Oriental medicine has a very interesting way of looking at the heart and its relationship with the human body. Simply said, the heart is the most important organ of the body. Because its two main functions are to govern the blood and house the mind, Oriental medicine practitioners refer to it as the “monarch of the body” and the “emperor” and believe that it must not be disturbed for any reason.
A healthy heart provides the proper supply of blood to all the tissues in the body. Enclosing the heart is the pericardium, the membranous sac in charge of intercepting all illnesses before they have a chance to disturb the organ. On top of the heart, as its canopy, are the lungs, the prime organs in charge of respiration, acquiring clean Qi (oxygen) and eliminating the bad Qi (CO2).
The heart and lungs assist each other: the heart governing the blood supply and the lungs governing the Qi; hence, they are interconnected and interrelated. Excessive joy or laughter can injure the heart Qi. The same is true of too much sadness or grief, both causing lung clean Qi deficiency, which can deeply affect the heart Qi, making it deficient.
The expression of the heart is joy. A happy state of mind is a display of a healthy mind and body. The heart manifests in skin complexion and opens to the tongue and controls perspiration. Skin complexion and strength are governed by the relationship of the heart and blood supply. If the heart is strong and blood supply is sufficient with good circulation, an individual is vigorous and strong. On the other hand, if the heart is weak and blood supply to tissues is deficient, the person will develop weakness and poor health. A thin, long crack in the midline of the tongue indicates that a person is experiencing an excess of unresolved emotional stress, which weakens the heart.
The “heart housing the mind” in Oriental medicine means that the mind, or Shen (consciousness and mental activity), resides in the heart. If the heart and blood are in harmony, there is a positive balance of mental activity and emotional life, with good sleep and good memory ensuing.
This homeostasis of heart and blood manifests as clear consciousness and keen thinking; however, if the heart and blood are unbalanced due to blood deficiency for any reason, it may manifest as a mental or emotional illness such as depression, anxiety, dull thinking, forgetfulness, poor memory, insomnia and, in extreme cases, unconsciousness.
Blood is the root of the mind, nourishing it. If there is any deficiency in the heart blood, the results are mental restlessness, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. On the other hand, mental restlessness, emotional problems, and sadness can be the causes of blood deficiency that results in heart palpitations, weak pulse, and a pale complexion. Because the mind is affected by the heart, an individual’s mental state will be affected by bad Qi, causing sadness or depression. On the contrary, if the person has an excess condition, the mind will be altered as well but will show symptoms of mental illness like mania and depression.
By Consuelo Camarillo de Gonzalez Lic. A.C.