|The following is a reference to the theory and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is used for the sole purpose of educating our customers in order for them to become knowledgeable consumers in the complex and extensive background of Chinese Herbal Therapy. This is only a small part of TCM and its theories. Please click on the sections in the outline below to read more about it.
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|C. The Theory of Viscera and Bowels
1. Five Viscera (Zang-organ)
a. The Heart (and the Pericardium)The heart is located in the chest to the left. It is believed in TCM that the heart is the most important organ and controls the other viscera and bowels. The heart is divided into Yin and Yang. The Yin refers to the blood controlled by the heart. The Yang refers to the actual function, the heat, and Qi of the heart. The main functions of the heart are controlling blood circulation, taking charge of mental activities, sweat as the fluid of the heart, and having relations with the tongue and face.
– Controlling Blood CirculationBlood vessels are the tubes in which blood is able to flow. They are linked to the heart, creating a closed system. TCM says that it is the Qi of the heart that keeps it beating and sending blood through blood vessels. When the Qi is sufficient, the heart can keep a normal rate and strength. The pulse of the heart tells you if the Qi is sufficient or not and whether or not the blood of the heart is sufficient. A weak and empty pulse shows deficiency of the Qi of the heart. A fine and weak pulse shows deficiency of the blood of the heart. A rough and rhythmical pulse shows decline of the blood of the heart.
– Taking charge of Mental Activities
TCM believes nervous activities like thinking depend on the functions of the heart. When the functions of the heart are normal, the person will have a healthy consciousness and healthy mental activities. Abnormalities, like insanity, may be brought on my insufficiency of blood. Treatment is found through an analysis of the heart condition.
Body fluid is the most important component of the blood and sweat comes from body fluid. TCM says that profuse sweating means the heart is using a lot of blood and Qi, which may result in palpitations and violent beatings of the heart. Too much sweating hurts the Yang of the heart, and a lot of body fluid is lost. Those who have a lack of Yin in the heart are likely to sweat at night.
TCM believes that the condition of the heart can be represented on the tongue and the face. Because the face has a lot of blood vessels, the face can show the condition of the heart. A bright and red face and tongue shows that the heart is functioning well. The face and tongue and pale and white if the heart is not functioning well. Stagnation of the heart can be represented in a face that is blue and a dark purple tongue. The hair can also show the health of the heart. Healthy hair shows a healthy heart.
The pericardium is the protective tissue of the heart. External pathogenic factors, like a high fever, coma, and a red tongue mostly effect the pericardium before they effect the heart.
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The lungs are made up of two lobes and are located in the chest. It connects to the larynx, bronchi, and trachea. It has an opening in the nose. The lung is divided into the Yin of the lung (the material structure) and the Qi of the lung (the functions of the lung). The term “Yang of the lung” is rarely used.
The lungs exchange air between the interior and the exterior of the body. Exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen enables the metabolism of the body to function smoothly. If the lungs are harmed by external pathogenic factors, breathing becomes difficult.
The lungs are responsible for the forming of “zong Qi” or pectoral energy. Inhaled air and food mix and accumulate in the chest to form zong Qi. Zong Qi leaves from the larynx and promotes the lung’s respiratory activities. It spreads through the body through heart channels and warms the viscera, bowels and tissues.
The lungs control the ascending and the descending of the Qi of the body. If the lungs are not functioning properly, the ascending and descending of the Qi of the body is effected, and is shown in shortness of breath, tiredness, quiet voice, and drowsiness.
The lung has the ability to activate the flow of Qi, food, and body fluid. This means that the lungs spread Qi, food, and body fluid throughout the body to nourish the body, warm the muscles, and nourish the skin and hair. When the lungs are not functioning well and are not cleaning the air taken in, the Qi of the lungs cannot spread throughout the body, and this shows in coughing, asthma, and a stuffy sensation in the chest. If the lungs are functioning properly, it is also able to spread water to the kidney and urinary bladder, thus smoothing the metabolism of water. If water does not go smoothly to the kidney and urinary bladder, it results in dysuria, edema, and phlegm-retention diseases.
