Heart Blood Deficiency: anxiety and palpitations

Heart Blood Yin Yang

Although this page is about Heart Blood deficiency, if you haven’t yet found out about Heart Blood click on that link and have a quick read.

Causes of Heart Blood Deficiency

A relaxed personality, comfortable in yourself and your body, implies sound levels of Heart Blood.

If you have a deficiency of this, you’ll get many symptoms that are all too common nowadays, especially among people who work in offices.

There are three main causes of Heart Blood deficiency, although it can also arise from Liver Blood deficiency.

Down below I also list another cause, somewhat less common.


1. Emotional

All emotions potentially affect the Heart energy and strong emotions even more so.

Long-term, fear, worry, grief, anxiety, all of these affect the Shen and the Heart energy.

Short-term, bad news or sudden loss, as when a relationship breaks up (especially if it’s you who receives the unwelcome news) can ‘break the heart’: or so it feels. Anger affects the Liver more than the Heart, but bitterness remaining after anger affects the Heart.


2. Blood Loss

A loss or haemorrhage of blood depletes Blood throughout the body including Heart Blood. The faster it happens, the more obvious the signs, but anyone who has a small, perhaps unnoticed, but continuing haemorrhage will eventually be affected.

Such losses might be in the bowels or small intestine, or from taking a drug which diminishes or prevents blood clotting.

Blood losses from heavy periods, surgery, wounds, and during childbirth can all lead to Heart Blood deficiency. Blood loss from childbirth is often a major contributor to post-natal depression.


3. Nutrition

Poor nutrition – poor food choices or poor eating habits and/or inability to absorb the nutritive benefit of food because of weak Spleen Qi mean poorly nourished blood: that gives deficient Blood, and therefore potential for or likelihood of Heart Blood deficiency.

As we age, our ability to absorb what we need from food often becomes a problem. For example, our level of vitamin B12 reduces because our stomachs cannot produce what is called the ‘intrinsic factor’. Without this our cells function poorly, leading to many problems some of which can be described by Heart Blood deficiency.


4. Over-exertion

There are other causes of Blood deficiency, which leads on to Heart Blood deficiency, including excessive exercise or physical work, weakening your Spleen qi and leading to both Blood stagnation and Qi Stagnation in the the pelvic area.

Some athletes, (mainly women, but also men who have over-strained their bodies) may find they get some of the symptoms of this syndrome, with or without Blood deficiency.

  • Women with Heart Blood deficiency from this cause would probably find their periods diminishing in volume.
  • Men might not be aware of their Blood deficiency, just aware that they start getting mild palpitations and some of the other symptoms listed below such as breathlessness.

Explanation of Heart Blood Deficiency

Technical bit of stuff here! If you’re just interested in what it’s like to have Heart Blood deficiency, jump on down the page to Symptoms of Heart Blood deficiency.

You may wonder why, if Blood deficiency leads to Heart Blood deficiency, why there is any need to separate the latter deficiency from the former.

For the same reason, why bother dividing Liver Blood deficiency from Blood deficiency?

Good questions and good reasons!
The reasons lie not just in the cause of the deficiency but in its symptoms. The underlying causes of Liver Blood deficiency include, as with Heart Blood deficiency, deficient Blood from weak Spleen Qi and poor nutrition, but with Liver Blood deficiency, deficiency can arise from causes distinct from those of Heart Blood deficiency, (Liver Blood deficiency causes include Liver Qi stagnation and Kidney Qi and Kidney Yin deficiency, none of which produce Heart Blood deficiency).

This syndrome has its own separate causes – see above.

More important are the symptoms of these two forms of Blood deficiency because it is the symptoms which lead to the diagnosis, from which comes the correct treatment.

If you have Heart Blood deficiency, just treating Blood deficiency on its own will help, but it won’t do the whole job: a vital part is missing.

Similarly with Liver Blood deficiency: there are additional actions when treating it that aren’t touched by merely treating Blood deficiency.


Symptoms of Heart Blood Deficiency

Because the Heart governs the Mind, the Shen, and the Shen resides in the Heart Blood, when there is insufficient Heart Blood, there are mental symptoms. (How would you feel if your nice secure house suddenly started evaporating, or perhaps, destitute, you had to live on the streets? Insecurity, anxiety, inability to concentrate? … would be just the start of it!)

PLEASE NOTE! You may not have all these symptoms, but the more of them you have the more likely it is that you have this Heart Blood defiiency syndrome.

Mental symptoms with Heart Blood Deficiency

Anxiety – mild: not usually severe. Other Heart syndromes have greater anxiety, for example Heart Fire and Heart Blood stagnation.


Confused, flustered

This is because the Shen lacks the support of the Blood – its stabilising resource, or ground, from which it performs. So, the Shen can’t concentrate properly, and forgets what it was doing.

In a way, it’s like mild shock. Shock occurs when the Shen is suddenly separated out of the Blood, or the Blood is suddenly removed from it.


Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

Anxious …

… to put things right, to please others, to garner support. This comes from the Shen looking outside itself for other sources of support that can replace Heart Blood.

Memory lapses

Blood stores more recent memories, not long-term memories from the past. Consequently, Heart Blood deficiency can make you forgetful of recent events and memories.


This is different from Liver Qi depression, where there is frustration and anger, usually better for exercise. With deficiency of Heart Blood, there is a lack of purpose, a feeling of wasted opportunities, of loss, even loss of hope – and exercise is exhausting and can make you breathless or light-headed.

Tearful, guilty

Arising from the Shen being un-stabilised, unsettled. The Heart can’t properly control the Shen, the emotions.

