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Alcohol and TCM

Updated: Jun 5

As the festive season draws near, let’s discuss overindulgence, specifically alcohol.

It is ok to partake in a little bit of alcohol but bear in mind that over consumption of alcohol does have some negative impacts ie. a hangover. Alcohol has a diuretic effect which when consumed in excess, can lead to dehydration and when digested, alcohol is broken down into acetaldehyde which is toxic to our body. Nausea is a common manifestation of our body trying to get rid of this toxin.

Also in response, our liver works overtime to get rid of this toxin, causing it to swell up which leads to blood flow being constricted and its normal functions inhibited. These functions include hormone processing and getting rid of toxins which consequently has us feeling achy and generally unwell. Lastly, alcohol stops our bodies from processing glutamate, a stimulant. The effect is we feel sedated initially and calm but as the alcohol wears off, our body produces more of this stimulant which results in affecting our sleep or often what wakes us up in a sweat.

In Chinese medicine, alcohol has the effect of creating Damp-Heat in the body. Damp-Heat has the effect of making our body feel sluggish, heavy and congested as heat dries up fluid and uses up energy. Some of the Chinese Medicine organs that Damp-Heat (and alcohol) can affect include the Stomach (creating food stagnation resulting in belching or vomiting), the Spleen (the transformation and transporting of nutrients or the toxins), Gallbladder which is susceptible to Damp-Heat and is paired with the Liver. The Gallbladder channel runs through the head which is why we may get headaches (also an effect of dehydration). The Liver has the responsibility of governing the smooth flow of Qi and Blood. Damp and Heat affects the natural flow of Qi and Blood.

Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine herbs and formulas have been used in ancient times and may be able to help with relieving the symptoms of alcohol today. Seek out a registered Chinese Medicine/acupuncturist practitioner to learn more. But as always, moderation and prevention are key. 

Happy holidays.


Maciocia, G. (2015). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine (Third Edition). Elsevier.


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