Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Eki Wari on March 13, 2022

Bash Brain Fog And Improve Memory With These Easy Tips

If you sometimes struggle with finding the right words to say or suddenly becoming unable to think, you could be suffering from brain fog. Here's how to get rid of it.

Brain fog min scaled

Brain fog is notorious for showing up at the worst possible times, such as during an important work meeting or when you need to concentrate. Symptoms include becoming suddenly forgetful or confused and unable to communicate properly or think clearly.

Many of these symptoms occur after eating certain foods or a poor night’s sleep. The good news is that there are things you can do to clear brain fog and improve your memory. Read on to learn more about what causes brain fog and how to get rid of it.

What Is Brain Fog?

If you find it hard to concentrate or form a thought while trying to work or study, then it could be due to brain fog.

Brain fog is a term used to describe a set of symptoms that affect your mental clarity. These include confusion, lack of focus or concentration, and forgetfulness. It isn’t a medical condition itself, but it can be a symptom of another health issue.

Some people describe it as being “mentally fuzzy.” Brain fog affects your ability to make decisions, communicate effectively, or think clearly. You may suddenly forget why you walked into a room or have problems finding the words to say when talking to someone.

Brain fog may also make it hard to multitask, pay attention to your surroundings, or form a thought. This leads to a decline in mental sharpness and can affect how you feel about yourself.

Possible Causes

Here are some factors that might be causing your brain fog:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Being overly stressed
  • Hormone changes, such as perimenopause or menopause
  • Conditions that affect your hormones, such as thyroid disease
  • Inflammatory or chronic health conditions, such as autoimmune disorders
  • Viral infections, such as COVID-19 or the flu
  • Improper diet and eating habits
  • Nutrient deficiencies, especially vitamin B12
  • Poor emotional management
  • Food allergies and sensitivities
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Certain medications

Brain Fog, According To TCM

Real Health Medical Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew explained what causes brain fog from a TCM perspective. He stated that brain fog may occur when there is a disruption of the qi and blood circulation. This causes the formation and accumulation of pathogenic factors like dampness, phlegm, qi stagnation, and blood stasis within the meridian channels. This impedes the proper distribution of nutrients to the orifices of the head and the brain.

Physician Yew continued, “These factors can also cause the deficiency of vital fundamental substances like qi, blood and yang (warming) energy, and weakening of the 5 vital viscera (liver, heart, spleen, lungs, and kidneys). This leads to malnourishment of the orifices of the head and the brain. This pathology is also applicable to those with inherently weak body constitution.” 

How To Get Rid Of Brain Fog

To put a stop to brain fog, the pathology of the disrupted qi and blood circulation, and its resulting pathogenic factors and deficiencies must be addressed.

This is where TCM can play an effective role through herbal medication, acupuncture, cupping, tuina (Chinese manual therapy), moxibustion, guasha (scraping), and blood-letting.

All of these should be formulated carefully by a TCM physician to address the unique body constitution of every patient. Hence, it’s best to always seek professional help from a licensed TCM physician.

Herbal Remedies

Below listed are some TCM herbal formulations to stimulate brain function and reduce brain fog:  

  • Yi Qi Cong Ming Tang: regenerates spleen qi, liver blood, and kidney essence to nourish head orifices and brain; suitable for brain fog caused by spleen, liver, and kidney deficiencies. 
  • Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang: revitalizes the spleen and boosts the production of qi and blood to nourish head orifices and brain; suitable for brain fog caused mainly by spleen deficiency. 
  • Er Long Zuo Ci Wan: regenerates liver blood and kidney essence to nourish head orifices and brain; suitable for brain fog caused by liver and kidney deficiencies. 
  • Tong Qiao Huo Xue Tang: dissipates qi stagnation and blood stasis, restores and boosts qi and blood circulation to the head orifices and brain; suitable for brain fog caused mainly by qi stagnation and blood stasis. 
  • Di Tan Tang: disintegrate and expels phlegm, restores and enhances qi, blood, and fluid circulation to the head orifices and brain; suitable for brain fog caused mainly by phlegm. 
  • Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang: dissipates dampness, restores and enhances qi, blood, and fluid circulation to the head orifices and brain; suitable for brain fog caused mainly by dampness. 

Cordyceps is a useful supplement for reducing brain fog as it acts as a nootropic to enhance brain function. Research shows that cordyceps can help improve memory and learning. It works by reducing free radical damage, preventing oxidative stress, and protecting the nervous system.

As a word of caution, Physician Yew warns, “Please always bear in mind that the herbal formulas provided above are meant for varying pathologies of brain fog. As such, it is strongly advised to not purchase any of them to self-medicate without first consulting a licensed TCM professional.”  

Qigong

Qigong has been shown to provide neurocognitive benefits, which may help reduce brain fog and improve memory.

An ancient Chinese practice involving breathing patterns and stretching movements that stimulate brain function, Qigong may be able to clear your head. According to a 2021 study, practicing Qigong resulted in significant neurocognitive improvements in the elderly population. Specifically, it increased hippocampal volume and reduced markers of inflammation. Researchers stated it provided neurocognitive benefits that may help slow cognitive decline and boost brainpower.

Physician Yew explained that Qigong can “ensure good circulation of the qi (vital life energy) and blood within the meridian channels. This boosts health and function of the viscera, and promotes strength, flexibility, endurance, and resilience of the respective meridian sinews.”

Acupressure and Acupuncture

Acupressure is an easy self-help remedy that you can perform at home. Start by placing fingers or a massage stick at certain acupoints. Then apply an appropriate amount of pressure to elicit a tolerable sensation of soreness or tenderness, in order for it to be effective. At the same time, massage in both clockwise and anticlockwise circular motion 20 times each. Repeat for at least 3 minutes per acupoint.

