Chinese Medicine on Fainting, Dizziness

David Foster, L.Ac.
3 min readMay 15, 2024

A friend of mine recently expressed having experienced great bouts of dizziness and fainting during the third trimester of her last pregnancy, which was in the dead of summer and was thus not surprising. I felt bad to hear of her struggles, but grateful that it inspired an idea for a new entry, on how Chinese medicine views fainting and dizziness, whether in pregnancy or not, and how we can treat or prevent it.

As with any Chinese medical diagnosis, the specifics get complicated, but we can still relatively easy to simplify into a couple of broad strokes. With any manifestation of dizziness, whether orthostatic, vertigo, passing out, or anything else, we are considering patterns of either blood deficiency, dampness, or a combination of the two, the latter of which obviously being the most difficult to treat. The final one is where your toddler at home forces you to “dance” with her around the house by spinning endlessly, for which there is no cure.

Blood Deficiency: More common in vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians (most likely descending order), more common in women (especially while pregnant), the elderly, or anyone on long-term medications, which compromise the body’s absorption and capacity to produce blood. There is either a lack of cerebrovascular fluid or its flow and the head becomes faint.

Recommended treatment is herbs and moxibustion (acupuncture not as effective here), red meat or eggs, and earlier bedtimes.

Dampness: More common with obesity, more common in men, and/or people who consume a lot of alcohol, sugar, dairy, or raw foods. The microbiome grows congested with fluid retention, so the pathway by which our cellular energy carries healthy fluids to the brain is obstructed. “The clear yang qi cannot rise,” as we say, and our clarity or stability suffer.

Recommended treatment is minimizing all of the aforementioned foods, herbal medicine for 1–3 weeks to purge fluid retention, and acupuncture, especially along the vertigo line along the scalp located directly above the top of the ears. Note, this point will not be as effective on blood deficiency patterns, who are suffering a pattern of “deficiency,” not “excessive damp,” which responds better to aggressive manual treatment. As for self-care, drink hot ginger tea and black teas until symptoms subside.

Combination Blood Deficiency/Dampness: This is most common in pregnant women and very difficult to treat, because to nourish blood we must generate fluids, but to resolve dampness we must purge it. Not to mention the fact that we must be careful with purging fluid retention in pregnant women, since the fetus is ultimately a form of fluid retention — albeit an adorably magical one.

Dizziness and vertigo are serious conditions, not generally life threatening, although potentially dangerous when leading to the physical risks that accompany fainting. As always, Chinese Medicine can have much to offer in the way of hands-on treatment, internal medicine, and recommended self-care.

When in doubt: red meat, eggs, ginger tea, good rest, and steamed vegetables for the dampness.

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David Foster, L.Ac.

Acupuncturist and Chinese medicine in NYC, special focuses in neurological, psychiatric, orthopedic, and autoimmune conditions. Hip Hop Head, '88-'98