Stress and anxiety are a bit of a modern day affliction. In human history we were more prone to the sudden fight or flight response to a stressful situation, such as coming face to face with a wild animal. But in modern life we often have fairly consistent levels of low grade stress, or worse. This can also lead to anxiety.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, we generally focus on two acupuncture channels when it comes to stress and anxiety, which are the Liver and Heart channels. Liver Qi stagnation is our way of describing stress, tension, agitation, frustration etc. You might even notice they are accompanied by frontal headaches (pain in your forehead), a metallic taste in your mouth, and eye twitches or restless legs/leg cramps. These are all signs of a Liver imbalance.

When it comes to anxiety there tends to be more of a link to the Heart channel. You may also notice heart palpitations, restless dream disturbed sleep, and your tongue is likely to have a very red tip in comparison to the rest of it.

Chinese herbal medicine is a really beautiful treatment option for stress and anxiety because it’s working with your body to take away the underlying imbalance that is driving these feelings. While we can’t take away the stressful occurrences in life, if your body is more capable of adjusting to them, then you’re going to feel a lot better.

One of my favourite herbal formulas for stress is Jia Wei Xiao Yao San. In English, this formula translates as Free & Easy Wanderer. Don’t you just love Chinese translations!? The name evokes a feeling of moving that Liver Qi stagnation so your body feels free and fluid again, without all the tension. Think of Julie Andrews singing in that meadow in The Sound Of Music. That’s how this formula makes you feel.


I often add a herb called Suan Zao Ren (Sour Jujube Seed) to the above formula if there is anxiety or insomnia in addition to stress.

If you or someone you know has been feeling the ill effects of stress or anxiety, there’s help available. See your local Chinese medicine practitioner for a personalised consultation and treatment plan (book online with me here if you’re in Sydney). If you’re struggling and need to talk to someone urgently, click here for Lifeline (Phone 131114) or BeyondBlue (Phone 1300224636).