Posted on: October 17, 2016 at 2:27 pm
Last updated: May 11, 2018 at 12:55 pm

Are you familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM [1]? This ancient form of medicine has been thousands of years in the making and uses both herbs and mind-body techniques to heal people as well as to prevent certain diseases or problems in the body. This is one of the most complex schools of medicine and remains one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world [2].


According to TCM, “foods are craved because they change the flow of energy through the channels of the body in a way that matches our needs, corresponding to our excesses and deficiencies” [3]. We all crave certain foods, some of us more than others, and some of us at more accurate times. But what could these cravings mean, especially in TCM?

Craving Meaning: What Your Craving Says About You

craving meaning, craving salt, craving sweets


Craving Bitter? Heart (Fire Energy)

Although bitter cravings aren’t as common, craving these foods can actually be a link to your heart health as well as excess heat in the body! Excess heat is related to anger, emotional instability, anxiety, and even insomnia.

Bitter foods can actually dispel heat from the body, therefore improving the flow of energy in your body as it relates to the heart (which corresponds to your fire energy).

What to eat? Bitter green vegetables such as arugula, Brussel sprouts, Swiss chard, and artichokes.

Craving Salt? Kidney (Water Energy)

craving meaning, craving salt


The kidneys are strongly related to inherited genes and tend to be either strong or weak. Blocked energy flow or lack of energy relating to the kidneys and your water energy can result in salt cravings!

Some people are under the belief that if our bodies crave food, then that food must be necessary for our bodies. This is not always the case. If you’re craving salt and you give in to this craving, your symptoms can actually worsen.

Problems relating to your kidneys, according to TCM, can lead to fatigue, joint pain, frequent urination, early gray hair, early menopause, sexual problems, and developmental problems [4].

What to eat? Black beans, walnuts, goji berries, fish, and seaweed.

Craving Sour? Liver (Wood Energy)

craving meaning, craving sour

Your liver is strongly linked to your emotions in TCM can cause anger if unbalanced, which results in a craving for sour foods. A liver imbalance could also be causing you to crave fried, greasy, fatty foods. Your body may be telling you-you need more essential fatty acids!

Symptoms of an imbalanced wood energy could also cause irregular menstrual cycles, depression, migraines, and tight muscles.

What to eat? Blueberries, blackstrap molasses, red beets, tomatoes, artichoke, avocado, dates, eggs, cranberry [5]. Seaweed, quinoa, mushrooms, plums. Citrus is great (such as lemons and oranges), dark greens are perfect!

Craving Spicy? Lung (Metal Energy)

craving meaning, craving spicy

According to TCM, the lungs are the bodies first defense against foreign invaders such as the pathogens that cause sickness in the body [6]. Spicy foods can help get rid of pathogens, which explains why spicy foods can help your immune system and protect your body against sickness.

Blocked metal energy could also cause your immunity to suffering. You may also have difficulty letting go of things, especially negative thoughts, and emotions, and may have trouble coping with grief.

This is one craving that’s actually good to indulge in!

What to eat? Green onion, pepper, garlic, ginger, spicy peppers!

Craving Sweet? Spleen (Earth Energy)

The spleen is one of the most important organs in TCM [7]. It helps to filter your blood as well as plays a key role in the immune system. If you’re craving sweet things, you likely have one or more of the following symptoms: digestive problems, weight gain, fatigue, or irregular sleep patterns. All of these can be related to your spleen and earth energy.

Since sugar can increase your energy, people who have an imbalanced earth energy will likely crave sweet foods. The symptoms you’re experiencing when you crave sweet things will get worse if you give in!

These cravings can often happen during two particular times: around the menstrual cycle when the earth energy tends to be weaker [8] and during periods of stress. During stressful times, you could be craving sugar because your stress hormones will be affecting your insulin, therefore leading you to crave sugar and possibly refined flour [9].

What to eat? Celery, carrots, garlic, winter squash, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and dates. It’s better if most of these vegetables are cooked!

So what should you do if you find you have these cravings? Some say listen to your body, but when it comes to TCM, you may want to hold off on those cravings. It’s always best if you can work with a doctor who has intimate knowledge of TCM or a certified herbalist. They can help you discover why your body is having these cravings and encourage you to look at the big picture.

Is TCM worth a look? Absolutely, but don’t do it alone—these medicines are complex and require a professional’s insight. Think twice about your cravings next time you reach for sweets or salt!

This amazing post was written by Jenn Ryan, a freelance writer, and editor who’s passionate about natural health, fitness, gluten-free, and animals. You can read more of her work at


Jenn Ryan
Health Expert
Jenn Ryan is a freelance writer and editor who's passionate about natural health, fitness, gluten-free, and animals. She loves running, reading, and playing with her four rescued rabbits.

A Special Message From Our Founders

Use Superfoods as Medicine e-book

Over the past few years of working with health experts all over the world, there’s one major insight we’ve learned.

You don’t have to rely on expensive medications for the rest of your lives.

Most health problems can often be resolved with a good diet, exercise and a few powerful superfoods. In fact, we’ve gone through hundreds of scientific papers and ‘superfood’ claims and only selected the top 5% that are:

  • Backed by scientific research
  • Affordable
  • Simple to use

We then put this valuable information into the Superfood as Medicine Guide: a 100+ page guide on the 7 most powerful superfoods available, including:

  • Exact dosages for every health ailment
  • DIY recipes to create your own products
  • Simple recipes