Heart’s Functionality & Organ Relationship

Southwest Acupuncture College Chinese Medical Theory I:II November 11, 2020

Western medicine categorizes the organs of the human body and the various systems according to their functional capacities, their relationship to other organs, and considers their activity in conjunction with other tissues. Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes twelve organs that differentiate from the Western set of organs. TCM also considers the organ’s functionality and capacity for complementary function, production, and elimination, just as in Western medicine. The notable disconnect between the two schools of medicine is the interpretation of the capacity of the organs themselves in relation to the whole human experience we call life. TCM views the organs as dimensions of reality set within energetic pathways that connect the human body in various dimensionalities vs being simple slabs of meat. The pivotal distinction stems from TCM’s ability to provide a deeper understanding of the overall connection to the body as a whole system with energetic pathways between the organs of the body and how each has a unique role in this complex closed system. For example, Western medicine’s concepts of the Heart’s functions, relationships with other organs, typical pathological patterns, emotional implications, and the general role in human health overlap with some concepts of TCM. In Western medicine the concept of a human heart is that it is specialized cells that form specialized tissue with extraordinary capabilities. This very black and white thinking contrasts with TCM’s more fluid concept of a Heart. In TCM, the Heart is considered a Zang organ. The Chinese word Zang translates as ​solid​ in English. Chinese medicine’s Zang organs are the Kidney, Liver, Lung, Spleen, and the Heart. The Zang organs reference the Yin organs, from Yin and Yang theory. The Zang/Yin organs are the most important organs in Chinese medicine because they are considered to perform the major functions of the body. Furthermore, in Chinese medicine the organs are described as a set of activities such that an organ and a meridian are both described as dimensions of functionality or a dimension of the universe itself. Each organ is considered a special dimension with a functionality that has a specific set of uniqueness. In TCM, the Heart’s two primary and unique jobs include housing the Shen and producing Xue. The Heart is also known as the Sovereign and as the Supreme Ruler. Even with such lofty descriptions, the Heart is merely a contributing member to a large, whole, and complex system. Since all systems, large and small can be related to Yin and Yang, the Heart is no exception. Yin and Yang reference the cyclical movement, repetition of change, cause and effect between disposition and circumstantial activity. As Western medicine considers the Heart as the body’s central pump, we consider the Heart’s ability to be both a receiver- Yin and a promoter- Yang. The heart receives deoxygenated venous blood from the peripheral blood vessels. The heart then transports the blood through its chambers and channels it to the Lungs to be oxygenated. Once the blood is oxygenated in the Lungs, the blood is received again by the heart, where it is now dispersed to the body. Yin and Yang aspect of receiver and giver, coming together, closing

down, with expansion, reaching outward and gaining momentum. Diastole is Yin. Systole is Yang. Four chambers of the human heart allow for this amazing functionality. The four chambers of the Heart visually and conceptually provide an insight into the Heart’s Yin and Yang duality. While giving and receiving are two physical components of the Heart’s function, in TCM the Heart is so much more. In TCM the heart produces Xue, blood and also houses the Shen, mind. In Western medicine, hematopoiesis is a process that takes place in the longest bones of the human body where genetic material then determines which cells will become red blood cells, which will become white blood cells and where each will end up in the body. In Western medicine the mind is considered a very elusive concept housed somewhere in brain tissue. Brain tissue and bone marrow of our longest bones are indisputably connected to both blood and the mind, but what TCM explains is that the energetic patterns of harmony and disharmony regarding blood, Xue and the mind, Shen are primarily due to imbalances with the energy patterns of our Hearts and not with our brain tissue or bone marrow. A depressed person could possibly point to specific brain cells that are firing in specific regions of brain tissue, thereby activating the sensation of sadness. Another perspective is that a person has had life experiences that have become physical conditions after suffering traumatic experiences in their lives. (​My bruxism is an example.)​ The sadness may be physically traced by an MRI to specific brain cells firing in specific sequences in specific areas of the body. Western medicine has not yet developed a means to cure a depressed person by simply knowing the location of the misfiring neurons. The patient is left with looking for alternative forms of healing. TCM offers some alternatives in their teachings. The practitioner could look at other organs involved that were key to developing the current condition to begin with. TCM teaches that matters of the mind belong to the Heart and not to brain tissue. TCM also teaches us that Heart conditions are not easily developed. These Heart conditions have underlying conditions that were allowed to flourish for an extended period of time before taking root as a Heart condition/ Shen, mind condition. In order to study conditions of the Heart, we look at the body’s elemental balance of fire and water and the interconnectedness between the Heart and the Kidney as well as the other organs that also contribute to the Heart’s production of Xue and stability of the Shen. Our Hearts are our fire. This fire is said to make Xue, from Yuan Qi from Kidney, and as mentioned, the Heart houses the Shen. When the Heart and Kidney are not communicating, Kidney Yin Xu makes Heart heat. The results are symptoms of irritability, hot flashes, scanty urine, red tip tongue, thin and rapid pulse.

Heart and Lung’s main relationship is Qi and Xue (blood) production. As Western medicine teaches about bone marrow and genetic predisposition, TCM teaches us that the production of blood is made between the Heart and the Lung. The Lung acts on the Heart for Xue production. Lung Qi Xu will turn into Heart Qi Xu will turn into Heart Xue Xu. The interconnectedness of the organs is inclusive of all organs in TCM. The inclusiveness of all organs allows for an environment of mutual dependency as well. The mutual dependency of multiple organs in the production of blood has the Spleen also contributing Qi so that the Heart can produce Xue. Spleen Xu is the most common cause of Xue Xu. Spleen helps the Heart by controlling Xue. Spleen Qi contains Xue within the vessels as well. Heart rules/ produces Xue and the Liver stores and regulates Xue. Liver Xue Xu can cause Heart Xue Xu and Shen symptoms of dream ditrubed sleep, insomnia, dizziness, restlessness. Liver Qi stagnation can also affect Heart. Liver harmonizes emotions, excessive emotional stress can disturb the Shen. Liver heat can also disturb the Heart, producing more significant Shen symptoms such as insomnia, extreme restlessness, significant mental disorders, and violent behavior. Heart houses Shen and Liver houses Hun (ethereal soul) and harmonizes the emotions. Liver and Heart create the balance between emotion and mind. The Heart is called Xin in Chinese and is paired with the small intestine. The Heart meridian is Hand Shao Yin and so it has a hand to foot relationship with the Kidney, which is Foot Shao Yin. The Heart, its functions, and its pivotal role in human health is awe inspiring.


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