Fight insomnia with these traditional Chinese medicine recipes.

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Battling insomnia is one of the worst feelings in the world. The constant tiredness and inability to fall asleep can be frustrating and debilitating. “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, TCM physi

When it comes to sleeplessness, 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 gall bladder also play a part – sleep is achieved when they all work in harmony to bring peace.

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.

“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 deficiency syndromes. Some examples are nourishing one’s blood and qi, invigorating the spleen and revitalising the kidney and liver.”

She adds that in addition to the above techniques, TCM practitioners may also supplement the prescription with herbs that have calming and heat-expelling effects. This may also be accompanied by counselling strategies to help the patient get rid of tension and anxiety.

Target any deficiencies and rid insomnia with the following TCM treatment remedies and recipes by Eu Yan Sang.


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

Method Boil the ingredients over slow fire until the 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.


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

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

Properties This recipe is beneficial for menopausal women experiencing insomnia.

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