Journal of Acuherb in Medicine

The Heart

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By Kenneth Wang

Functions of the Heart

  1. Governs the Blood
  2. Controls the Blood Vessels
  3. Manifests in the Complexion
  4. Stores the Shen (Houses the Mind)
  5. Opens to the tongue
  6. Controls Sweat


Governs the Blood

  1. Transformation of Gu Qi (Food Qi) into Blood occurs in Heart
  2. Responsible for smooth flowing of Blood

Heart must be healthy for proper supply of Blood to all tissues. When Heart Qi impaired, i.e., Heart Blood or Qi is deficient, circulation of Blood is affected (hands cold).

Controls the Blood Vessels 

Blood Vessels (not same as in Western Medicine) depend on Heart Qi and Blood, i.e., if Heart strong and Blood plentiful, pulse will be full and regular. If Heart Qi or Blood is weak, pulse may be irregular/weak (choppy). 

Manifests in the Complexion

If Heart Blood is abundant, there will be a rosy and lustrous complexion. 

Deficient Heart Blood: pale chalky complexion (plus other signs e.g. palpitations).

Deficient Heart Qi: Bright white complexion
Stagnant Heart Blood: Bluish purple complexion

Stores the Shen

When there is abundant Heart Blood and Yin: Shen will be nourished. Individual will respond appropriately to the environment and Shen will retire to the Heart.

Weak Heart Qi, Deficient Blood or Heat in Heart: Shen is not nourished. Symptoms vary, may include dull thinking, poor memory, insomnia, sleepiness, or (esp. with Heat) agitation, mania and delirium.

Opens to the Tongue (the offshoot of the heart)

The Heart has a large influence on the color, form, and features of the tongue, and is represented in the tip of the tongue. The normal tongue is a pale red color, and the sense of taste is normal.

Controls Sweating

Body Fluids and blood share a common origin and are interdependent. Because the Heart governs Blood and there is a mutually sustaining relationship between blood and fluids, sweat is related to the heart.

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