Traditional Chinese Medicine for Insomnia and Stress

Most of us have suffered from insomnia, anxiety, forgetfulness, or restlessness at one time or another. Fortunately, these ailments can be treated naturally with several traditional Chinese medicines.

Peaceful Sleep Tablets

Chinese name: An Mien Pien (ahn myehn pyen)

Indications

Insomnia, anxiety, poor memory

Functions

Nourishes heart yin and calms the spirit

Description

An Mien Pien is a mild formula that possesses heart-nourishing and heat-clearing properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, the heart is not only responsible for blood circulation, it is also considered the "seat of the spirit." For this reason, if the yin (nourishing aspect) of the heart is depleted, the person experiences anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. This imbalance in heart yin is treated with herbs that are considered to "nourish the heart and calm the spirit (shen)."

This category of herbs is represented in An Mien Pien by its two chief ingredients: Ziziphus seed (suan zao ren) and Polygala root (yuan zhi). Ziziphus seeds have a sedative, hypnotic, and analgesic action and are indicated for insomnia, restlessness, and heart palpitations due to "deficiency of blood or yin in the heart and liver."

Polygala root is another nourishing herb that calms the heart, making it useful for anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and disorientation.

Manufacturer: China National Import and Export Corp.

Dosage: 4 tablets, three times a day

Peaceful Spirit Tonify Heart Pill

Chinese name: An Shen Bu Xin Wan (ahn shen boo shin wahn)

Indications

Insomnia, dizziness, excessive dreaming, restlessness

Functions

Sedates the spirit, nourishes the heart and kidneys

Description

This formula is known for its ability to calm anxiety, insomnia, excessive dreaming, and heart palpitations. Its chief ingredient is mother-of-pearl shell (zhen zhu mu), which is in the category of substances that "settle the heart and calm the spirit." Most of the members of this category are heavy sea shells and minerals, and they are meant to "anchor the spirit" in cases where the underlying deficiency of yin has allowed the yang (activity) to become relatively excessive. Typically, this yang excess produces more severe emotional imbalances than simple yin deficiency without extreme heat, and it requires a stronger tranquilizing effect than simple yin tonics that are mildly calming.

Since the formula is composed of almost 50 percent mother-of-pearl shell, it can cause stomach irritation or indigestion in some individuals. In this event, it should be discontinued.

Manufacturer: Shanghai Native Medicine Works

Dosage: 15 pills, three times a day

Emperor's Tea

Chinese name: Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan (tyahn wahng boo shin dahn)

Also known as: Emperor's Tea, Emperor of Heaven's Pill to Tonify the Heart

Indications

Insomnia, palpitations, anxiety, night sweats

Functions

Tonifies heart blood and yin, clears heat from deficiency

Description

This ancient formula in patent form is the classical remedy for the symptoms of "heart and kidney yin deficiency," an imbalance common in modern industrialized society. This type of depletion can occur from excessive mental work, improper diet, and "burning the candle at both ends." Symptoms include insomnia with restless sleep, disturbing dreams, anxiety, forgetfulness, mouth sores, inability to concentrate, and, possibly, night sweats. From a Western perspective, it can be used for mental or emotional disorders, insomnia, hypertension, menopause, or hyperthyroidism.

The chief herb is Rehmannia glutinosa (sheng di huang), chosen for its ability to replenish depleted reserves in the kidneys (yin essence). Substances that "nourish the heart and calm the spirit" are added, such as Polygala tenuifolia (yuan zhi), Ziziphus spinosa (suan zao ren), and Biota orientalis (bai zi ren).

Another important ingredient is Salvia miltiorrhiza (dan shen), an important herb for treating palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia due to depletion of heart and kidney yin. Asparagus root (tian men dong) is added to increase the cooling, moistening actions of the formula.

Finally, the formula contains Schizandra berries (wu wei zi). In addition to its ability to treat insomnia and palpitations due to depletion, Schizandra is considered an adaptogen similar to ginseng, meaning it may be capable of increasing the body's resistance to disease. It provides greater endurance and an improved capacity for dealing with stress.

In the past, some versions of this patent were coated with a reddish powder called cinnabar. While this substance has strong sedative effects, it contains traces of mercury, a toxic heavy metal that is already too prevalent in modern industrialized countries. It is against the law to import cinnabar into the United States, so the mineral showed up only in patents that came through customs years before the ban. Telltale signs are a reddish color instead of the usual black pills, and the ingredient list includes cinnabar, known as zhu sha.

It is worthwhile to be aware of the possibility, however remote, that patents with this coating may still be around. Therefore, check the color of the pills and the label on the bottle to be sure the patent you use is not coated with cinnabar.

Manufacturer: Lanzhou Foci

Dosage: 8 pills, three times a day. The formula should be taken for a few months to have a long-lasting effect.

Take advantage of the time-tested traditional Chinese medicines discussed in this article to boost your immunity, reduce inflammation, cope with fatigue, and more. These medications can be effective natural alternatives to the drugs at your local pharmacy.

For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Bill Schoenbart is licensed in both herbal medicine and acupuncture and has an M.A. in Chinese medicine. He is editor of The Way of Chinese Herbs and Biomagnetic and Herbal Therapy.

Ellen Shefi is a licensed massage technician, licensed acupuncturist, and registered dietician. She is a member of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Herb Association, and the Oregon Acupuncture Association.