Healing Emotional Pain though Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine

Maintaining a healthy heart can sometimes seem like an overwhelming process, but there are a few simple ways to bring balance and wellness to this vital part of our lives. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the heart is the center of our emotions and where our consciousness resides when we are awake. Now, more than ever, emotional healing is imperative to help us grow in life and navigate through the uncertainty of our current world.

While healing can come in many forms, acupuncture and Eastern medicine are two commonly misunderstood pathways that can help heal emotional pain brought on by stressful situations in everyday life. To fully grasp all the benefits of these treatments, it is important to understand how the body reacts to stress in our everyday lives. Let’s first explore how the mind connects to the body.

Eastern medicine does not separate the body and mind. Both are treated as one and together influence the other. Emotional stress of any kind including trauma, grief, and heartbreak can cause disfunction in our physical body.

The Heart acupuncture channel regulates blood circulation but also controls the spirit, sleep, and memory. Common symptoms of an imbalance in our Heart channel include anxiety, depression, palpitations, insomnia, poor memory, and scattered mind or lack of joy.

According to the Five Elements of Chinese medicine, the Heart is the fire element. All the elements correspond with acupuncture channels and are connected in a cycle of energetic transformation. The Heart has a special relationship with the Kidneys (water element) and is integral for maintaining the Yin and Yang balance in the body, Yin from the Kidneys, and Yang from the Heart. When the Yin and the Yang do not communicate, it causes symptoms that can feel like strange movements of energy or heat, often resulting in feelings of anxiousness and as if something is rushing up the center of our body. Lack of nourishment to the heart can be physical, like malnutrition or poor blood flow, or psycho-emotional like loneliness and depression.

Along with acupuncture, food and herbs can also be helpful to nourish the heart. The bitter flavor of any food affects the heart. A simple diet with light fasting can create deep, peaceful thinking, while rich and spicy foods can be damaging. Another way to nourish the heart is through singing, regardless of talent, singing will benefit the heart. It is also important to release sadness. This can be done by watching a sad movie, reading a moving book, talking it out with a good friend, or even going outside and stamping your feet on the ground.

Another important emotion to treat is grief, which can come from the loss of a person, an object, or even just missing activities that we are not able to do during this pandemic. Grief is associated with the Lung channel and is related to our attachment to what we have lost. Attachment is an indication of our lung vitality, those with healthy lungs are able to keep commitments but also able to let go of an object or relationship without emotional repression. They are able to feel the grief and sadness of their loss in a healthy way that is relatively quick to resolve. Those who have weaker lungs tend to be unable to let go and feel confused in an attempt to repress their sadness.

To help our lungs during a period of grief, we must look within to resolve sorrows through mindfulness. Talking with others about our loss is a great way to do this, but ultimately, we must focus internally and be fully honest with ourselves. Once we identify our deeper feelings and emotions, they can be cleansed with long and deep breaths. Pungent foods will also help to clear feelings of grief and support the lungs.

A traumatic event can trigger a wide range of emotions and is unique to the event and the person experiencing it. Acupuncture, like any holistic medicine, works to treat the individual rather than the disease. Acupuncture itself helps to balance and move energies through the body while herbs, food, and lifestyle can help to nourish the body and spirit. As everyone is different, it is important to find a combination of treatments that work best for your body. This may take time, experimentation, and trust in your own healing abilities, but is ultimately much more effective.

Khairul Bhagwandin, LAc, EAMP



Pitchford, Paul. Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition (3rd Edition). 3rd ed., North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Hicks, Angela, and John Hicks. Healing Your Emotions: Discover Your Five Element Type and Change Your Life. UK ed., Thorsons, 2017.