Love and the Heart in Chinese Medicine

In this, the month of love, I want to take time to explore the meaning of the Heart in Chinese Medicine and how I treat the Heart in my Decatur acupuncture practice. According to Chinese Medicine all organs have a function or responsibility. These functions may be physical, emotional or spiritual. The Heart has a special place in Chinese Medicine as it is considered the Emperor (or Empress as the case may be) and rules all the other organs.

The Heart is also houses the Shen. The Shen is a complex concept in Chinese Medicine but generally encompasses the Spirit/Mind and covers all mental and spiritual functions. When the Shen is strong you have strong mental functions like the ability to think sharply, strong intellect, good long-term memory and quality sleep. Shen is also our vital life force and zest for life, the sparkle and shine in our eyes. When you look into the eyes of someone suffering from depression or great sadness their eyes often have a dullness or lack of focus. Shen is our ability to love ourselves and others, to trust, to have self-confidence and to have direction and purpose in life. Lastly Shen is our connection with Source/the Divine/God

There is a powerful connection between the Shen and Blood. According to Chinese Medicine, Blood grounds the Shen so that when Blood is sufficient mental faculties are strong and a person is happy and peaceful. When Blood is deficient we may see a mental restlessness, excessive dreaming, dream-disturbed sleep or insomnia, anxiety and depression.

According to Chinese Medicine each organ has an associated emotion and joy is the emotion of the Heart. Both lack of joy and excessive joy (i.e. over excitement) can injure the Heart and, in the other direction, a Heart disharmony can produce a lack of joy or elation. I see this strong mind-body connection daily in my practice.

Broken heart syndrome has been well documented by Western medicine. Broken heart syndrome symptoms mimic those of a heart attack however there is typically nothing structurally wrong with the heart; the apex of the heart balloons outward. Broken heart syndrome is called this because the incident often happens after a shock, a sudden death of a loved one or after ongoing intense emotional stress.

Clearly our Shen has a tremendous impact on our health and is one of the first things I take into account in my treatment approach.  Harmonizing the spirit is a goal in just about all treatments as stress impacts our Shen and most of us experience stress. This is why, at least in part, most people leave their acupuncture appointment with me blissed out and relaxed. Does your Heart need some love? Does your Spirit need lifting? Do you just need all those frayed edges smoothed out? Time to schedule an acupuncture treatment for your Heart!