Tonify the spleen – Food remedy

tonify the spleen - food remedy

Have you heard a TCM practitioner say to you they need to ‘tonify the spleen’. The Spleen and Stomach are part of the earth element, and are the key organs responsible for digestion in Chinese medicine. This is because these organs are responsible for the transformation and transportation of food into Qi (energy).

The digestive system is like a bubbling cauldron. When food is added to the caldron it needs to be warmed up to cook. In Chinese medicine if food of a cold temperature is taken in to the body, precious Qi will be lost in the heating process. It is important to keep the digestive fire burning and to not extinguish it’s power.

When we need to tonify the spleen

The Spleen houses thought and influences our capacity for thinking, studying, concentrating, focusing and memorizing. If the Spleen Qi is flourishing, we will think clearly and be able to concentrate and memorize easily. If the Spleen energy is weak, thinking will be dull, concentration slack and memory poor. Conversely, excessive studying, mental work and concentration for sustained periods can weaken the Spleen. Think about the common sayings ‘food for thought’ and ‘digesting thoughts’.

If the Spleen function is impaired the fluids may accumulate to form dampness causing sensations of heaviness in the body, unclear thinking, lethargy, abdominal distention, lack of appetite and loose stools.

Principles and food remedies to tonify the spleen

The spleen prefers a warm and dry environment. Warm refers to both the temperature and nature of a food. If the spleen function is insufficient it will benefit from increasing warm natured and damp clearing foods, and reducing cold and damp natured foods.

  • Avoid eating quickly and overeating and chew all food thoroughly. This allows the food that is eaten to be digested properly and facilitates the absorption of nutrients.
  • Relax when you are eating and digesting. Me mindful during meals. Don’t eat and ‘do’ things at the same time. Don’t rush off to the next thing as soon as you finish your mouthful.
  • Avoid obvious body pollutants such as caffeinated drinks (coffee and tea– use herbal teas instead), alcohol, salt, preservatives and food additives.
  • Ensure you have regular meals if the spleen is weak. Eating too little or eating a protein deficient diet may contribute to Spleen deficiency. Eating at irregular times or excessive eating will also strain the Spleen capacity.

Avoid cold foods.

Excessive consumption of cold and raw foods can hinder the Spleen function. Avoid chilled drinks and foods that are cooling as they may weaken the digestion. Examples of cold foods include; Raw foods Juices, Salads*, Tofu, Sushi, Lettuce, Sprouts. *An unsuitable salad would be iceberg or cos lettuce, celery, cucumber, tomato – these are all cooling. A more appropriate warm type salad however would include rocket, butter lettuce, blanched vegies such as carrot, snow peas, or roasted vegies such as eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, pumpkin, sweet potato plus some toasted nuts or seeds such as walnuts or pepitas.

Warm Natured Foods to tonify the spleen

Include warm natured foods and spices in meals.

  • Dandelion, Basil, Bay leaf, Black pepper, Capers, Cardamon, Cayenne Pepper, Chives, Cinnamon, Clove, Dandelion, Dill, Fennel, Fenugreek, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, lemon balm, marjoram, Nettle, Nutmeg, Rosemary, Sage, Star anise, Thyme, ginger

Warming cooking methods

  • Cook foods well. Softer foods are easier to digest.Slow cooking meats will enhance their tenderness and make them easier to digest. Cooking methods such as steaming, baking, roasting and stewing are warming.
  • Cook food with nurturing care. This will impart some healing energy into your cooking.

Avoid or minimise damp natured foods

Damp natured foods diminish the fire of the spleen.

  • Dairy, cheese, cream, butter, Wheat, Fried foods, Oil, Sugar, Sesame, peanuts, Banana, Coconut, Pork, Egg

Avoid refined sugars

The flavour associated with the Spleen is sweet, therefore when the Spleen is deficient the body will crave this flavour. Partaking in sugar and chocolate will not tonify the Spleen – sorry! In other words refined sugar is not good, instead use a little of the naturally flavored sweet foods in your diet to support the spleen.

  • Beneficial Sweet natured foods include Cinnamon, Sweet potato, molasses, dates, pumpkin, warm stewed fruits.


For an individualised food remedy please contact Shura.

This article on the link between the micro biome and thermoregulation (cold and digestion) is interesting .

Share this!

Please give us your feedback using the form below

Clinic News

Shura Ford in the Media


Subscribe with us and we'll send you some interesting stuff.