The acupoints that improve qi and blood circulation directly in the head orifices and brain to relieve brain fog are: 

  • Baihui DU20: On the top of the head, along the midline of the human body, approximately on the midpoint of the line connecting the apexes of the two ears.  
  • Fengchi GB20: In the depression created between the origins of the Sternocleidomastoid and Trapezius muscles, at the junction of the occipital and nuchal regions. 
  • Taiyang EX-HN5: In the region of the temples, in the depression about one finger-breadth posterior to the midpoint between the lateral end of the eyebrow and the outer canthus. 
  • Shuigou DU26: On the face, at the junction of the superior 1/3 and middle 1/3 of the philtrum. 
  • Jianjing GB21: On the shoulder, directly above the nipple, at the midpoint of the line connecting the acromion, and the depression below the spinous process of the 7th cervical vertebra. 

Targeted Acupoint Locations That May Help

This acupoint is ideal for revitalizing the heart to address heart deficiency, dispelling qi stagnation and blood stasis, and restoring and boosting qi and blood circulation to the head orifices and brain:

  • Danzhong RN17: On the anterior median line of the chest, at the level of the 4th intercostal space, at the midpoint between the two nipples.

This acupoint is effective in dispelling qi stagnation, restoring and boosting qi and blood circulation to the head orifices and brain. 

  • Hegu LI4: On the dorsum of the hand, between the 1st and 2nd metacarpal bones.

This acupoint helps to revitalize the heart to address heart deficiency. It can also dissipate blood stasis, and restore and boost blood circulation to the head orifices and brain.

  • Neiguan PC6: On the palmar aspect of the forearm, 3-fingers breadth above the transverse crease of the wrist, between the tendons of m. palmaris longus and m. flexor carpi radialis.

Additional TCM Acupoints For Brain Fog Treatment

These acupoints are ideal for dispelling dampness and phlegm. They strengthen the spleen to restore and boost qi, blood, and fluid circulation to the head orifices and brain:

  • Yinlingquan SP9: On the medial aspect of the lower leg, in the depression of the lower border of the medial condyle of the tibia. 
  • Zusanli ST36: On the anterior aspect of the lower leg, 4 fingers-breadth below the outer depression of the knee joint, one finger-breadth (middle finger) from the anterior crest of the tibia. 
  • Fenglong ST40: On the anterior aspect of the lower leg, 8 fingers breadth below the outer depression of the knee joint, two fingers-breadth from the anterior crest of the tibia. 

This acupoint is helpful for regenerating liver blood to address liver deficiency and provide nourishment to the head orifices and brain. Additionally, it dissipates qi stagnation and blood stasis, restoring and boosting blood circulation to the head orifices and brain

  • Taichong LR3: On the dorsum of the foot, in the depression proximal to the 1st metatarsal space. 

This acupoint is needed for regenerating spleen qi, liver blood, and kidney essence to nourish head orifices and brain.  

  • Sanyinjiao SP6: On the inner lower leg, 4-fingers-breadth above the tip of the inner ankle bone, just behind the shin bone. 

This acupoint is useful for regenerating kidney essence to nourish head orifices and brain: 

  • Yinlingquan SP9: On the medial aspect of the lower leg, in the depression of the lower border of the medial condyle of the tibia. 
  • Zusanli ST36: On the anterior aspect of the lower leg, 4 fingers-breadth below the outer depression of the knee joint, one finger-breadth (middle finger) from the anterior crest of the tibia. 
  • Fenglong ST40: On the anterior aspect of the lower leg, 8 fingers breadth below the outer depression of the knee joint, two fingers-breadth from the anterior crest of the tibia. 

This acupoint is helpful for regenerating liver blood to address liver deficiency and provide nourishment to the head orifices and brain. Additionally, it dissipates qi stagnation and blood stasis, restoring and boosting blood circulation to the head orifices and brain: 

  • Taichong LR3: On the dorsum of the foot, in the depression proximal to the 1st metatarsal space. 

This acupoint is needed for regenerating spleen qi, liver blood, and kidney essence to nourish head orifices and brain.

  • Sanyinjiao SP6: On the inner lower leg, 4-fingers-breadth above the tip of the inner ankle bone, just behind the shin bone. 

This acupoint is useful for regenerating kidney essence to nourish head orifices and brain: 

  • Yongquan KI1: On the sole, in the depression when the foot is in plantar flexion, approximately at the anterior third and the posterior two-thirds of the line from the web between the 2nd and 3rd toes to the back of the heel. 

Please take note that acupressure only provides mild symptomatic relief for brain fog. It is thus strongly recommended to seek professional help from a licensed TCM practitioner, in conjunction with the medical doctor. This is especially true for those whose brain fog persists or is of greater severity that affects their daily functions. 

  • Yongquan KI1: On the sole, in the depression when the foot is in plantar flexion, approximately at the anterior third and the posterior two-thirds of the line from the web between the 2nd and 3rd toes to the back of the heel. 

Please take note that acupressure only provides mild symptomatic relief for brain fog. It is thus strongly recommended to seek professional help from a licensed TCM practitioner, in conjunction with the medical doctor. This is especially true for those whose brain fog persists or is of greater severity that affects their daily functions. 

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. 2020. What Are The Health Benefits of Qigong?
  2. PubMed. Journal of Neurological Research. 2001. Effects of QiGong on Brain Function.
  3. Science Direct. Journal of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2021. QiGong Exercise Enhances Cognitive Function In The Elderly Via An Interleukin-6-hippocampus Pathway.  
  4. NCBI. Journal of Evidence Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine. 2018. Improvement of Learning and Memory Induced by Cordyceps Polypeptide Treatment and the Underlying Mechanism.

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