by Gene Chuah
Why do men have more facial and body hair than women, generally speaking? And why does facial and body hair start appearing in menopausal women (or so I’ve been told)? In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the answer lies in the distribution of Blood as a vital essence. In women, especially of childbearing age, Blood is allocated toward the reproductive system (situated in the Lower Jiao, or lower one-third of the body). Men, on the other hand, are more Yang in nature, and remember that Yang tends to rise up (Yang equates to Heat as well, and we know that heat rises up). So Blood that would have been allocated to the ovulation cycle in women are used for growing beards and body hair, in men. Neat huh? For post-menopausal women, however, since the Blood is not longer allocated to the baby-making machinery, you can guess where it gets reallocated. [Note: Dwarven women from Lord Of The Rings are an exception, they have beards just like the men.]
This also explains why most male mammals also have some kind of growth on their heads — antlers, horns, tusks, whiskers, manes, for instance. Come to think of it, most males in the animal kingdom are more colorful, have more muscle mass, or have specific physiological structures that the females do not have. This is called sexual dimorphism, and here are more visuals. Of course, there are exceptions in the animal kingdom, where the male is a total nobody in some species (e.g. spiders, and the triplewart seadevil).
Interestingly enough, Deer Antler (Chinese: 鹿茸; pinyin: lù róng) happens to be a Blood tonic. This makes total sense — if surplus Blood was used to create it, then it must be good for replenishing depleted Blood! See what the Interwebs has to say on this topic.
TCM recognizes the hair to be an extension of the Blood. “If one’s Blood is nutritionally complete and rich, the hair will be thick, lustrous and keep its color. If Blood is deficient, or if it is somehow obstructed from properly flowing to and saturating the scalp, the hair will wither.” –[source]
It should be noted, however, that head hair is governed by the Kidneys, while body hair is governed by the Lungs, whereby Lung Qi drives Blood outward to the skin to nourish body hair.
In yesterday’s class, we covered all the Organs in greater depth. Prior to this point we had discussed the Organs and their interactions, but never gave them their own spotlight. Now, they get to be the stars of the show.
The Organs are grouped in Yin-Yang pairs by Element (see previous lessons), and the Yin Organs are called Zang, while the Yang Organs are called Fu. When their wonder-twin powers unite, together they are the unstoppable Zang-Fu (臟腑).
Again keep in mind that these Organs do not always correspond strictly to the physiological organ, and in fact one of them, the Triple Burner (San Jiao) has no actual physical form or location. In another example, the physical spleen, according to Western science, works as a blood filter and is part of the immune system; however in TCM it is equated with digestion and providing energy. The important thing is that this is a framework or model of understanding that works. In an extreme example, even if someone has had their Gallbladder surgically removed, the energetic equivalent of this Organ is still there and we can still work with it. Wikipedia calls TCM Organs functional entities. So don’t get confused if they don’t correspond literally to physical organs studied via the Western scientific method.
Here’s the list of the Zang-Fu :
|ZANG ORGAN (YIN)
Solid Organs that store vital / pure / essential substances. Yin because less active, and has dormant/potential energy.
|FU ORGAN (YANG)
Hollow Organs that receive, process and dispense; can be like a gate or pump; Yang because more active.
|Pericardium||Triple Burner (San Jiao)|
* Gallbladder is the exception on this list, and is considered an Extraordinary Organ because it is recognized to be BOTH Zang and Fu (it stores essence, but there is also lively movement through it). The other Extraordinary Organs are: the brain, marrow, uterus, bones, and blood vessels.
Now on to the Organs. I will be reusing the directions-of-Qi charts I used from Day 6.
LIVER : The General / Chief of Staff
1. Maintains free/smooth flow of Qi (flowing & spreading).
a. Influences emotional state.
Remember that the Liver is the “energetic fan”, and that emotions are a type of energy (Qi). So, the Liver plays an important role in keeping the Emotions moving — remember that “the only bad emotion is a stuck emotion”. The Liver helps to smooth out one’s moods; without its proper functioning, mood swings and irritability will manifest.
b. Influences digestion.
