Heart - the Supreme Monarch

What is dark clings to what is light and so enhances the brightness of the latter. A luminous thing giving out light must have within itself something that preserves; otherwise it will in time burn itself out. Everything that gives light is dependent on something to which it clings, in order that it may continue to shine.

-The I Ching

Known as the fire element in Chinese Medicine, its responsibilities are extended to the emotional and spiritual realms and cardiovascular and nervous system. In ancient texts the Heart is compared to a supreme monarch, responsible for maintaining internal peace and harmony. In the Yellow Emperor’s Classic, it is explained by Qi Bo to Huang Di that,” The Heart is sovereign of all organs and represents the consciousness of one’s being. It is responsible for intelligence, wisdom, and spiritual transformation.” The spirit of the Heart is known as Shen. Besides the emotional context, the Heart also governs the blood and the blood vessels. Sweat is also considered the fluid of the Heart. This is because sweat comes from body fluid which is an essential component of blood. If one suffers from spontaneous sweating, it is considered a Heart pathology.

The Heart is a yin organ and opens up into the tongue and manifests on the face. If the heart is functioning properly, the tongue will be pink and the person will have healthy pink cheeks. If there is a stagnation of blood, both the tongue and face will appear purple.

The Heart's function is said to be strongest between 11am and 1pm. Disturbed function of the Heart typically presents as palpitations, arrhythmia, insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, poor memory, restlessness, or even delirium.

Some Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) pathologies that can arise are; Heart Qi deficiency, Heart Yin deficiency, Heart Yang deficiency and or collapse, Heart blood stagnation and Heart fire.

Heart Qi deficiency:

Symptoms include: Palpitations on exertion, spontaneous sweating, fatigue

       Herbs: Yangxin Tang

Heart Yin deficiency:

Symptoms include; anxiety and restlessness, palpitations, insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, easily startled, poor memory, fidgeting, mallor flush, night sweats, heat in the 5 palms, dry mouth

Herbs: Tian wang bu xin dan

Heart Yang deficiency or collapse:

       Symptoms include: Similar symptoms to HT Qi Deficiency (palpitations on exertion, fatigue, spontaneous    

       sweating) but with cold limbs, feeling of cold, bright pale face

       HT Yang Collapse: more serious, patient needs to go to the hospital, severe palpitations, weak and  

       shallow breathing, cyanosis of the lips

       Herbs: Zhi Gancao Tang

Heart Blood stagnation:

Symptoms include: Angina, chest oppression, HT Pain which may radiate down to the left arm or to shoulder              (emotionally a/or physiologically related), palpitations, cyanosis of the lips (in more severe cases)

Herbs: Tao hong si wu tang

Heart Fire:

Symptoms include: Palpitations, thirst, tongue/mouth ulcers, restlessness, red complexion, bitter taste in the mouth (esp. If after a poor night of sleep, if during day may be more LV), other heat signs

Herbs: Sanhuang Qingxin Tang

Below are some of the Western pathologies or symptoms that can be affected by a Heart disharmony;

  • Angina
  • Anemia
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Diabetes I & II
  • Forgetfulness
  • Heat stroke
  • Impotence
  • Insomnia
  • Myocardial Infarction
  • Palpitations
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Diet and certain types of exercises can be contributing factors to the wellbeing of the Heart. To keep your fire energies strong and balanced, increase your intake of “cooling” (yin) foods. Raw fruits and vegetables, unsweetened fruit and vegetable juice, and tofu will help quench excess fire energy.  Also, cut down on your intake of meat (particularly red meat) and dairy products. These protein rich foods are difficult to digest, causing the stomach to produce too much acid. This can lead to indigestion, heartburn and nausea. For those with more deficient type symptoms, warming foods like beef and chicken, fish, beans, nuts and seeds and moderate amounts of warming spices ( cayenne, ginger, garlic) will help to balance the fire energy.

Exercises for those with excess or deficient Heart patterns can range from competitive sports to deep breathing and yoga.( Depending on what pattern you may follow, less strenuous exercise would be of great benefit for those in an excess state. Excess types tend to suffer from anxiety in competitive sports) Swimming and water sports, Skiing, skating, yoga, bike rides and walking are all beneficial.