The heart as emperor lives well protected at the center of the nation. No injury must come to the heart and as long as the heart’s function is intact, there is always hope of healing. Nei Jing Su Wen
In Traditional Chinese medicine, the Heart organ system is likened to a benevolent, enlightened monarch of a kingdom and is responsible for the circulation of qi among the 12 meridians, as well as all spiritual and mental activities. Although there are similarities with the Heart organ functions, there are clear differences between how Western and Eastern medicine view them.
The physiological functions according to TCM include controlling blood vessels, circulation, sweating and mental activities. Functions according to Western medicine include removing metabolic waste, pumping blood through the body and facilitating the movement of oxygen, nutrients and hormones.
“The heart rules the blood and the constancy of its beat reflects its commitment to fulfilling its role as sovereign ruler.” Lonny Jarrett
The Heart is in charge of continuously pumping blood throughout the body as well as regulating blood flow. The strength of one’s Heart qi determines if its’ beating is strong and healthy, which is reflected in the rhythm and rate of the pulse. The constant cycle of blood circulation provides nutrition for the body, including our organs and limbs, ensuring normal functioning of the various structures and organs. A healthy individual will appear as energetic, having a rosy complexion and a rhythmic, forceful pulse. If there are any imbalances in the Heart qi, yin, yang or blood an individual can manifest symptoms such as a pale complexion, thin and weak pulse, darkened, purplish complexion and a choppy pulse.
In TCM, the heart is the location where the “spirit” (shen) resides. In general, Heart shen is equal to the overall vitality of an individual, which is often observed through the complexion, eyes and responses. This indicates the quality of a healthy Heart spirit. The presence or absence of “shen” is important in the prognosis of physical and emotional conditions. All of the five organs in Chinese medicine contain qi, yin, yang and blood. For the heart, the heart blood and yin have roles when it comes to nourishing the “shen”. If there is adequate presence of heart blood and yin, an individual will display clarity and sound mind and if there is a deficiency in either blood or yin, individuals will show signs such as heart palpitations, insomnia and psychological disorders.
Did you know your tongue reflects your Heart?
According to TCM theory, it is believed that the essence of the Heart organ system is accessible through the tongue. By observing changes in the tongue, we are able to understand the health status of the heart.
Language, communication, expression and taste are dependent on the normal functioning of the heart. Imbalances in the Heart can reflect on the appearance of our tongue. Unlike blood pressure and heart rate which can fluctuate, changes to the color and texture of the tongue are indicative of health issues occurring within the body. If the Heart qi, blood, yin and yang levels are all balanced, the tongue appears to be a healthy, pinkish-red color with a soft, flexible body. Insufficient Heart blood will reflect as a pale, white tongue. Blood stagnation manifests as a dusky red/purple with distended sublingual veins. Cracks or lines down the center of the tongue also indicate a potential Heart function issue.
Fluid of the Heart:
Perspiration comes from body fluid, and the Heart controls bodily fluids. If you find you are perspiring excessively, it can signal a Qi or energy deficiency of the Heart. On the other hand, if you engage in activities that make you sweat too much, this can cause a Qi deficiency of the Heart.
Tissue of the Heart:
Because the face has many blood vessels, our complexion reveals the state of the Heart. Like the tongue, a pale complexion can indicate insufficient blood, and an overly red face can signal excessive heat. Radiance and vitality which are reflected on the face can be used to determine the health status of the Heart qi, blood, yin and yang levels. If there is adequate Heart blood circulating, the face appears radiant and rosy.
Digestion and Heart Health:
As mentioned above, the Heart is the monarch of the kingdom of all organs. All the other organs will sacrifice for the Heart by giving their energy to help the Heart maintain balance.
According to Five Element theory, The Stomach organ system is the “child” of the Heart. If the Stomach is functioning well then the mother is content. In this simple analogy we understand that Stomach energy must be in balance for Heart energy to be balanced.
In addition, the Liver is the “mother” of the Heart. When an individual is under continual stress, Liver energy becomes compromised because one of its energetic functions is to smooth and regulate emotions. When chronic stress or excessive emotion is experienced, the Liver cannot offer proper support to the Heart.In order to take care of our cardiovascular health, it’s imperative to take care of our digestive organs, the Liver and the Stomach!
Physical and Emotional Symptoms related to the Heart:
Angina, atherosclerosis, heart attacks
High/low blood pressure
Hot, painful joints
Lack of joy or humor
Tips for a healthy Heart
Mindset Matters: Because the mind is linked directly to the Heart, what goes on in your mind can play a part in the health of your Heart. Maintaining a positive mindset can greatly impact the health of the heart system. Common suggestions for mental wellness to ease the pressure on the Heart include regular meditation, repeating positive affirmations, and taking a step away to reset during stressful situations. It’s also important to hold yourself with compassion and gratitude, actively seeking to fill your life with positive influences.
Certain foods have very specific effects in the body and an affinity for the Heart! Dark, leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli rabe, black beans, brussel sprouts, celery, cinnamon and cucumbers all support heart health. The color red correlates to the Heart organ system. Foods that are red or dark in color are beneficial as well. Think persimmons, pomegranates, berries, tomatoes, red beets, red/leafy greens, salmon, red lentils and lean red meat are known to protect cell membranes, maintain vessel elasticity, healthy blood flow and are chock-full of antioxidants.
Herbal supplements that support Heart health include San Qi known as Panax Notoginseng that improves circulation and regenerates red blood cells. Red Sage, also called Dan Shen is also an effective herb for cardiovascular health. It is beneficial for myocardial ischemia as it can widen coronary arteries to increase coronary blood flow. It’s also known to improve the body’s micro-circulation and reduce viscosity of blood to strengthen the body’s overall blood circulation.CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease and can manage blood pressure.
Last but certainly not least, if you have experienced any of the aforementioned physical or emotional symptoms related to the Heart organ system, give us a call to schedule an assessment, treatment plan/protocol and Acupuncture session. Treatments help decrease stress, systemic inflammation, improve circulation throughout the body, stimulate oxygen and lymph flow, calm the nervous system and balance digestion, sleep, hormones and cortisol levels….everything your Heart desires!