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Overcoming fatigue with alternative medicine

Published:Wednesday | April 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms, whether as a temporary/short period of tiredness or a chronic presentation causing a general sense of weariness. Interestingly, many persons will note that they often feel tired but choose not to do much to address it. Chronic or prolonged low energy or fatigue over time can affect a number of daily functions, such as: the carrying out of daily tasks, work, mood, health, and can affect the general quality of life.

In traditional Chinese medicine, feelings of tiredness, exhaustion or depletion are typically characterised as a deficiency of the body's Qi.


Some common causes of tiredness include:


Physical overexertion, which includes overexertion in the course of work and excessive exercising or sporting activities

Poor sleep

Improper diet

Illness: chronic fatigue may be caused by a number of medical conditions, including:


Lung conditions: emphysema, COPD


Kidney disease

Heart disease


Sleep apnea


Psychological problems: fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems such as:





Weak constitution

Excessive sexual activity


Medications: pain, high blood pressure, heart and antidepressant medications

Prolonged recreational drug use: including alcohol use or abuse.


Although in traditional Chinese medicine chronic tiredness is often considered a deficient condition, in some cases, it is an excess condition, brought on by the obstruction of the proper movement and transformation of Qi and blood. In the case of a deficiency, treatment depends on the type of deficiency.

Lung Qi deficiency: fatigue accompanied by shortness of breath, coughing

Spleen Qi deficiency: fatigue accompanied by digestive problems such as poor appetite, abdominal bloating, especially following meals, loose bowel movements

Heart Qi deficiency: fatigue accompanied by palpitations, racing of the heart, slight breathlessness

Yang deficiency: characterised by an intolerance of cold, alongside feelings of fatigue

Yin deficiency: characterised by an intolerance of heat, alongside feelings of fatigue

Blood deficiency: tiredness which is worse at midday, accompanied by poor memory, dizziness, poor sleep, blurry vision.


Accordingly, herbal remedies are prescribed depending on the assessment made. These formulations usually comprise several herbs. Primary herbs include:

Ren Shen (Radix Ginseng): one of the most well-known Qi tonics. Ren Shen has a wide range of actions and can be used for lung Qi, spleen Qi and heart Qi deficiency.

Da Zao (Chinese date, jujube): Is used to strengthen in cases of spleen Qi and blood deficiency.

Gan Cao (licorice): Is used in cases of lung and spleen Qi deficiency.

Dang Gui (Chinese Angelica Root, Tang-Kuei): Another very popular herb, is indicated in cases of blood deficiency.

Yin Yang Huo (licentious goat wort): Indicated in cases of yang deficiency. It is also used for impotence.

Hei Zhi Ma (black sesame seed): Used in cases of yin deficiency and blood deficiency.

In preparing herbal prescriptions, herbs may also be added to address other accompanying or underlying health issues in order to achieve optimal healing. For example, if tiredness is accompanied by insomnia, a formula would be prepared to address all of these issues simultaneously.

Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an oriental medicine practitioner of acupuncture and herbal medicine at revamp comprehensive and adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology in oriental/Chinese medicine; email: