A tonic is a term that generally refers to a liquid or supplement used for medicinal purposes to promote general well-being, rather than just being administered during an illness. A blood tonic is a supplement that may be consumed as a means to produce more blood cells within the body. It is typically recommended in Chinese medicine.
One of the central principles of Chinese medicine is qi, the concept that the body is composed of different energy levels that must be perfectly balanced. Illness is thought to be caused by imbalances in qi. The role of blood is similar to qi and also plays an important role in Chinese medicine. Many health conditions are thought to be the result of a lack of blood production. Traditional Chinese medicine states that this lack of blood production is due to a decrease in qi. A tonic may be recommended in order to stimulate increased blood production and qi.
One of the main uses of blood tonic is for those with anemia. Anemia is a condition in which the blood does not have enough red blood cells, which are primarily responsible for distributing oxygen throughout the body. This decrease in oxygen distribution can leave an anemic person feeling weak and fatigued. Tonics may also be recommended for women who are menstruating or may simply be used to promote general well-being. One may also be promoted as being an anti-aging skin product to prevent wrinkles, as well as to make hair shinier.
The exact recipe for such tonics can vary widely in Chinese medicine. A homemade version will typically consist of a mixture of medicinal herbs steeped in hot water with other flavorings for several hours until the water is flavored. After steeping, the solid pieces are discarded and only the broth is consumed. A common homemade version of the tonic consists of medicinal roots, such as ginseng, ginger, and a type of protein, such as a chicken, beef, lamb, eggs, or fish.
Blood tonics are also often packaged and sold commercially as a syrup or tea. Small spoonfuls of commercial syrups are generally recommended orally twice a day for anemic, menstrual women, or those who need to improve their blood circulation. The dried roots and other ingredients that are used to make the tonic may also be sold loose on their own, and then added to hot water to make a tea.