In the Control Cycle, the Liver (Wood) is the grandparent to, and influences, the Spleen (Earth). When healthy, the Liver supports the Spleen in digestion, but in an imbalance condition, it can negatively affect digestion. For instance, stress->frustration->anxiety manifests in the Liver, causing it to “overcontrol” the Spleen, resulting in IBS.
c. Influences flow of bile.
In TCM, Bile is a surplus of Liver Qi, and a pure essence.
2. Stores the Blood
The Liver stores the Blood (it is like a sponge that fills with Blood especially at its peak of 1am-3am, during which time it is important to be laying down, preferably asleep. The Liver regulates the volume of Blood and circulates it among the Organs.
3. Controls the sinews
Sinews = ligaments + tendons. This includes joint mobility, and in a sense the Liver is important for mobility in general. Stiffness and numbness especially in the joints point to Liver weakness. For instance, arthritis tremors are due to Liver + Gallbladder issues. Remember that Wood is the Element of motion.
4. Manifests in the nails
In TCM, the nails (fingers, toes) are an extention of the Sinews, a surplus of Liver Qi. Nails are an excellent diagnostic tool for the Liver. Specks in the nails, soft, brittle, easily broken nails are a sign of Liver Blood Deficiency. To tonify your Liver, include this organ meat in your diet.
5. Opens into the eyes
The Liver is in charge of vision. Blurry vision, floaters, night blindness, “seeing stars” are all signs of Liver Blood Deficiency. Sensitivity to light, on the flip side, is a sign of Liver Qi Stagnation (Excess).
6. Houses the Ethereal Spirit, or “Hun”
The Hun (Chinese: 魂; pinyin: hún; literally “cloud-soul”) (pronounceed “hoon” with an upward tone as if asking a question) correlates to the Astral Body. It is “second in command”, whereas the Shen is the highest spirit of consciousness in a person. Like the Shen, it is also immortal, so it does not die with the physical body. The Hun is responsible for sleep and good dreams. 11pm-3am, Wood Element Time, is when the Hun is working hardest, actively driving and processing your nighttime dreaming. Note: some say that when you dream, you travel to the astral world. Recurring “almost-died-from-falling-but-awoke-with-a-start” dreams are a sign of Liver Blood Deficiency.
HEART : The Emperor
1. Rules the Blood and blood vessels
The human body can be thought of as a microcosm of a (Chinese) kingdom, with the Heart (Emperor) at the center. The Emperor in ancient times was thought of as God’s representative on earth, and this corresponds with the Heart housing the Shen, which is the spirit, or consciousness, of the person. The ancient Chinese were concerned about keeping out the evil invaders, and this corresponds to the body’s continually shielding itself from external Evil Qi. Because the Shen is sensitive, an emotional root cause can “unseat” it — causing, for example, a Heart Blood Deficiency that results in insomnia, anxiety, poor memory, and “fright palpitations”.
2. Manifests in the complexion.
The complexion reflects the health of the Heart.
e.g. Pale <- Qi & Blood Deficiency
e.g. Pale + dull <- Blood Deficiency
e.g. Purplish <- Heart Blood Stagnation (milder) or Stasis (worse)
e.g. Strong Red <- Heat in the Heart
e.g. Pinkish <- good health!
3. Opens into the tongue.
The Heart, with a balanced Shen, governs coherent speech. Through tongue diagnosis we can tell the health of the Heart. For instance, if the tongue tip is red, it points to Heat in the Heart, which usually means a disturbed, irritable Shen.
4. Houses the Shen.
But you knew this already since we’ve been talking so much about it in my past articles. Shen (Chinese: 神; pinyin: shén; means spirit, soul, mind, god, deity, supernatural being) is pronounceed “shurn” with an upward tone as if asking a question, and without rolling the R.
Heart disharmonies caused by: “could be anything” because the Shen is sensitive.
SPLEEN : Minister of the Granary
1. Governs transformation & transportation
The Spleen transform Food into pure and impure essences.
From Li Dongyuan, A Treatise on the Spleen and Stomach (Piwei Lun), 1249:
“The Stomach is called the sea of grain and water. Once food enters the Stomach, its essential energy is moved upwards to infuse first the Spleen and then the Lung. In this fashion, the command of spring and summer is being carried out, and the entire body receives nourishment. This is due to the influence of clear heavenly Qi.
