excessive menstrual flows
- Pregnancy, labor, and nursing
- Weak digestive system
- Excessive mental and emotional overwork or stress
- Excessive physical labor
Symptoms of Blood deficiency
Acupuncture practitioners diagnose the conditions through tongue & pulse diagnosis and treat accordingly.
Read more about the Deficiency of Blood and Nourishing blood, please refer to the article on Nourishing Blood.