The Spleen ... of Five Viscera in Chinese Medicine Theory ...

The spleen (known as 'Pi' in Chinese) is one of the five Viscera or Five Zang organs. Interestingly, in Traditional Chinese medicine, it is endowed with a number of functions that are very different from the Western view of the organ:
  • control digestion,
  • control the limbs and flesh,
  • keep blood in the blood vessels,
  • store intention of determination
  • linke to the mouth/appetite

It is the central control to digestion and muscle development. The spleen is believed to absorb the nutrients from food and then to stimulate the dispersal of this "food essence" through the body.

If the spleen Qi is strong, the digestion and distribution of nutrients work well and the body is healthy.

If it is weak, the tissues will become malnourished.

The spleen performs the same function with water extracted from food. It sends this extraction through the body to reach the kidneys. Due to this association with nutrition, the spleen is said to be responsible for building strong limbs and well-developed muscles.

It also controls the limbs and flesh. Therefore, muscular aches and pains or weakness can suggest a deficiency in spleen. Strong spleen Qi is needed to keep blood flowing in the vessels - if it is weak then there may be haemorrhages or subcutaneous bleeding.

The spleen is also involved in mental activities and is specifically responsible for "Yi". "Yi", in Chinese, refers to intention, willpower, determination, or an awareness of the possibilities open to us to make changes in our lives.

The relationship between spleen and stomach

The stomach (known as "Wei" in Chinese) is a wonderful buddy of the spleen. It takes in food and digests them. In Chinese medicine theory, the stomach is known as the reservoir for food and water. Its effectiveness in starting the digestive process is seen as a function of stomach Qi:

  • If it is strong, the "turbid" component from food is propelled to the small intestine.
  • However, if it is weak, food tends to stagnate in the stomach.

The spleen and stomach are very closely associated - more so than the other Zang-Fu pairings, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

The stomach rules "descending" activities while the spleen controls "ascending" actions. Let me elaborate further:

  • The stomach sends nutrients and waste materials downwards, while the spleen is involved in the upward transportation of water and has an aversion to dampness.

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