The lungs have two functions of dispersing and descending that oppose and support each other. If the lungs cannot disperse, then the lungs cannot descend and vice versa. This relationship keeps normal airflow and Qi of the lungs. If this relationship is not functioning well, it shows in coughing, asthmatic breathing, stuffiness in the chest, and hypochondria distension.
The lungs supply the skin and hair with body fluid they need in order to stay moist and bright. When the skin is healthy, it can defend the body from outside pathogenic factors. If the skin is not healthy, it results in profuse sweating and vulnerability to the common cold.
The nose is the opening to the lungs. It depends on the Qi of the lungs to keep breathing easy and to have a better sense of smell. When the lungs are not functioning well, the nose may be blocked, have watery discharge, or have hyposmia. The nose is also the opening for with bacteria can invade the lungs. Diseases like epidemic febrile pathogenic factors attack the lungs through the nose.
The lung is very vulnerable to external air. When the lungs are harmed, the larynx is effected because both organs are connected to each other. Enough Qi results in a loud voice, while deficiency in Qi produces a low voice. Deficiency of Yin in the lung results in a hoarse voice and may even result in aphonia.
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TCM’s ideas of the spleen are different from that of western medicine. TCM says that the spleen is located in the middle portion of the body cavity and is the main organ of the digestive system. The spleen is divided into Yin (the material structure) and Yang (the function and heat). Qi of the spleen is the functions of the spleen. The spleen’s functions are transporting, distributing, and transforming nutrients, keeping blood circulating within the vessels, and having relationships with the muscles, limbs, and lips.
TCM states that after going through the stomach, the stomach and the spleen digest food, and then it travels through the pylorus where it is sent to the small intestine to create waste. Food that is not waste is absorbed by the spleen, which spreads it to all parts of the body, keeping the five viscera nourished. The spleen produces Qi and blood by using water and nutrients it absorbs from food. If the spleen is not functioning properly, it is shown in lack of appetite, indigestion, fullness and distension in the epigastrium, loose stools, lassitude, loss of weight and other diseases.
The spleen also absorbs and transports water. If the spleen cannot absorb water properly and retains water, it results in edema, dampness, and diarrhea. The spleen absorbs both food and water at the same time, and both functions are connected. For example, an abnormal function of on will lead to an abnormal function of the other.
The spleen controls all the blood in the body and keeps it circulating normally within the vessels. If there is lack of Qi, the blood will not flow normally. When this happens, it results in blood in the stool, purpura, and uterine bleeding. To treat this, the spleen should be invigorated.
The spleen’s function is to strengthen muscles and limbs by transforming food and distributing it to muscles and limbs. If the spleen is not functioning well, muscles will be thin and will feel weak. One can tell how healthy the spleen is by looking on the lips and mouth. A strong spleen results in good appetite, normal taste, and red lips. A weak spleen results in poor appetite, abnormal taste, and pale lips. An unhealthy spleen can also result in a sticky and sweet taste in the mouth, which can be treated with eupatorium.
The qi of the spleen sends nutrients from food upward where it can nourish the lungs and other internal organs. If the qi of the spleen goes downward, it can result in diarrhea. The spleen works better when it is dry instead of damp. When the spleen is damp, it may not be able to transform food and transport nutrients throughout the body.
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The liver is located in the upper right part of the abdomen. It is connected to the rest of the body through channels in the right and left side of the ribs. The main functions of the liver are smoothing and regulating the flow of vital energy and blood, storing and regulating blood, and having relations with tendons, nails and eyes.
The liver is often compared to wood in TCM, as both trees and the liver tend to “spread out freely”. The liver’s function is to spread qi throughout the body freely. There are three ways in which the liver accomplishes this: regulating mind and mood, promoting digestion and absorption, and keeping qi and blood moving normally.
According to TCM, the heart and the liver control mental activities of humans. When the liver is functioning well, it is able to regulate the flow of vital energy and blood, which contributes to mental healthiness, resulting in happiness, relaxation, and sensitivity. But when the liver does not function well, it results in anxiety, sighing, sadness, and belching. When the liver is in very bad health, it may result in dizziness, headache, insomnia, and nightmares during sleep.
