Heart Qi Deficiency – Uncomfy Heart and S.O.B.

red heart and man hanging drawing

Heart qi deficiency is a syndrome in Chinese medicine.

Though important, it’s easy to describe. However, you need to realise why you have it because, if you do nothing about the cause, it can lead to serious complications.

Symptoms of Heart Qi Deficiency

  • an uncomfortable feeling that your heartbeat is not quite ‘right’. Normally we don’t feel our heartbeat, or if we do, it’s after running fast or in sudden shock or terror, and this soon settles – one hopes. However, with Heart Qi deficiency whatever the speed of our heartbeat, even if ‘normal’, it still doesn’t feel right. (This is not the same as having palpitations.)
  • pale face
  • perspiration that occurs suddenly without reason
  • S.O.B. (short of breath) on exercise eg have to stop to recover breathing on stairs or simple exertion
  • tired
  • low spirits, despondent
  • Tongue: slightly pale, though sometimes there is no change in the tongue from normal
  • Pulse: ’empty’. The term ’empty’ can be felt by someone trained in pulse-taking.


Why do you get Heart Qi Deficiency?

In Chinese medicine the there is a vital relationship between our spirit – who we are and want to become – and our Blood

 In Western psychology there is a somewhat similar link between heart and emotions, but in Western Medicine the emotional/spiritual aspect is mostly ignored. However, in Chinese medicine it’s fundamental.

  • Major Blood loss: this could come from surgery, accident, haemorrhage, heavy periods, or periods which have been heavier than normal for many months or years. In Chinese medicine your Heart ‘governs’ your Blood. If you lose a lot of blood, often or in large amounts, the heart can’t do its job and eventually the Heart Blood deficiency can lead to Heart Qi deficiency. This is like during a drought, when rivers have no force and can’t turn waterwheels. This would be worse if you also had Spleen and Heart Blood deficiency.
Forceless water is like Heart Qi deficiency
Brown wooden wheel with water
  • Major emotional problems, possibly over a long period, which have ‘depressed’ your spirit. Could be resentment or anger, but more likely sadness or grief. There’s a bit of ‘giving up’ or ‘hopelessness’ in Heart qi deficiency too.
  • Such long-term or powerful emotions drain us in other ways, for instance they weaken our Kidney function. Weak Kidney function also contributes to Heart Qi deficiency.
  • Long-term emotional issues suggest – for some people – the possibility of deficient will-power or decisiveness to cut our way through whatever has held us back. This often equates with either Gallbladder deficiency or deficiency of both Gallbladder AND Heart.


What might happen next?

Very often in Chinese medicine you can make predictions as to what might happen next if nothing is done about your Heart Qi deficiency. The predictions aren’t fixed in stone, but experience has shown they are often correct.

Continuing Heart Qi deficiency, especially if aggravated by more emotional factors, often leads on to

How do you treat Heart Qi deficiency?

  1. Deal with the cause of any haemorrhage or ongoing bleeding.
  2. Sort out whatever situation is leading to the emotional ‘drain’ you experience. This may mean a change in life. Not always easy.
  3. Get some good acupuncture. 
  4. This might include moxibustion too, a great way to boost Heart qi when you know where and how to do it. (But not too much moxa at a time! A little and often is best.)
  5. There are classical herbal formulae for Heart qi deficiency: you aren’t the first person with this! Chinese medicine has treated it for millennia. Get the formula adapted to your particular needs.
  6. Diet: you’ll almost certainly be tempted by caffeine/coffee. This is not a good idea – read more about coffee here. Yes, it seems good at the time, but if you have any Kidney deficiency, especially Kidney Yin deficiency, you’ll soar briefly like Superman then fall like Icarus to Earth. Then you’ll regret it. But foods of a bitter taste may benefit  you. Get advice if you can. However, even the right food won’t fix your problem in a day. You need to be consistent with your diet. Food should be your first medicine, but you need the right food every day.

Two More Things for Heart Qi Deficiency!

Tai chi for Heart Qi deficiency: woman in black sleeveless dress standing under green tree during daytime
Learn Tai Qi! Preferably in a group. Photo by Monica Leonardi
  1. Exercise. Some Tai Qi movements help your circulation and Blood and therefore your Heart. Walking in open air, if done regularly, is just as good – even better with convivial company. (Enjoyable company helps your Pericardium, the space about your Heart, that protects it.)
  2. Laughter! Not forced, not vicious or malicious but belly laughter, or with pleasure from happy wit.


You may also enjoy our page on general Qi deficiency and how to overcome Tiredness.

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