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Chinese Herbs for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us! It’s that time of the year where we tend to overindulge. I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love a good turkey induced nap, but I don’t love the side effects of overeating. Let’s talk about how TCM views overeating and some tips to help support your digestion through the holiday season!

What are the common symptoms associated with overeating?

  • Abdominal bloating, fullness, and indigestion

  • Burping, acid reflux, sour taste in the mouth, nausea

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain and cramping

  • Drowsiness, feeling sluggish

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

  • The urge to unbutton your pants

If you experience any of these symptoms after eating a large meal, then chances are you ate a little more than your body could handle processing in one sitting. In TCM we call this food stagnation. Consistent and chronic habits of overeating can cause food stagnation to lead to other issues, but for a quick fix over the holidays, try these tips!

Herbs for Food Stagnation

One of the most common formulas for treating food stagnation is Bao He Wan. It is a well-balanced formula that has herbs to aid in the digestion of meat, alcohol, and fatty foods. Sounds like a good holiday meal to me! Some of the herbs you’ll find in this formula are:

  • Shan Zha (hawthorn fruit) – helps digest meat and greasy foods

  • Shen Qu (medicated leaven) – helps digest alcohol and food

  • Lai Fu Zi (radish seed) – helps digest grains

  • Mai Ya (barley sprouts) – helps digest fruits

  • Chen Pi (dried mandarin peel) – moves digestion, reduces bloating, and calms nausea

Let us know if you would like to stock up on this formula in preparation for the holidays! We can put together a custom granule formula for you with some modifications that are specific to your needs. We also carry this formula in an easy to carry pill form called Po Chai Pills that you can find at the front of the office.

Home Remedies for Food Stagnation

In addition to herbs, you can also try acupressure and moxibustion on specific points that help balance digestion. Abdominal massage is also a great way to help with digestive motility.

For abdominal massage:

  1. Gently lie back in a comfortable position. Bending your knees may be more comfortable as it will help to relax the stomach even more.

  2. Put one hand above your belly button and the other below your belly button. Begin to move in slow, gentle clockwise circles.

  3. Occasionally pause and do some more local tiny circles in the four corners of the abdomen, then return to full circles around the entire abdomen.

  4. If the stomach feels especially full, do some gentle downward strokes from the center of the ribcage down to the belly button.

Points for acupressure and moxibustion:

For each of these points, you can gently massage with small circles for 2-3 minutes or you can do moxibustion, following instructions provided by your acupuncture practitioner.


Location: Approximately 3 inches below the outer edge of the kneecap. You can easily find this point on the shin by placing your hand just underneath the kneecap and measuring down the width of your four fingers.

This point is considered the command point for the abdomen. It helps to balance digestion and tonify the spleen.


Location: On the inner side of the lower leg, slightly below Stomach-36. You can find this point by sliding up the inner aspect of the tibia until your finger falls into a depression.

This point helps to clear dampness and is really helpful when feeling bloated or burping a lot.


Location: Approximately 2 inches lateral to the belly button. You can find this point by placing 3 fingers on the outer edge of the belly button. This point is found on both the left and right sides of the abdomen.

This point is the front mu of the large intestine. It helps with abdominal peristalsis and treats both constipation and diarrhea.


Location: Approximately 1.5 inches below the belly button. You can find this point by placing 2 fingers on the lower aspect of the belly button.

This point helps to regulate qi in the body, so it can help with food stagnation by helping to move qi in the abdomen.


Location: Approximately 4 inches above the belly button. You can easily find this point by find midpoint between the belly button and the bottom of the sternum.

This point is the front mu of the stomach. It helps the stomach digest food and regulates digestion.

For additional tips and some home herbal tea recipes, check out this source here!


Chen, J. K., & Chen, T. T. (2015). Chinese herbal formulas and applications: Pharmacological effects & clinical research.

Deadman, P., Al-Khafaji, M. & Baker, K. (2015). A manual of acupuncture.

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