TCM Foundations: Spleen

Associated with the Earth element in the five element cycle, the spleen deals with the transformation and transportation of food in Chinese Medicine, in essence – digestion. However there are many other functional mechanisms that the spleen is responsible for and its role as the root of post natal qi plays an essential role in homeostasis.

The functions of the spleen are as follows:

1) Governs transformation and transportation: this concept sees all food and liquid taken into the body turned into energy. The spleen is responsible for separating the useful from the waste and moving it accordingly (with help from the stomach). Post natal qi is mentioned above, this is the theory that all the nutritional nourishment we get to keep everything moving is dependant upon the spleen and stomach.

2) Controls the ascending of qi: as food and liquid is taken into the body, it is transformed into energy and the spleen is responsible for sending this energy (food energy or gu qi) upward to combine with air to make Zhen Qi (True energy). This is the energy that is said to circulate internally and externally, think of it as the delivery of nutrients to all organs and also your immune system however the circulation of Zhen Qi is governed by another organ. An adjunct to this is that the spleen also lifts upwards meaning it keeps organs in place and prevents prolapse.

3) Controls the blood: the spleen is responsible for holding blood in the vessels and also for sending qi to the heart to make blood. If the spleen is healthy then there are no issues with blood clotting however a weak spleen can lead to easy bruising and hemorrhaging.

4) Controls the muscles and four limbs: the spleen is responsible for the state of muscles in the body and also weight management. If the spleen is strong (and with proper lifestyle and diet), muscles will be strong and defined whereas a weak spleen will see the muscles in a state of atrophy and also an inability to lose or gain weight.

5) Houses the intellect: this is another topic that will only be touched on briefly as it is a deeply philosophical topic with many different branches. Essentially the intellect in this sense is our ability to retain knowledge and study successfully. It branches much deeper than this however these articles attempt to be succinct in nature so there will not be any further elaboration.

All the aspects of the spleen will be damaged by pensiveness. This is a state of constant thought which forces the spleen to work in overtime – something only achievable for a short period before it takes damage. The best way to avoid a pensive mind is to act with mindfulness.

The spleen is also responsible and represented in several other ways however what was covered is what is of primary importance from an informative stand point.

If you missed the previous two articles you can read about the liver and heart at your own discretion.

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