Acupuncture Auckland: Anemia (Part One)

Acupuncture Auckland Article series: Do you constantly feel tired?  Are you taking iron supplements but don’t seem to be doing anything?  Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) anemia is primarily due to Blood Deficiency.  In TCM, the concept of blood includes an understanding of the inherent energy within the blood.  Blood is created in part from nutrients extracted in the digestive tract as a result of the action of the spleen-pancreas; blood is formed when this extract is combined with the kidney essence known as jing.  Much of the body’s jing is stored in the bone marrow, which correlates with the contemporary Western knowledge that blood is generated in the marrow.

Signs and symptoms of anemia:

  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Dizziness or light-headedness (especially when standing up or with activity)
  • Headaches
  • Problems concentrating
  • Shortness of breath (especially during exercise)
  • Chest pain

Some types of anemia may have other symptoms, such as:

  • Constipation
  • Problems thinking
  • Tingling/numbness

The signs and symptoms of anemia mirror the Chinese medicine signs of blood deficiency.  Blood deficiency has some addition signs of: paleness of lips, nailbeds, tongue and complexion in general, spots in the field of vision, unusual hair loss, premature greying and thin, dry hair, dry skin.

Blood deficiency is caused by:

  • inadequate intake of nutrients,
  • by the inability to absorb nutrients,
  • by the loss of blood through gastro-intestinal bleeding or excessive menstrual flow,
  • chronic diseases and stagnant blood that inhibits formation of new blood.

There are a number of natural ways in which you can build blood – acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, correct nutrition, naturopathic supplements and lifestyle changes.  Let us take a look at each of these.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Acupuncture is aimed at strengthening the Spleen-pancreas.  Absorption of nutrients is maximised by encouraging healthy Spleen-qi.   The Kidneys are often tonified to support the bone marrow and red blood cell formation.  Any other underlying disharmonies which may affect the building of blood are also addressed.

Chinese herbal medicine is a very important part of blood building therapy.  If blood deficiency is severe or prolonged some form of supplementation is useful, at least in the short term.  Herbal combinations are used to supplement blood and strengthen Spleen as well as deal with any other disharmony.


To enrich and build the blood through nutrition, there are two general approaches:

  • increase the digestive absorption of nutrients
  • add those specific nutrients which generate healthy blood.

To encourage absorption, we build the qi energy of the spleen-pancreas and reduce any damp/mucus conditions.  If damp is an issue then it is advisable to avoid or severely restrict damp forming foods.

Blood Deficiency Diet

Blood building requires a greater protein intake.  The best sources of protein for Blood building are animal proteins, in particular chicken.  It is possible to build Blood on a Vegetarian diet, but the results are much slower.  The best Blood foods are those that have concentrated jing, the animal proteins.  Stocks and soups can be made with organic chicken or beef bones which release pure jing from their bone marrow.

Green leafy vegetables, that is, those that are chlorophyll rich are especially beneficial, as they not only contain iron, but have other components that assist in the absorption and utilisation of iron, and manufacture of Blood.

Blood quality is also directly affected by the level of additives in food, especially hormones and excessive sugar and salt.  Meat should be organic, or at least chemical free, When liver is used it must be organic as the liver concentrates additives in animal feed.

Grains Barley, corn, oats, rice, sweet rice, wheat, bran
Vegetables Beetroot, dark leafy greens, spinach, watercress, wheatgrass, button mushroom, cabbage, celery, dandelion leaf, artichoke, kelp, shiitake mushroom
Fruit Apple, apricot, avocado, date, fig, grape, longan, mulberry
Beans Aduki, black soya, kidney, fermented bean products tempeh
Nuts and seeds Almonds (lightly roasted), black sesame
Fish Mussel, octopus, oyster, sardine, tuna
Meat Chicken, all red meat especially bone marrow and liver (beef, pork, sheep),
Dairy Egg
Herbs, spices Nettle, parsley
Oils, condiments Molasses
Beverages Soya milk, miso, spirulina smoothies, Guiness!
Common supplements Algae, seaweeds (ie: nori, hijike), spirulina, chlorella

Examples of every day western foods that can be used to build Blood

  • Rice porridges with soya milk or rice milk, apricots and almonds
  • Dark leafy green salads with avocado and grated beetroot
  • Warm chicken salad with artichoke and grapes
  • Scrambled Eggs with parsley
  • Mussel Chowder with calamari
  • Snacks of dried apricots and almonds
  • Kidney bean and mushroom lasagne with a spinach salad
  • Any red meat or chicken dish. (Note that in traditional Chinese medicine meat is viewed as a strong tonifing food to be eaten in small amounts so that serving sizes are based around two to four ounces per serving, taken several times a week depending on individual energetic patterns).

Foods to avoid or restrict

Cold natured, uncooked and raw food: salads, raw fruits (whole and juiced, especially citrus), wheat, sprouts, raw vegetables, tomato, salt, too many sweet foods and concentrated sweeeteners.

Congesting and Damp generating foods: ice cream and dairy  (except a little butter and yoghurt), sugar, chocolate, nuts  (unless slightly roasted)

In Part Two we will look at the nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes are recommended in order to recover from anemia.

If you have any queries regarding anemia please ring the Auckland Acupuncture Studio and find out how we can help.

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Acupuncture Auckland: Anemia (Part Two)