Once the ascending motion has reached its climax, this current shifts directions and flows downwards toward the Bladder. In this fashion, the command of autumn and winter is being carried out, and the waste becomes processed and the flavors will manifest. This is due to the influence of turbid earth Qi.”
The Spleen sends its nourishing energy (Qi) upwards to the Lungs and mind, as well as to the muscles and limbs. Someone who is low in energy (you need muscle strength to move around) probably has a weak Spleen. Other symptoms are: bloatedness/gas, soft stools, weak concentration, poor appetite, nausea. This is usually equated with Spleen Qi Deficiency -> poor digestion -> unburnt food -> Dampness -> lack of appetite/thirst.
2. Controls Blood.
a. Main Organ in Blood production.
Day 6 seems to agree.
b. Holds the Blood, keeps it in the blood vessels.
Remember that “Qi is the mother of Blood” — Qi moves and holds Blood. The Spleen also is also a key player in “holding” Blood, so with Spleen Qi Deficiency, this capacity is weakened, resulting in things like menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding), hemmorhoids, varicose veins or chronic bruising.
Blood in the stool is a sign of Heat in the Blood. Here is one vicious cycle that could happen with Blood Heat:
3. Controls muscles and limbs.
This is true in the sense that the Spleen provides the fuel for the muscles, and it is the first place to look to show Spleen weakness (Spleen Qi Deficiency). Weak muscles & limbs, tiredness, and even eating disorders. Either extreme in eating behavior is Spleen dysfuntion — whether anorexia, or the opposite (overeating). Note the depleted muscles in anorexia. It’s all Spleen!
4. Opens into the mouth, manifests in lips.
The Spleen is the “control center” when it comes to the sensation of taste, allowing us to differentiate among the 5 flavors. Illness or usage of antibiotics will hinder this (antibiotics kill friendly gut bacteria as well). Lip color is a reflection of Spleen health. The usual rules apply:
e.g. pale <- Spleen and/or Blood Deficiency
e.g. purple <- Spleen Stagnation (Qi/Blood)
5. Regulates/controls the ascending Qi.
This relates to (b.) above. Holding power. Dysfunction: prolapse of the uterus, anus; hemorrhoids, varicose veins, hernia, chronic diarrhea (<- rebellious Qi).
6. Houses the Thinking Spirit, or “Yi”.
Yi (Chinese: 意; pinyin: yì; means “thought”) is pronounceed “ee” with an assertive tone as if there’s an exclamation mark after it. “Hunger for knowledge”, “food for thought” — these phrases originated for a reason. The Spleen is also called the “second brain”, and in Chinese there is a saying that “a thought originates in the Spleen and culminates in the Heart” (here Heart, as Shen, represents the mind or consciousness). The Yi (intellect) enables cognitive analysis and mental focus/concentration.
Dampness can affect the Spleen, resulting in Worry and Pensiveness (and vice versa, as Emotions can also affect Organs). Like someone lost in a damp swamp, going in circles.
Spleen is Earth Element, which represents stability, family, home, love, caring and warmth. Any harm to the Spleen damages the Yi, which affects the ability to learn. Due to the loss of communal/tribal support in modern society, the Spleen is under threat and learning disabilities are becoming more common, as are eating disorders.
Spleen disharmonies caused by : (1) congenital factors (2) foods that are cold, raw, sugary, dairy, yeast, flour (3) excessive worry, pensiveness (overstudying), and (4) medications, especially antibiotics.
1. Rule the Qi and respiration.
a. Produce pure Qi from the air.
You need clean air in order to produce strong Lung Qi. Polluted air will overburden the Lungs.
b. Control the upper “Sea of Qi”.
The Lungs are the main source of Qi in this region, providing Qi even for the Heart. They also play a part in the energetic circulation through to the Lower Jiao, and if this flow is disrupted, the upper part of the body will get overheated relative to the lower (as in the case of a coma). Since Lungs govern the Upper Jiao, any deficiency will cause coldness in the Lungs and arms. Here is an image from Day 6 to applies to this energetic circulation:
2. Control the 2 directions of Qi.
Downward to Kidneys. Disharmonies: asthma, shortness of breath, cough (<- rebellious Qi), shallow/faint voice.
