There is a type of Qi in the atmosphere, Qingqi or “clear Qi,” that enters us with every breath we take, and through the function of the Lungs, it becomes a part of the Qi we use in our body.
Some Chinese physicians use infrasound in medical devices intended to promote Qi flow.
Classically, they are said to transport both Qi and blood in differing proportions. While that concept still exists and is taught today, it is rarely used in most contemporary clinical settings.
The Chinese word for Heart is Xin. In other contexts, usually in intermediate to higher level Qigongs and in various meditation practices, Xin also may be interpreted as Heart-Mind, indicating the qualities of the Heart that are associated with mind, including emotions, consciousness, and spirit. While not often fully considered in contemporary clinical settings, these attributes are still observed and assessed by practitioners of classical Chinese medicine, usually from a Daoist perspective.
Western medicine does not attribute most of these functions to the spleen. It is a perspective unique to Chinese medicine, but there are more similarities than you might think.
Most people don’t know much about the spleen, so it can seem like a mysterious organ. Many even consider it expendable since it can be surgically removed without causing death or immediate, obvious complications. Here are the main things the spleen does according to Western medicine:
The spleen has numerous functions in regards to blood and immune system support. It acts as a blood filter, helping to purify blood. Part of that purification involves breaking down old or damaged red blood cells and recycling the component parts, including iron—the “hem-” in hemoglobin—into new, healthy red blood cells. The spleen is able to increase in size to store about a cup of blood in reserve. This reserve can be especially valuable in the case of traumatic blood loss. The spleen’s reserve also contains about half of the body’s monocytes, large white blood cells that promote tissue healing in any injured tissue, including the heart.
The spleen synthesizes antibodies, which are immune cells that assist in immune system functions. It removes antibody-coated bacteria and fights other bacteria that can cause pneumonia and meningitis. If the spleen is removed, the liver will take over some of its functions, but you will be more at risk for developing many types of infections, including the previously mentioned pneumonia and meningitis.
Chinese medicine does not distinguish between spleen and pancreas functions, considering them to be part of the same system. In fact, some schools of Chinese medicine refer to it as the spleen/pancreas. If we take into account the pancreas’s primary roles of regulating blood sugar (which influences perceived energy levels) and the release of enzymes that assist in the digestion of protein, fats, and carbohydrates in the small intestine, we have a strong correlation between the Chinese and Western medical understanding of spleen functions. The interpretation of how those ends are achieved may be very different, but the end results are very similar.
To summarize the similarities, both East and West see the spleen (pancreas) as integral to the generation of blood, the digestion and assimilation of food, energy production, and tissue repair.
There is a point on the low back, Du 4, which is called Mingmen. It is frequently needled or warmed with the herb moxa to tonify Kidney Yang and to treat various sexual, gynecological, and obstetric disorders and Kidney-related low back pain. More rarely, it is used to treat constitutional weakness believed to be associated with original Qi. That latter function, which does directly address the Mingmen, is not universally agreed upon.
Western medicine has noted at least one correlation between kidneys and bone. In chronic kidney disease–mineral and bone disorder (CKD-MBD), the kidneys are known to be the source of this serious condition that causes systemic alterations in bone structure.
Combining Eastern and Western perspectives, it’s interesting to note that the Stomach’s ascendant time of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. makes it ideally suited to digest a protein-rich breakfast—stomach acids only break down proteins—while the Small Intestine time of 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. makes it suited to digest a fat- and carbohydrate-rich lunch. Fats and carbohydrates are only broken down by enzymes, bile, and other digestive fluids in the small intestine. This is another example of the importance of aligning lifestyle choices with the body’s natural diurnal rhythms, in keeping with the organs’ ascendant times.
For comparison, if a person is suffering from a Cold condition, urine is clear and profuse. If there is excess Heat, often causing a burning sensation when urinating, the urine will be very dark yellow and scant. These indicators are used when applying Chinese diagnostic methods.
The strong energetic link between the Sanjiao and Pericardium is most clearly demonstrated by the functions of a point on the Pericardium meridian: P 6, Neiguan, “Inner Pass.” P 6 is the Luo connecting point with the Sanjiao and has a very wide range of clinical effects, benefitting almost all of the internal organs. This is due to the Sanjiao being the passageway through the entire body, harmonizing the functional activities of organs in all three Burners.
Throughout history, needles have been made from bone, stone, and various metals, including silver and gold. Acupuncture needles are solid and very fine, slightly thicker than a human hair. Sloped back equally in all directions from its tip, the point is shaped more like a pine needle, and its insertion is more like parting the skin than like cutting through it.
Although some older traditional Chinese acupuncturists may autoclave their needles, sterilizing them for reuse in the same way surgical instruments are sterilized in hospitals, almost all acupuncturists in the United States use sterile, disposable, single-use needles, and many states require that by law. In this way, cross-infection from one patient to another is impossible.
These days, people are inundated with a multitude of dietary advice, most aimed at weight loss and control, while others claim to be the best for overall health for everyone. Some of these include the Pritikin, Atkins, South Beach, and Zone diets, eating according to your blood type, veganism, and omnivore and Paleo diets. While it’s impossible to comment on all of those in any meaningful way here, keep in mind that as with all health approaches, holistic or otherwise, there is no one way that is universally best for everyone.
For example, in the point-strike martial art of Dimmak, strong targeted blows by a skilled martial artist can induce paralysis or cardiac or respiratory arrest by striking points on the arm alone.
As an example of how symptoms may worsen, when using echinacea to treat a cold as mentioned in Chapter 14, you need to know it is a very cold herb, and can damage the Spleen and Stomach if used for more than a few days. In the case of someone who may have a preexisting Spleen Qi or Yang deficiency, this could lead to severe diarrhea and abdominal cramping, causing dehydration, poor appetite, and poor nutrient absorption, with an accompanying worsening of health.
While Western pharmacology does not make such distinctions, pharmaceuticals can be analyzed within this paradigm nonetheless. For example, when viewed through the lens of Chinese medicine, antibiotics as a class are uniformly cold to very cold, treating bacterial infections that almost always produce Heat signs, like fever, redness, and inflammation. The most common side effects of antibiotics are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, loss of appetite, and, occasionally, white patches on the tongue. All of the digestive symptoms indicate injury to the Spleen and Stomach, which are easily damaged by cold substances. Cold substances are contraindicated in patients exhibiting symptoms of Spleen Qi or Yang deficiency. White patches on the tongue are one diagnostic indicator of internal Cold. Antibiotic effects and side-effect symptoms can be explained by Chinese medical analysis.
Licorice root, or Gan Cao, is a sweet herb used to harmonize the effects of other herbs in a formula. My first herbs teacher likened it to a sweet “little sister” who can make a family feel peaceful and close when there might otherwise be some familial discord.