The purpose of this page is to describe depression from a Chinese medical perspective. So I will presume the reader is already aware of the definitions of depression. There are many types with different Qi diagnoses. Seasonal affective disorder, bipolar, dysthymia,  and hypo-thyroidism, it is not possible to discuss them all, what you can read here is just an overview.

Emotions are electro-magnetic vibrations generated by the internal organs. The meridian system is designed to carry electro-magnetic energy so it is not difficult to see why acupuncture is beneficial in treating depression.

Worry, originates in the spleen Qi, sadness and bereavement originates in the lung Qi,  fear and anxiety originates in the kidney Qi, anger originates in the liver Qi, and lastly thrill seeking originates in the heart Qi. The meridian system as a whole deals with most of these emotions everyday. The whole process of neutralising daily emotion is overseen by the Qi of the liver, this occurs predominantly at night when we are asleep and is totally natural. Problems either arise because the internal Qi isn’t strong enough or life has become genuinely difficult, shock, bereavement, excessive work stress, divorce etc etc. Many people think depression is a contemporary problem but the Ancient Chinese wrote about it and we still have the texts today. The ancient Chinese describe two different types of depression, a yin and a yang type.

The pathogenesis of yin depression

Both types of depression are caused by an excess in the Qi of the heart, this is not connected to the functioning of the heart organ, but on an emotional level. The pathology usually starts as stagnation in the Qi of the lung and manifests as sadness, this can occur because of some life trauma that effects the stability of the Qi, or can occur gradually because the Qi of the lung becomes weak or is not fed properly (by the spleen Qi). The weakness in the lung then affects the next organ in the sequence, the kidney, the Qi of the kidney begins to stagnate and this gives rise to anxiety and stress. This excess of Qi in the kidney puts pressure on the Qi of the heart and it too becomes deficient (or excessive), it begins to rise into the head creating an excess of mental energy and makes it hard to stop thinking. The imbalanced heart Qi affecting the mind is what we refer to as depression.

The patho-genesis of yang depression

Yang depression is very similar but has a different onset, it is the responsibly of the yang organs (the stomach, small intestine and large intestine) to transform food into energy for the meridian system, this Qi moves into the kidneys as they are the foundation of the entire meridian system, all Qi is distributed by the kidney Qi into the meridian system and around the body. A lack of Qi caused by a deficiency in the yang organs, can stagnate the Qi of the kidneys. This gives rise to anxiety and stress. This excess of Qi in the kidney puts pressure on the Qi of the heart, leading to the same scenario described in yin depression.


Many people know the trigger that started their depression. This life trauma needs to be converted to an energetic diagnosis, ie which Qi has been affected.  Then the diagnosis must be corroborated using pulse diagnosis. The information is then used to design a treatment plan.

Treatment is to re balance the heart Qi. There are many methods. The most important thing to do is to rebuild the  Qi of the kidney. In yang depression this is done by tonifying the organs of digestion thus strengthening the body’s ability to derive energy from food, the fresh Qi (from food) filters into the kidney and restores the heart Qi. In yin depression the Qi of the lung (relating to sadness) is rebuilt first, followed by the kidney (relating to fear), after, the Qi of the heart.