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Oriental Medicine for Nourishing, Stimulating, or Calming the Brain

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

It may sound strange to learn that cognitive function is not solely the job of the brain alone; other parts and organs of the body are involved—the heart, kidneys, and liver all partner with the brain to nurture a healthy and attentive mind.

The heart is known as the Emperor, and must be protected at all times. The Emperor is so precious that it has its own personal protection unit, called the pericardium. This is a fibrous, protective sac encasing the heart, which is why it earned its alternate name of Heart Protector.

One reason why the heart needs constant attention is because it must constantly pump blood throughout the body via the blood vessels. Oxygen and vital substances are delivered to the brain in this manner to stimulate or calm it. It only takes three minutes for an oxygen-starved brain to be at risk for permanent injuries, which only proves how vital the heart is for our immediate survival.

The heart also has another important responsibility relating to the sustainability of the brain: to house the Shen. The concept of the Shen can be described as the spirit or mind of a person. When you go to bed at night with a nurtured and healthy heart, the Shen is also able to rest comfortably, which allows you to wake in the morning, refreshed and ready for the day. When there are emotional disturbances in one's life, the Shen can suffer and a host of symptoms may then occur.

Symptoms indicating there may be a heart imbalance are as follows:

  • Memory problems
  • Decline of mental acuity
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Inappropriate social behaviors
  • Inability to make meaningful connections with others

The brain is supported when high quality blood flows easily to the head. According to western medicine, one nutrient vital to sustaining the cardiovascular and neurological systems is iron. When the heart is functioning properly, blood rich in iron can assist the brain in fulfilling its cognitive functions, such as learning, reasoning, and concentration.

Suggestions for iron-rich foods include dark, green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, collard greens, and spinach. Other choices include foods that are dark in color and naturally sweet: beets, molasses, dates, black sesame seeds, purple grapes, and figs.

The heart, as essential as it may be, is not the only organ assisting the brain; the General, as the liver is called in the system of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, plays its role. The liver controls the direction and pace at which Qi flows throughout the body. Qi is translated as the most fundamental energy needed for all life to exist. It is one aspect of the liver's function to determine whether Qi can smoothly reach its destination at the top of the head. This is very important because blood can only flow where the Qi takes it. Put simply, where blood flows, Qi follows.

The kidneys also contribute to a healthy brain as they have a strong relationship with it and the spinal cord. The kidneys supply a vital substance called Jing, which then produces marrow. Jing is a unique, fundamental substance necessary for human life. Marrow is the material foundation for the central nervous system and is the matter that 'fills up' the brain, thus the brain is referred to as the sea of marrow.

The sea of marrow is indispensable for memory and concentration. It also rules over the five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and seeing. It is natural for the sea of marrow to wane as we grow older. However, there are acupuncture and Oriental medicine treatments that can help nurture even the most mature brain.

No matter what your age, if you find yourself suffering from memory loss, an inability to concentrate, a lack of creative energy, or other related issues, consider making an appointment with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!

About the Author:   Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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