Battling insomnia is one of the worst feelings in the world. Heed these tips from TCM practitioner Yang Wei to sleep sounder at night. By Dawn Chen

TCM remedies for insomnia

Photo: Iulia Iun /

“In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the causes of insomnia can be broadly classified into intrinsic and extrinsic factors and may involve multiple organs,” explains Yang Wei, physician at the Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic @ Punggol. TCM practitioners believe that the main organ affected is the heart as it governs one’s state of mind. Other organs like the liver, spleen, kidney, and gallbladder also play a part – sleep is achieved when they all work in harmony to bring peace. (Also Read: 8 Best TCM Herbs for Women)

The causes of insomnia vary depending on which organ has a deficiency. Yang Wei lists the common symptoms and syndromes below. 

– Insomnia accompanied by irritability usually signifies liver-fire

– Insomnia accompanied by abdominal bloating and a thick, cheese-like coating on the tongue may be due to stagnation of food in the stomach or excessive phlegm

– Insomnia accompanied by irritability, heart palpitations, dizziness and forgetfulness is due to production of asthenic (weak) fire that’s usually attributed to yin deficiency and the disconnection between the heart and kidney

– Insomnia accompanied by fatigue and a pale complexion is due to a dysfunctional spleen, leading to the malnourishment of the heart

(Also Read: 6 Ways To Get A Good Night’s Sleep)

Target any deficiencies and rid insomnia with the following TCM treatment remedies and recipes by Eu Yan Sang. “We use the elimination and reduction methods for excessive syndromes, such as soothing the liver qi to remove stagnation, expelling heat and dissolving phlegm, and promoting digestion to resolve food stagnancy,” says Yang Wei. “On the other hand, we adopt nourishment and invigoration methods for the deficient syndromes. Some examples are nourishing blood and qi, invigorating the spleen and revitalising kidney and liver.” 

She adds that in addition to the above techniques, TCM practitioners may also supplement the prescription with herbs that have calming, courage-boosting and heat-expelling effects. This may also be accompanied by counselling strategies to help the patient rid tension and anxiety. Try the following recipes if you’re having trouble sleeping at night.

(Also Read: 5 TCM Foods That Help You Cool Down When It’s Hot)

Lily Bulbs Congee

Ingredients: 25g fresh lily bulbs (may substitute with half portion of dried lily bulbs), 10g white rice, 500ml water

Method: Boil the above ingredients over slow fire until white rice becomes congee.

Properties: Lily bulbs can expel heart-fire, calm the mind and moisturise the lungs. This recipe is suitable for those with heart and lung yin deficiency.

Liquorice Wheat Date Congee

Ingredients: 10g honey-fried liquorice root, 10 pieces of plump red dates, 30g blighted wheat, 500ml water 

Method: Boil the above ingredients over slow fire until white rice becomes congee.

Properties: This recipe is beneficial for menopausal women experiencing insomnia.

Do note that the above recipes serve as a general guide. However, individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM physician for accurate diagnose and advice on any consumption of herbal medication.

Shape – Health

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