The Yin organs are considered “solid”, meaning they store a form of refined Qi (essence). They are related mostly to the production and storage of Qi and blood.
In Chinese Medicine the heart does a lot more than just pump blood around the body. It is considered the Emperor organ, overseeing the functioning of the entire body both physically and emotionally. The heart houses our “shen” or spirit. The Chinese acknowledge that the brain stores memory and thought, but our emotions and soul are contained within our heart. Our eyes have connects to our heart channel which enables us to see the quality of a person’s shen by observing the vibrance of their eyes. This gives meaning to the ancient phrase “the eyes are the window to the soul”. If there is any emotional upheaval the heart will be always be affected. This is why palpitations are often brought on by a sudden emotional event, as it disturbs the Heart’s Qi and creates a physical symptom. The Emotion associated with the Heart is joy, therefore excess joy injures the heart and scatters the shen. This is why after severe laughter people cannot concentrate and even become dizzy. A normal amount of joy is very good for your heart, so laughter truly is the best medicine.
The Lung is said to be a Yin organ with a very Yang function. It controls the immune system (Wei Qi) and is the first to come in contact with airborne pathogens. It commands all of the Qi within the body and controls the bodies water passages. In the traditional Chinese model there was actually only ever one Lung, but thanks to the introduction of Western Anatomy we now know there are in fact two. The air with breathe in through the Lung is called “Da Qi”, it combines with the essence (Gu Qi) sent up by the Spleen to produce Qi and Blood. As it also controls the pores and the skin, deficiencies or pathogens in the lung can appear in our skin as rashes or other disorders. This Chinese medical link between asthma and skin conditions, which Western Medicine is still trying to understand within their own framework.
The Pericardium is the sack around the heart; it is its protector both physically and emotionally. Think of it as the Emperor’s guardian. It is said that no pathogen can directly affect the Heart, but instead the Pericardium always take the damage on its behalf. The Pericardium has connections with the organs in the middle burner of the body, primarily the Spleen and Liver which too are easily affected by emotions. Therefore I regularly use Pericardium acupuncture points to settle an upset digestion which has been injured by emotional stress.
The Liver has several functions. It stores blood, ensures the Qi in the body flows smoothly and aids in digestion, it is also a very emotional organ. Its element is wood, which means its Qi branches out and influences its surroundings, just as trees do in nature. As the Liver is easily affected my stress and other strong emotions, its flow of Qi can easily be disrupted, which in turn causes it to over-control the Stomach/Spleen generating digestive problems (wood->earth relationship). This is how the Chinese Medicine explains conditions such as IBS. The male and female reproductive organs are controlled by the Liver and its meridian system; this is why breast tenderness occurs during menstruation along with PMT, its Qi can stagnate at the onset of the menstrual cycle bringing emotional disturbances and physical symptoms along its pathway. In TCM there is a very strong emotional component to the development of cancers in the body. The combination of the Liver’s susceptibility to stress and emotions, combined with its control over the reproductive regions is how Chinese Medicine explains the development of breast and ovarian type cancers. It is the stagnation and/or rebellion of Liver Qi.
The Spleen is a vital part of your digestive system, it is responsible for providing the base elements needed to produce Qi and Blood. With help from the stomach it breaks down the food and separates the turbid from the clear, this process is called “transformation and transportation”. The clear refined product is sent up to the Lung and Heart to be made into Qi and Blood. The turbid is sent down through the Stomach into the Intestines for further processing, then removed through the bowel. It is also responsible for holding the blood in the vessels, and the organs in place. A weakened Spleen can result in organ prolapse, uncontrollable bleeding, diarrhea and constipation. The Spleen likes moisture but only a little, too much and it fails to separate the clear from the turbid. Instead of sending up a clear refined essence, it instead sends up a turbid substance called damp, causing an impaired production of Qi and Blood. This damp can lodge in several different places causing many different pathologies. For example: damp lodged in the head can cause; difficulty concentrating, compression headaches, sinusitis, depression, mania. Damp lodging in the chest and abdomen can lead to: obesity, bloating, poor digestion, bronchitis. Damp in the lower part of the body can lead to: UTIs, Bladder infections, mucous in the stool, vaginal infections, STDs. Because the Spleen is involved in digestion, it is easily damaged by improper diet. The Spleen likes the sweet flavor, but too much sweet food causes injury. People who have “an uncontrollable sweet tooth” often have an underlying Spleen deficiency.
The kidney stores Jing, your essence or “life force”. There are two types of Jing: Pre-natal Jing: this is what you receive from your parents, a reservoir of essence which cannot be replaced. Post-natal Jing: This is made from surplus Qi created from the digestive system and added on top of the pre-natal Jing. It is the aim of many forms of meditation and internal martial arts to try and preserve as much pre-natal Jing as possible as when you run out, you die. As we get older, our ability to make fresh post-natal Jing diminishes, so to maintain bodily functions our body uses the pre-natal Jing instead. It is the steady decline in Jing which causes us to age and eventually die. The principle of Jing is the exact opposite to the Western medical theory of aging, but the concept behind them both is quite logical. Western Medicine believes it is the buildup of ‘Free Radicals’ (loose Oxygen molecules) which slowly damages the body’s processes and causes us to age, whereas as Chinese medicine views it as a steady decline in the body’s stored essence. Overwork and damage to the body’s ability to make post-natal Jing can cause people to consume their pre-natal Jing much early then they should. This is how Chinese Medicine explains young people with conditions they shouldn’t naturally develop for several decades; such as premature graying or osteoarthritis. When a child is born with a congenital problem, the Chinese call this “defective Jing”, meaning the Jing which was passed on from the parents was damaged or impure, which has caused the child to develop poorly. Sadly this cannot be cured, but it can be managed.