Outward to supply Wei Qi, warming the skin and muscles.
Lung Qi = “mist”, and as it disperses outward as Wei Qi = “spray”.
3. Control sweating via skin pores.
Sweating expels excess Heat generated by the Wei Qi. If Wei Qi is weak, it will be unable to control the opening and closing of the skin pores, resulting in their random opening/closing. This lets in pathogens, or causes spontaneous sweating (cold sweats, a waste of pure essence), or disallows heat to escape by remaining closed (this can also lock in the pathogen).
4. Move and adjust the water passages.
a. Descending. : sends Mist down to the Kidneys.
b. Dispersing/circulating. : keeps skin moist.
5. Control skin and body hair.
As mentioned earlier, Lung Qi sends Blood to the skin to nourish body hair (as opposed to head hair which is nourished by the Kidneys).
6. Open into the nose.
“The nose is the window to the Lungs, the throat is the door to the Lungs.”
Problems with the nose usually points to the Lungs.
Lungs are also known as “the tender Organ”. In the role of Foreign Minister, they are the interface between the body’s internals, and the outside world.
Problems with the throat (e.g. tonsilitis, sore/strep throat) usually points to the Lungs.
7. House of the Physical Spirit, or “Po”.
Po (Chinese: 魄; pinyin: pò; literally “white-soul”) is pronounceed “p’ho” (aspirated P) with an assertive tone as if there’s an exclamation mark after it. It allows you to feel physical sensations, e.g. skin pain. It dies with the physical body and is not eternal (unlike the Shen or Hun). The Po is equated with physical presence and even confidence, if you will picture a strong male elk or gorilla puffing up its chest to establish its dominance and physicality. Puffing up one’s chest needs a strong pair of Lungs for sure.
The anus is called “Po Men” (pronounced more like “muhn”) (魄 門), meaning “the gate of the Po”, and remember that the Large Intestine is the Yang partner to the Lungs (both Metal). The Large Intestines are related to excretion and “letting out” where the Lungs take in; they are both considered to be the same energetic channel.
Lung Disharmonies caused by: (1) congenital factors (2) external pathogens (3) excessive sadness, grief, worry (4) polluted air (5) poor posture, constriction, sedentary.
KIDNEYS : Minister of Power
1. Store Jing essence, dominant role in: birth, development, reproduction, fertility, ageing/longevity.
2. Rule water metabolism. Control Bladder, urine.
3. Grasp Qi from Lungs.
One of the charts above, shows this.
4. Manifest in head hair. Premature balding, greying, if Kidneys weakened. Hair color is a better indicator of Jing health than balding, since male baldness can vary by race or lineage.
5. Open into the ears. Hearing issues are Kidney-related. Hey, they happen to have the same shape outline too (so do the ovaries and testes, which contain Jing). As Jing diminishes in old age, loss of hearing creeps up as the Kidneys fail to nourish the ears.
6. Control the bones and teeth.
As Jing diminishes in old age, bones and teeth weaken (osteoporosis). Kidneys also nourish the brain (as Jing matter, not the mind), head hair, bone marrow, uterus and testicles.
7. House the Zhi
Zhi (Chinese: 志; pinyin: zhì), is pronounced “chir” with a very short/flat vowel, no rolled R, and assertive tone as if with an exclamation mark. Video how-to here (<- tone-neutral).
Jing, as pre-natal life-force essence, is needed for life, correlated with lifespan, and in dire physical situations, is used up rapidly to "save" someone in danger. Think of it as dipping into your life-savings in an emergency. Zhi relates to physical will, because when you are determined to do something (physically), the Zhi mobilizes Kidney Jing to achieve what is needed. There have been wartime stories of soldiers who suddenly had the superhuman strength to throw multi-ton bombs overboard before they could detonate, and stories of mothers who are able to lift cars off their babies -- these could be attributed to Zhi and emergency Jing usage.
Kidney disharmonies caused by: (1) congenital factors (2) diet (too much salt) (3) medications, especially chemotherapy (<- burns Yin) (4) chronic fear (stress) -> Kidney Yin Deficiency (adrenaline is Yang which burns Yin).