Easily startled

Because the Shen isn’t solidly based in the Blood, and because the Blood is deficient, the Shen is easily surprised or shocked. An old word for this kind of behaviour, is ‘rattled’, which is perhaps a better description! You may imagine the Shen rattling around in any empty container.


Physical Symptoms with Heart Blood Deficiency


Loss of libido

For plentiful libido, a number of attributes must converge. Blood, at root, supplies the confidence, and Liver qi enables everything to flow smoothly. For the proper levels of libido, the Shen must be relaxed and comfortable and able to enjoy itself. But in the absence of Heart Blood it cannot relax, and there is anxiety, which destroys libido.

Mild dizziness

From Blood deficiency in the head.

Mild tinnitus

Intermittent, starts gradually, not high-pitched. Heart and Kidney have a close relationship and if Heart Blood is deficient, Kidney Yin may also be deficient which leads to noises in the ears.


Often worse from 11am to 1pm. Tiredness can occur at any time, but traditionally the times for the Heart zang are 11am to 1pm. Sometimes this can extend to 3pm, because the Heart’s partner, the Small Intestine, has its times 1pm to 3pm.


These are common to nearly all Heart organ patterns. With Heart Blood deficiency, the cause, if you want to try to understand it, is this. Imagine your central heating depends for fluid circulation on a pump. When this encounters steam instead of hot water, there’s no resistance, so the pump revs faster until the next water arrives. Without adequate Heart Blood, your Heart revs faster: palpitations.


Even walking upstairs starts to be a problem! 

Cold Hands

We don’t mean cold hands from brief exposure to cold, which soon warm up in a warm atmosphere, but hands that are usually cold. Cold hands can be from Heart Blood deficiency but also from either Heart Yang deficiency or Lung Yang deficiency.

If you have cold hands and cold feet, this may be Blood deficiency (more common in women than men) or Stomach Yang deficiency, possibly with Kidney Yang deficiency and Spleen Yang deficiency as well. 


Scanty, possibly amenorrhoea (no periods) and infertility – from Blood deficiency. Blood colour may be pale, or there may not be much of it. If, though pale, it continues for more than 4 days, it may further drain your Heart Blood.


Woman with Insomnia
Photo by Megan te Boekhorst on Unsplash


Sleep: difficulty falling asleep – because as you sleep, your Shen is said to rest in your Blood. If your Blood is deficient, your Shen can’t settle down into it. For more, read our page on insomnia.

Sleep disturbed by dreams: arising from your Shen being unable to rest comfortably in your Blood. Consequently, your Shen keeps half waking up, as when disturbed by dreams. Or you may be able to sleep in the first part of the night, when you go deepest asleep, but find yourself unable to settle back to sleep properly in the second half of the night.

Complexion: pale, dull

Lips : pale 

Tongue: pale, thin, often dry, with possibly a long mid-line crack reaching to the tip

Pulse: choppy or fine

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Treatment of Heart Blood Deficiency

Both short-term and long-term, acupuncture is brilliant, though you may need a number of sessions.

However, it should be backed by

  • calm support and encouragement
  • eating the right foods (blood tests can show if you have adequate levels of the necessary nutrients, but Chinese medicine assesses what you eat in other ways – see Nutrition)
  • exercising properly. No matter how breathless exercising makes you, you still need some exercise. However, you have a problem .!. because being Heart Blood deficient, your Shen is not as rooted in your Blood as it should be, so you may tend to overdo things! Over-exercising (including over-lifting) could be a problem, possibly causing Kidney Yang deficiency leading to more coldness and symptoms of earlier ageing. Also, be very careful, when exercising, not to get cold or, if you do, to warm up fast and then to rest properly. Getting hypothermic (very cold, loss of heat) is both dangerous and, from the point of view of Chinese medicine, exhausting. It takes time to recover from hypothermia, with both proper rest and eating the right foods. (Right foods? These are more likely to be on our page on warming foods, and you should avoid foods classified as cooling.)
  • getting enough sleep …
  • … or taking more naps during the day if sleep at night is poor. (Indeed, daytime naps may recover enough Heart Blood to help you sleep better at night!)
  • good relationships (yes, I know, not something we can all demand, at will!)
  • steady and fulfilling work, and 
  • cultivating an optimistic outlook.

Acupuncture and Heart Blood deficiency

Acupuncture points are chosen to reflect the particular needs of the patient, but would often include points to treat Blood deficiency, including Stomach and Spleen points (eg Stomach 36 and Spleen 6) and Heart Blood and Qi, such as Heart 7Pericardium 6Ren 14 and Re 15, Bladder 15, 17 and 22.

Points for the Spirit might also be chosen, but very much depending on the need of the patient and the experience of the practitioner. They might include points with the word ‘Spirit’ in their name, such as Kidney 25, (Shen Cang – Spirit Storehouse), or other points with somewhat similar attributes such as Triple Burner 10, (Tian Jing – Heavenly Well).

Herbal treatment of Heart Blood deficiency

Chinese herbs can be superb here too, but you will need to keep taking them for a while.

Also, since herbs are not in themselves nutritious, you’ll need good food too.

Good, often cooked, food helps Heart Blood deficiency
Good Nutrition helps cure Heart Blood deficiency

In fact, if what you eat isn’t nutritious (from the Chinese point of view, though Western science of nutrition has much to offer as well) don’t bother with good acupuncture and herbal treatment – you’ll be wasting money.

Think of it this way. Petrol and diesel-fuelled cars (ie with internal combustion engines) may be tuned to perfection but if you put low-grade fuel in, they still won’t work well.

Just so, even if the herbs you take and the acupuncture you receive are optimum, but you eat garbage, you won’t get well: waste of everyone’s time and YOUR money!

(Still, it’s your money, and many practitioners will cheerfully take your money even if you don’t take their advice.)

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