Today we will discuss the Lung which is represented by the metal element in Chinese Medicine. If the Heart is considered to be the Emperor of the organs then the Lungs would be the Prime Minister as it has a key function of circulating Qi throughout the body.
1) Governs Qi and Respiration: as in biomedicine, the lungs have the function of taking in oxygen within the TCM framework. This is further broken down into the idea that clean air is taken in and dirty air is pushed out (we understand this now as the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide). Beyond this, the lung is responsible for accepting the food qi from the spleen and combining it with oxygen to make “true” qi which it then sends throughout the body to either nourish internally or protect externally.
2) Controls Channels & Blood Vessels: though the heart is the master of blood, it requires a harmonious relationship with the lungs in order to circulate throughout the body. Qi and blood coexist and work together much as the heart and lung must for proper circulation. The lung has a more extensive role though as it is also responsible for sending qi throughout the meridians of the body.
3) Controls Diffusing & Dispersing of Qi & Body Fluid: as mentioned in point 1, the lung is responsible for the defensive qi that protects the body from external pathogens. This is essentially the immune system in TCM. It is believed that the Wei Qi (defensive energy) sits just under the skin level and helps to protect against pathogenic invaders such as the flu virus. In regards to fluid, the lung is responsible for sweating which can assist in keeping the skin moisturised.
4) Controls the Descending of Qi & Fluid: this is a continuation of the above point. The lungs send qi and fluid down to the kidneys where the kidney yang evaporates the fluid into a mist which is sent upwards to keep the lungs moist. A failure of communication between these two organs can lead to major issues such as asthma.
5) Regulates All Physiological Activities: as the lung is the prime minister, it regulates all the physiological functions of the body. This means the lung is responsible for sending qi as required for each organ to maintain its natural functions.
In terms of emotions, grief and sadness affect the function of the lungs with some expert also associating worry to this organ. Though it is naturally to feel these emotions at the appropriate times, prolonged exposure or lack of (bottling) can stop the lungs from functioning in the above five points.
As always there are many other functions that relate to the lung however what has been covered is a significant foundational overview.