• Natasha King

Blood Deficiency

Traditional Chinese Medicine differs in many ways to Western Medicine like that in the definition of blood. Western medicine notes blood to be the red liquid that circulates in the arteries and veins of humans and other vertebrate animals, carrying oxygen to and carbon dioxide from the tissues of the body, ultimately providing life. However, in the eyes of Traditional Chinese medicine, blood is enlivened with energy which is referred to as Qi. Qi moves the blood through the body so it can nourish every aspect of it from the skin and muscles to the brain and deep organs. It nourishes the entire physical body and also anchors the spiritual element of the psyche called the Shen. It is said that the quality of blood circulating through the body system provides vitality, focus and rosy cheeks. When blood is abundant one feels alive, nourished and well connected in mind and spirit. Life feels balanced with happiness, good health and well being. However, when blood is deficient one will feel weak, tired, have a pale complexion or become anaemic while they may also feel anxious or easily startled. Although there is no direct translation of blood deficiency in Western terms, many patterns are a part of or may arise from blood deficiency that is mild too extreme. For example, a healthy woman may experience a little blood deficiency right after her menstrual cycle. This may leave her feeling a little weak, cold and maybe a little pale in her complexion. In health, with a little rest and the right foods, she would recover from this quickly, whereas deficiencies that have been allowed to perpetuate or become extreme, like anaemia, may take months to rebuild from.


  • anaemia

  • anorexia

  • anxiety

  • blood loss

  • brittle and dry nails, hair and skin

  • cold limbs

  • depression

  • dream disturbed or restless sleep

  • easily awakened

  • easily startled – boo!

  • exhaustion

  • feeling of weakness in the limbs and muscles

  • lack of warmth–both physically and emotionally

  • mood swings

  • nervousness

  • nervous laughter and laughter at inappropriate times

  • pale complexion

  • pale nails

  • palpitations

  • sadness

  • scanty or absent periods

  • sensation of cold

  • slow growing hair and nails

  • slow healing and recover

  • slow mental thought

  • weak immune system

To further confirm blood deficiency Traditional Chinese Medical Practitioners will look for a tongue that is pale on the edges or pale overall in more severe cases and pulses will be weak and fine, especially on the Liver position.


Eat You cannot build blood if you do not eat. The basis for blood is the refined Qi of food. The higher the quality of food and better your eating behaviour, the faster the recovery will be.! Eat with joy–part of nourishing blood is the willingness to be open to receive nourishment and to feed yourself well. Although supplementation may be called for in some cases, it is not the same thing as actually enjoying meals where you taste the food and allow it to replenish you. This is key in patterns where there are Shen (spirit) disturbances.

Improve your Digestion The basis of blood is food, but even if you eat well and beautifully, you will have problems building blood if your digestion is weak. It might be that you need probiotic foods or to eliminate some foods like gluten that can slow or hinder the system.

Eat regular meals and avoid fasting The energy that you use today, should ideally come from the foods you are putting into your system last night and today...not your store houses. Those are to be there for times of need and if you are blood deficient it is likely that your storehouses are empty. With blood deficiency it is very important to not skip meals.

Nourish Blood after times of blood loss Rebuild after any type of blood loss, including menstruation. I recommend women learn to include specifically building foods after there cycle to rebuild to avoid feeling exhausted. A life time of bleeding or child bearing without proper rebuilding can lead to serious problems later.

Take a nap Proper rest is important for nourishing and rebuilding Blood and Qi. Napping in the early afternoon is particularly beneficial, giving your Liver and Spleen a chance to revitalise the Blood.

Avoid foods that deplete blood Sugar, excess salt, fatty foods, processed and refined foods, chemical laden foods, junk and manufactured foods.

Cook in cast iron A simple way to increase your iron intake.


Any food will help, but some are very specific to building blood. Foods that are dark, red like blood, are big builders. Flesh, especially red meat and marrow broths are particularly good. Bone broth Marrow stock is deeply nourishing and quickly builds the blood, Qi, Yang and Fluids. I sometimes toss in egg shells into the stock pot (incredible for ligaments and Blood). Eat animal protein, fish and meats Animal protein and fish will quickly build blood too, so add a little in. What’s a little? 3-5 oz. 3-5 x a week–yep, that’s all. Darker meats and organ meats are the most building–but use only clean, GMO and hormone free meats. Eat chlorophyll rich foods This category is huge, with good reason, we are meant to eat a lot of chlorophyll rich foods and they build the blood quickly. Chlorophyll rich foods include: Dark leafy greens (kale, chard, dandelion, etc.), macro-algae (seaweeds), micro-algae (spirualina), nettles and cereal grass (wheat and barley grass). Eat it if it’s naturally green.

More blood building foods

all animal proteins including organ meats (organic, pasture raised, grassfed) • apricots • berries • black beans • blood based foods - blood sausage. • cherries • dates • eggs • figs • lentils and legumes • grapes

• whole grains (organic/sprouted/gluten free)


• Molasses • Chicken • All red meat (lamb, buffalo, pork, particularly bone, marrow and liver) • Bone stock and soup • Eggs • Mackerel, tuna, anchovy, oysters, mussels, shrimp, prawns, clams, seaweeds • Leafy green (kale, chard, spinach, collard greens) • Beets • Winter squash/pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, parsnips, yams, peas, onions, leeks, garlic, turnip, mushrooms (including oyster and shitake) • Cooked whole grains • Goji berries • Stewed fruits, dates, figs, longan berries, grapes, cherries • Legumes in general; especially chick peas, black, kidney, adzuki and fava beans • Fresh ginger • Black sesame seeds! • Rice syrup, barley malt and raw sugar cane • Fermented soy products (tempeh, miso) • Vegemite and marmite


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