When confronted by patients presenting with anxiety, agitation, depression or insomnia, practitioners of traditional East Asian medicine often focus on the 'calm spirit' category of medicinals. However, this represents a limited perspective on the treatment of such conditions. This article documents the use of herbs and formulas that clear heat to effectively treat these problems. The traditional descriptors of xīn f.n (heart vexation) and f.n z.o (vexation and agitation) are discussed, along with an introduction to a constitutional approach to herbal prescribing. Finally, the role of the herbs Hu.ng Li.n (Coptidis Rhizoma), Sh. Gāo (Gypsum fibrosum), G. Gēn (Puerariae Radix), Zhī Zǐ (Gardeniae Fructus) and Li.n Qi.o (Forsythiae Fructus) are discussed in detail with regard to their spiritcalming actions and associated formulas.
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