According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, everything is energy. “Everything that makes up a human being, mind-body-spirit, correlates at an energetic level to something ‘external’ in nature. We can use the vibrational frequency of nature and these principles of natural law to heal and balance our bodies and emotions,” says the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation.
This energy includes the five primary organs—the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen/stomach and the lungs—which are an important foundation of Chinese medicine. These organs carry out the essential roles of creation, conversion and direction of the blood and qi (energy). They distribute the qi throughout the body via a refined network of channels.
Emotions are said to relate with the following corresponding bodily organs: anger with the liver, happiness with the heart, thoughtfulness with the heart and spleen, fear with the heart and kidneys, surprise with the heart and gallbladder, and anxiety and sadness with the heart and lungs.
Each organ also relates to a season, a taste and an earth element.
In the system of ancient Chinese medicine, the five organs operate essentially in mutual dependency, but the heart still retains the prime position as the leader. The season of the heart is summer. The color of blood is another sign of the spirit of the heat of summer.
In Chinese medicine, the heart houses the mind, and because of this, emotions particularly affect the heart. Summer is a time of expansion; days are long, and joy (and sometimes overstimulation) comes from the heart. The heart doesn’t like heat, whether it is internal (overexcitement) or external (hot weather). Too much heat expressed as anger or having repressed anger will damage the heart and spirit.
Health awareness involving the heart includes heart palpitations, chest pain, mental confusion and anxiety related to stress. There are physical and emotional changes we can make to protect from possible concerns, such as engaging in activities including: laughter, listening to calming music, meditation with a focus on slow and deep breaths and smiling more. Another thing you can do is to place your hands one on top of the other over your chest area. Make a connection with your heart. Feel it beating. Make small circular motions three times in each direction.
Excess heat within the body can be caused by an unbalanced diet, especially too much alcohol, spicy or fried foods. Bitter is the flavor that corresponds to the heart. Bitter foods clear excessive heat. You can support your heart function through diet by including dark leafy greens, parsley and cooling foods like cucumber and watermelon.
Kidneys store our essence—the most refined substance of our material body. This governs the aspects of reproduction, growth and development. It is said that we inherit part of our essence (pre-birth qi) from our parents.
Fear is the emotion associated with the kidney. If you have panic attacks or anxiety, the body may be expressing that kidney energy is low or imbalanced. Other issues related to the kidney include fertility, PMS, menopause problems, low back and knee pain, low energy with declining vitality and other aging issues.
To strengthen the kidneys, avoid stress and meditate. According to the National Institutes of Health, the practices of qigong and tai chi can help lower back and knee pain. The taste that relates to the kidneys is salty. Foods that strengthen the kidneys include: bone broth; briny seafood; black colored foods such as black beans, dark colored mushrooms, seaweed and miso; and warm food like soup.
There is an acupressure point which stimulates a key point on the kidney channel. It may be sore when you massage it purposefully, but this means you’re hitting the right spot to stimulate your body’s energy foundation, which will help to relieve symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes, hypertension, insomnia, anxiety and headaches. The location is at the exact center of the bottom of each foot. Starting with your left foot, massage this point decisively using your thumb or even a tennis ball.
The season associated with the kidney is winter.
Liver is the energy of spring. The energy of the liver spreads out and rises upward to the head, which diffuses and ensures the smooth flow of qi throughout our body, allowing us to store the qi. The liver is the detoxifier for the body. When the liver is disordered, this will cause emotional symptoms. When the qi rises to the head, it can create strong emotions like anger, irritation, headaches, high blood pressure, dizziness, insomnia and poor digestion.
The flavor for the liver is sour. Suggestions to clear the liver include dark vinegar to unblock liver qi, and any sour foods such as lemon, dandelions, green and peppermint tea.
To promote a healthy liver, try laughter, social interaction and going for slow walks—especially in nature. An acupressure point to press firmly on is located on the palm of the hand, about one inch below the little finger and ring finger point.
In contrast to our kidneys’ pre-birth essence, the spleen and stomach are the “root of later heaven”, because of the ability to affect one’s health destiny after birth. The spleen/stomach controls digestion by the transformation of food, by converting food to energy. The spleen/stomach is the cornerstone to our health via thinking and intellect. It is of the earth element and controls digestion. If the spleen/stomach is sluggish, results can be poor memory, poor digestion and food sensitivities.
To create a happier spleen, avoid overthinking and worry. To strengthen the spleen/stomach, avoid simple carbohydrates and eat more naturally sweet, yellow and orange foods, such as carrots, whole grains, bananas, yellow squash and raw or cooked fruit. After balancing the spleen there is often less craving of sweets.
Acupressure for stomach health starts just below your navel and up to the breastbone. Massage this area gently by placing one hand on top of the other and slowly making five clockwise circles. Reverse direction and make five more circles. You will find this also removes a buildup of gas, speeds digestion and helps with nausea.
The lungs are the place where the body holds despair, and as with any other organ, the energy it holds can be a reason for illness. The lungs house the immune system and are the first defense of the body. They fight pathogens when they enter the body, govern the qi by virtue of the breath and give circulation and movement to the qi. The close association of qi and breath explains why rhythmic breathing is so beneficial to the lungs.
When the lungs are not functioning properly, there is often found depression, low energy and respiratory illnesses. The season of the lungs is autumn. If you tend to catch respiratory illness, it is especially important to take care of this organ.
Foods for the lungs involve pungent foods such as garlic, ginger, green onions and button mushrooms. To keep lungs healthy, spend time with friends and family, practice slow rhythmic breathing and learn to let go of emotional and physical things you no longer need.
Stretch by raising one hand, palm facing the sky with the other to the earth; stretch as well as is comfortable and hold. Reverse, and do this slowly nine times. This not only strengthens lung energy, but also increases your overall energy levels, giving you extra qi for healing and living.