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HoloSapiens - the TCM "Food as Medicine" Project


Introduction to the disharmony


Major symptoms:

  • feeling of fullness in the abdomen
  • nausea
  • belching


There are several causes that lead to food stagnation. One is stress and negative emotions. Sudden and extreme emotions obstruct the energy flow of the Stomach, causing it to stagnate. When the smooth flow of Stomach Qi stagnates the food in the Stomach cannot be processed and stagnates as well. The emotions that particularly affect the Stomach are worry and overthinking. Chronic worry and worrying while eating all lead to food stagnation. (1)


Another cause of food stagnation is overeating. Eating irregularly and in large quantities is heavy on the digestive system making it difficult to process the food. Thus the food remains stagnant and undigested for longer periods of time.


Third reason is a deficient digestive system. When the digestive system is weakened by overeating, poor diet or by other causes, it ceases to digest food properly.


The herbs used in the cases of food stagnation are herbs that soften and reduce, move and guide out food accumulation.


Major Chinese herbs


There is a story about a man whose wife died and he remarried to a woman very unfond of his 10 year old son. She wanted to get rid of the boy so badly that she started preparing him lunch with half-cooked rice, hoping the boy will die from indigestion. The boy became sick and started loosing weight. One day he found a tree with berries and picked some to try. They were delicious and also made him feel better. He kept eating the berries and fully recovered from his indigestion. The berries he found were Shan Zha (Fructus Crateagi). Later his father brought the berries to an herbologist and since then Shan Zha is largely used for indigestion (3) Shan Zha is particularly useful for food stagnation due to over-consumption of meat and greasy foods (4)




Mai Ya (Fructus Hordei Vulgaris) and Gu Ya (Fructus Oryzae Sativae) are two herbs that reduce food stagnation and are particularly useful for poor digestion due to inability to digest starchy foods. Mai Ya also inhibits lactation and can be used by women who want to discontinue nursing.


Shen Qu (Massa Fermentata) is translated as “divine fermented mass” and benefits food accumulation, lack of appetite, intestinal gurgling and diarrhea. It is also added to pills that contain minerals to increase their digestion and absorption.


Ji Nei Jin (Endothelium Corneum), translated as “chicken inner gold”, is used for various types of food stagnation and strongly benefits this condition. It is also used for bed-wetting.


Lai Fu Zi (Semen Raphani Sativi) – radish seed – is both used for acid reflux and belching, and chronic, productive cough and wheezing. (4)


Healing Foods



Foods benefit food stagnation differently. 


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Food Therapy


Food therapy is the most economical and non-toxic biochemical approach to health and disease. Food is something we continuously use to sustain our lives. Learning what foods are healing (and what disruptive) for each condition has the potential to convert every meal into a form of therapy.   


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(1) Maciocia, Giovanni (1989). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Nanjing: Harcourt Publishers Limited

(2) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books

(3) Lu, Henry (2005). Chinese Natural Cures. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.

(4) Benski, Dan & Gamble, Andrew (1993). Materia Medica, Revised Edition. Seatle: Eastland Press, Incorporated

(5) Holmes, Peter (1998). The Energetics of Western Herbs. Boulder: Snow Lotus Press, Inc.


Related Articles:

Stagnated Stomach Qi

The Stomach in Chinese Medicine

The Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Emotions and Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Seven Emotions - Internal Cause of Disease



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