Due to a decrease in the amount of red blood cells, an anemic person’s body tissues are deprived of oxygen. Anemia can have more than 400 manifestations but usually the symptoms are similar and may include tingling in the extremities, memory loss, depression, confusion, slick tongue, balance or movement difficulties, pale palm creases, eyelid linings, nail beds, and gums. Bluish lips, yellowish or pasty skin, dizziness, syncope( fainting), shortness of breath, tiredness, weakness, burning tongue, feeling of malaise, fatigue, and weakness. Other possible symptoms include irregular heartbeat, poor concentration, low appetite, insomnia, and headache. Patients may experience iron overload from the ingestion of iron supplements. Symptoms of iron overload include seizures, lethargy, jaundice, fever, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.
Blood deficiency or anemia can be treated with herbal remedies and acupuncture. For fatigue, Asian ginseng can be prescribed by Chinese medicine practitioners. It is often taken in tonic form for fatigue. Another blood tonic that has been used for tens of hundreds of years is Dang gui (Dong quai). This tonic can be used along with astralagus or root of Chinese foxglove.
Chinese medicine and Acupuncture
A 1990 study used the Bu Shen Yi Qi principle in the treatment of anemia. The study involved 60 people suffering from orthostatic dysregulation who were divided into a control group who received vitamins B1 and B6 and oryzanol and a treatment group (who received Chinese herbs under the principle of Bu Shen Yi Qi). Iron-rich herbs with also high amounts of trace elements and zinc were used to boost red blood cell action. A month after, tests showed that 16 patients in the treatment group and 4 in the control group showed significant improvement. Mild anemia was seen in 71% (43 subjects) of the entire subject population. Before and after treatment, blood was drawn to test for hyper chromia, hemoglobin, and red blood cells. The treatment group had 20 patients who showed significant improvement while 17 of the people in the control group showed no change in condition.
A 1992 study demonstrated the use of a decoction of SQT and shi quan da bu tang which are traditionally used for anemia as well as for general weakness, spleen, and kidney insufficiency, fatigue, extreme exhaustion, and anorexia. The study showed that the formula boosted the immunity of patients with cancer, enhanced the therapeutic effect, and lessen the toxicity of anticancer treatments. In 8 years of human and animal studies showed that SQT treats anemia by reinforcing vital energy (qi) and tonifying the blood.
A 1993 Chinese study involving the use of Man Shen Ling, an herbal formula composed of rehmannia, astralagus, and other herbs showed that the formula was substantially effective for the treatment of anemia without any negative effects on gastrointestinal, heart, kidney, or liver functions.
Another Chinese study done in 1995 demonstrated that vitamin C and Chinese herbal formulas given to 40 children suffering from aplastic anemia treated with fetal blood transfusion improved the chronic anemia condition by almost 90% and the acute anemia condition by about 63% as compared to only 46% for the blood transfusion-alone group.
Supplements and Foods
People suffering from anemia should avoid drinking decaffeinated or caffeinated cola, coffee or tea . black tea has tannin that slows down iron absorption. Vitamin C-rich citrus juices can serve as better alternatives to these beverages as they have the ability to enhance iron absorption. Drinking alcohol should be avoided as they can affect the body’s capacity to absorb folic acid.
Parsley, which is rich in vitamin C as well as red meat, poultry, liver, almonds, dried fruits, blackstrap molasses, dried beans, tomatoes, and broccoli and all other foods rich in copper and vitamin C are recommended foods for people with anemia.
Another way of boosting the production of red blood cells is to cook the following foods as minimally as possible in order to preserve the folic acid content in them: eggs, liver, pumpkin, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, milk, and dark green vegetables. Mackerel and salmon are good sources for vitamin B12, while lentils, beans, and black-eyed peas are rich in folate. Vitamin B12 anemia can easily occur in vegetarians since B12 can only be derived from the consumption of fermented foods and animal products. The addition of tempch, tofu, and miso is therefore recommended for their diet. Vitamin and iron supplements can lead to iron overload so take these supplements only as recommended by your doctor.
Tammi A. Jones is a licensed acupuncturist in Palm Harbor, FL., practicing acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and Western medical pathology. She is also the founder of Synoma Wellness Centre.