Chinese Herbs for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Chinese Medicine Treats The Individual

The use of Chinese herbs for postpartum depression and anxiety disorders, is based on treating the individual. Postpartum Depression and anxiety don’t exist in a vacuum, but in a specific human being in a specific time and place.

Somatic Experiencing of Emotions

When I treat emotional and mental health disorders with Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture, like post-partum depression, I always listen to  the physical or “somatic” sensations that you describe. If you have not yet paid close attention to your physical sensations in your body then I help you to

Ideas and Concepts versus Sensations

For example, you might say, “I dont feel like getting out of bed.” I will ask you, what does your body feel like at that time? Perhaps your body feels heavy. But is it your entire body? Or more your arms and legs? Or you might say, I feel depressed. I will ask, what does depression feel like your in body. If i did not know what that word means, how would you explain it to me?

Yes, you might say, “I feel sad.” But what does sadness feel like, physically. We feel sadness and fear (or joy and anger) as emotions, but what does your body DO when you are sad. We know, when you are a child and you feel happy you jump up and down. As adults, we learn not to do that. Our body’s become like poker players. But the body does keep the score.

And its obvious and easy to see when someone is angry at you. Their face muscles change. And when we are sad we also feel things in the body, like a sinking sensation.

You might say “I feel anxious” What does that mean in terms of your body. Do you feel your heart facing. Are you sweating? Is your mouth dry.

So emotions, while they do have ideas attached to them, like “hopelessness” or “sadness” each of those ideas express themselves in physical form. Severe fear and anxiety can give you diarrhea, for example. Anger and frustration can give you gastritis and Irritable Bowel syndrome, as well as tension headache and neck and shoulder pain. And the key to using Chinese Herbs for Post Partum Depression successfully is understanding the pattern of physical, emotional, and intellectual symptoms to craft a pattern of disharmony.

How Anxiety Can Help You Become Clear

Postpartum Depression generally involves both depression and anxiety. In the case of anxiety,  I might ask you, “What does it feel like in the center of your chest, in your neck and shoulders, in the pit of your stomach? How do your intestines feel? What does it feel like in your head? As you start to pay attention you might also start to notice how angry you feel. There is often a component of anger to any sort of depression.

What is great about anxiety in a way, is that the red flags of the disease are forceful and easy to identify. Shortness of breath, or accelerated heart beat, for example. Movement where there should be calm, such as nervousness, inability to get comfortable, restlessness, insomnia. Each of those have physical manifestation you can pick up on.

Whereas with depression, physical symptoms may be more hidden, and the feelings (sadness, apathy, hopelessness,) more prominent then sensations.

Cure the Anxiety to Cure the Post Partum Depression

I am not being glib, but part of the way you can cure your anxiety, is to learn how to pay attention to these physical symptoms that operate on a very primitive level; before you know you are anxious about something, your body is already manifesting symptoms. This is how our nervous systems work. We are animals.

A fluttering sensation in the chest. Tension in the facial muscles. A tight brow, temples, jaw, mouth. Shortness of Breath. Nausea. Diarrhea. Chills. Tingling in the skin. Restlessness at night, tossing and turning. Inability to get comfortable. Palpitations. Sudden hard heart beat. Insomnia. Worry. Obsessive Thinking.

Qi and Energy Movement in Chinese Medicine

In each case, with each of these symptoms, Chinese medicine describes a disruption of Qi flow. Lung Qi must go down. In shortness of breath, whether due to asthma or anxiety, the Lung’s Qi is blocked. In the case of nausea the same rule applies. Stomach Qi must go downward, in nausea it rebels, and goes up.

Normally, when we are healthy and energetic, we have a balance between upward and downward movements of qi.  The Zheng, or “Upright Qi” makes us feel energetic when it is undamaged by emotions. It provides our foundational energy for work and play. When there is abnormal fatigue due to illness, the upright Qi is damaged. And the Upright Qi is damaged by purely physical illness like Covid or the Flu, but its also damaged by the overthinking associated with anxiety and depression

The Key to Using Chinese Herbs for Postpartum Depression Successfully

Which Organ Qi is Damaged and in What Specific Way

The key in treating Anxiety, and other Mental-Emotional issues with acupuncture, is recognizing which organs Qi has been damaged, and in which way. In addition to Qi rebelling,  it can also be in a weakened state.

You Qi can be stagnated, it can be obstructed by blood stasis or by phlegm stagnation. There can be profound damage to the yin, yang, Qi, or Blood of one organ, like the “Spleen” whose Qi is integral to the manufacture of blood, and this may lead to Heart Blood Vacuity.

Now this Spleen deficiency can be from poor diet, but it is most often the result of excess worry. So in this case my choice of locations for the needle placement will involve points (that “Calm the Mind and Relieve Worry, that Nourish or Unblock the Spleen Qi, and Open the Heart Qi.”

Find the Pattern Cure the Disease

Chinese medicine, Chinese Herbal Medicine in particular, does a very good job describing various predictable patterns for each disease that has been studied over at least 3 millennia. (The first known Chinese medical texts are from around 500 BCE, but even these refer to “the ancients” and existing medical practices.

The key in herbal medicine is to identify the pattern that the patient is manifesting, and then give the herbal formula that matches it. An important factor for the practitioner is experience. Rarely do people match the textbook cases we learn in school, they are more like templates, and the problem is different patterns have overlapping symptoms, such as insomnia, or fatigue; so you must listen carefully to the pulse, look carefully at the face and tongue, be sensitive to the person’s energy, and look for the cardinal symptoms that, combined with a tongue and pulse diagnosis, direct you to the prescription that most concurs.

Part Two: Find out what Herbs I Use: A Case Study of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Treated with Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs , and Mindfulness



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