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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Brandon Yew and Dr Angelica L Dumapit on December 16, 2022

Best TCM Alternatives To Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana has numerous health benefits, but it isn't always an option for some people. These TCM treatments have many of the same benefits without the psychoactive compounds.

Tcm treatments min scaled

Medical marijuana is legal in most states and has numerous health benefits. However, it’s certainly not for everyone, and there is still some controversy about whether or not it should be used.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the perfect alternative to medical marijuana. It provides many of the same health benefits without getting you high and impairing your judgment or ability to drive.

Read on to learn how TCM can be used in place of medical marijuana to relieve pain, reduce anxiety and depression, help you sleep better, and much more.

How Is Medical Marijuana Used In TCM?

Various parts of the cannabis plant can be used for medicinal purposes. TCM offers many of the same benefits as cannabis without the psychoactive compounds.

According to Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew, in ancient TCM empirical medical records, parts of the marijuana or cannabis plant are used for various medical purposes:

  • Hemp leaves: Neutralizes toxins and kills parasitic worms to treat malaria and other parasitic conditions; soothes the Lungs to relieve breathlessness 
  • Hemp root: Dissipates blood clots to heal bruising, stops bleeding, and acts as an effective diuretic to bring down blood pressure and relieve water retention 
  • Hemp inflorescence or Hemp ear: Dispels Wind to relieve nervous system and arthritic pain and ease muscular spasms; dissipates blood clots, swelling and tumors; soothes the nerves to relieve mania and anxiety and improve sleep 
  • Hemp seed: Boosts the functions of the vital viscera; lubricates the intestines to alleviate constipation; acts as an effective diuretic to bring down blood pressure and relieve water retention; promotes blood circulation and dissipates clots to relieve arthritic pain 

Best TCM Treatments To Replace Medical Marijuana

If you’re on the fence about using medical marijuana, but you’re looking for natural relief from depression, anxiety, insomnia, and pain, try these TCM treatments:

TCM herbs to use instead of medical marijuana

An image of cordyceps mushroom in a bowl and cordyceps tea with other TCM herbs in a porcelain container
Cordyceps can be used to support immunity and energy levels, reduce stress, and calm the mind.
  • Ossa Draconis and Oyster shell: Tames the Liver and tranquilizes the mind, reducing anxiety and improving sleep 
  • Nacre: Dispels Fire to tame the Liver and tranquilizes the mind, reducing anxiety and improving sleep 
  • Danshen root: Activates blood flow and dispels Blood Stasis to relieve pain, clears Blood Heat, and calms the mind to reduce anxiety and improve sleep 
  • Spina date seed: Nourishes the Liver and Heart, calms the mind to reduce anxiety and improve sleep 
  • Polygala root: Harmonizes the Heart and Kidneys to calm the mind, reduce anxiety and improve sleep; expels phlegm to unblock the head orifices, improving cognition and uplifting mood 
  • Silk tree albizzia bark: Activates blood flow to dispel Blood Stasis and unblock meridian channels, easing pain, relieving stress, and uplifting mood; calms the mind to reduce anxiety and improves sleep  
  • Lily bulb: Regenerates yin to neutralize Fire and nourish the Heart, calming the mind to reduce anxiety and improving sleep 
  • Lotus plumule: Clears Heart-Fire to calm the mind to reduce anxiety and improve sleep 
  • Rose buds: Soothes the Liver and promotes blood flow, easing pain, relieving stress, and uplifting mood  
  • Turmeric root: Activates qi and blood flow to ease pain, relieve stress, and uplift mood; clears Heart-Fire and cools the blood to calm the mind, improving sleep and reducing anxiety 

Medicinal mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms are also a great alternative to medical marijuana.

  • Cordyceps has been shown to reduce fatigue, boost energy levels, support immune and respiratory health, and alleviate sexual dysfunction.
  • Lingzhi, meanwhile, eases depression, anxiety and stress levels to help you relax and sleep better. It also has immune-boosting properties and may help fight chronic diseases, such as cancer.

Try these TCM herbal remedies for better results

  • Xiao Yao San: Soothes the Liver and strengthens the Spleen, regenerates qi and blood to regulate their flow, easing pain, relieving stress, and uplifting mood 
  • Chai Hu Shu Gan San: Soothes the Liver, dispels phlegm, and promotes qi and blood flow to ease pain, relieve stress, and uplift mood 
  • Sheng Mai San: Regenerates qi and yin to nourish the Heart and calm the mind, reducing anxiety and improving sleep 


Acupressure is an easy self-help remedy you can do by placing fingers or a blunt object like a massage stick at certain acupoints. Apply an appropriate amount of pressure to elicit a tolerable sensation of soreness or tenderness. 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 can bring about comparable therapeutic effects to medical marijuana are: 

  • Acupoints to relieve headaches and neck pain, calm the mind, reduce anxiety, improve cognition and uplift mood: Bai Hui (DU20), Yin Tang (EX-HN3), Tai Yang (EX-HN5), Feng Chi (GB20) and Jian Jing (GB21)
  • Acupoints to activate qi flow to relieve pain and stress, calm the mind, and promote better cognition, and sleep: He Gu (LI4), Dan Zhong (RN17), Shen Men (HT7) and Da Ling (PC7)
  • Acupoints to soothe and strengthen the digestive system, improving qi flow, reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing sleep, and relieving pain: Zu San Li (ST36) and Tai Chong (LR3)

For best results, meet with a qualified TCM practitioner who can access your body type and treat your specific imbalances.

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