The liver’s function of regulating the flow of energy in the body aids the spleen in distributing nutrients and water in the body, and therefore, contributes to good digestion. An unhealthy liver can affect the spleen negatively, resulting in poor appetite, belching, vomiting, and diarrhea. The liver’s function of regulating the flow of energy in the body effects the flow of qi. If the liver is not functioning well, the flow of qi is effected negatively, and it may result in pain in the chest or lower abdomen. Qi directly effects the circulation of blood, and so when the liver does not function well, the circulation of blood is obstructed, and it results in pains in the chest and lower abdomen, tumor, abnormal menstruation, dysmenorrhea, and amenorrhea.
The liver stores and regulates the amount of blood. During sleep, when blood is not needed, most is stored in the liver. But during times of work and labor, the liver’s function is to supply the body with needed blood. The liver can store a lot of blood; it is believed the liver can store 55% of the body’s blood.
The tendons in the body depend on the liver to aid in distributing nutrients to them. When the tendons are not getting enough blood, it results in numbness in the legs and arms, sluggishness, spasms in tendons, and tremors of the hands and feet. TCM believes nails and tendons get nutrients from the same source, and that nails are connected to the liver. When the liver is healthy, the nails are hard and rosy. But when the liver is unhealthy, the nails are thin, withered, and deformed. TCM also believes the eyes are connected to the liver. An unhealthy liver may result in blurred vision, dry, sore, red, and swollen eyes. The liver is also connected to the lower abdomen and genitals. In treating these, the liver should be nourished.
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The kidney is located on either side of the spinal column. The main functions of the kidney are Storing the Essence of Life, Regulating water metabolism, and controlling and promoting inspiration.
There are two ways in storing the essence of life. The first is known as storing the congenital essence of life. It is given at birth and strengthened through food and nutrition. It can be transformed to Qi, and it is called the Qi of the kidney. The Qi of the kidney contributes to the growth, development, and replacement of the body, for example, the growth of teeth, the development of teeth, and the replacement of teeth. The body grows as the Qi is getting richer and richer. By the time the body reaches puberty, the Qi of the kidney is at its highest. It contributes to the development of sperm in boys and eggs and menstruation in girls. When the body is old, the Qi of the kidney is weaker, making reproductive capabilities weaker.
The second type of storing the essence of life is known as the acquired essence of life. It is derived from food essence, in which the spleen and the stomach transform it into acquired essence. It is then transported to the five viscera and six bowels. When there is not enough essence of life for the five viscera and the six bowels, the kidney will supply it with essence of life. Otherwise, the kidney stores the acquired essence of life. So, when any of the five viscera and the six bowels are not functioning correctly, the kidney needs to be nourished.
The kidney maintains balance of the fluid in the body. Fluid in the body is responsible for transporting nutrients to organs and tissues, and to aid in getting rid of waste. The kidney plays an important part in both functions. The kidney either releases water or retains needed water. When the kidney is functioning well, urination is normal. When it doesn’t function well, the kidney could release too much, causing diseases like polyuria and frequent urination. When the kidney does not release enough, it can lead to oliguria and edema.
The kidney, along with the lungs, can aid in inhaling air. When the kidney is not functioning well, exhaling will occur more than inhaling, which can result in dyspnea and severe panting.
The essence of life stored by the kidney can aid in making bone marrow. Bone marrow nourishes the bones. When the kidney is functioning well, bones are strong. When the kidney is weak, the bones are weak also. In babies, a weak kidney can result in underdeveloped bones.
The kidney also nourishes the teeth. A poor kidney can result in slow-growing, weak teeth, and the loss of teeth.
The essence of life can turn into blood, which nourishes the hair. When the kidney is functioning well, the hair is strong and shiny. Withered, balding, or gray hair can be a sign of a weak kidney.
A strong sense of hearing is a sign of a strong kidney. A poor kidney can result in a poor urinary bladder, resulting in abnormal urination. Deficiency of the kidney causes the large intestine to not function well, leading to constipation. Deficiency of yang in the kidney causes the spleen to not function correctly, leading to loose stools.
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***Taken from A Practical English-Chinese Library of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Basic Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (I). Publishing House of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Written by Zhang Enqin. Translated by Zhang Enqin and Xu Xiangcai. Revised by Xu Guoqian and Wang Zhikui.