These are the viscera of the body, the solid organs. These organs store our energies and fluids: Ching, Chi, and Shen as well as Blood and other bodily fluids that are created and stored within each organ. These organs can be considered yin relative to their partner fu organs. The zang organs regulate. The five organs are the Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys, and Liver.
- The Heart (and pericardium)
The Heart is the ruler of all the zang organs. The Heart controls our mental activities and the circulation of blood. Problems with the Heart are often seen in the face and in the complexion. Curiously, in this model, it is not the brain that controls our thoughts. The brain is simply the place where thoughts are received and stored. Our mental health, our ability to think, and the vigor of our blood are directly related to the strength of the Chi in our Heart. Weak Chi here can result in insomnia, disturbing dreams, poor sleep, dullness, and heart palpitations. Due to the Heart’s meridian passing by the tongue, problems with the Heart can often be seen in the tongue.
- The Spleen
Most people in the West don’t really know what the spleen is or does. This is a vague organ. In Chinese medicine, however, the Spleen is very important. The Spleen is essential to the process of digestion and distribution of nourishment. If the Spleen’s Chi is strong, the food’s essence is spread throughout the body. If Chi here is weak, the body becomes undernourished and weak. This same distribution function occurs for water too; the Spleen ensures proper hydration of our cells and the elimination of water through the kidneys. Because our blood is mostly water, the Spleen directly affects the quality of our blood. The Spleen also controls the proper functioning of our limbs and maintenance of our skeletal muscles. The Spleen affects our mental function; especially our intention, determination or willpower, and the awareness of possibilities for changes we could make. Weakness in the Spleen can often be seen in the lips and mouth. If things taste good, the Spleen is working well. If the Spleen Chi is weak, worry may be a constant companion.
- The Lungs
The Lungs control Chi (breath), and since this is the first contact with the external winds, the Lungs have to be vigilant. They are associated with Defensive Chi to ensure nothing harmful enters the body. The Lungs send Defensive Chi to the body’s skin to assist in this protection. Due to Lung Chi flowing downward, the Lungs help to control water and fluids. Edema (water retention) may be caused by a weakness in the Lungs. Since air passes through the nose, the Lungs are associated with the nostrils and our sense of smell. The quality of Lung Chi is often seen in the skin and body hair. Sadness that won’t go away may be a sign of weakness in the Lungs.
- The Kidneys
The Kidneys store Ching. Here this essence of our body can be converted into Kidney Chi, which is used to help the Kidneys control water. This is a function shared with the Lungs. The Kidneys send clear healthy water upward to circulate in the body and send used, turbid waters downward for elimination. It is not just the distribution of water that the Kidneys govern but also the utilization of it. Because blood and bones are so intimately connected to water, the Kidneys are also responsible for their proper functioning. Determination is also said to be stored in the Kidneys. The Kidneys are also directly connected to reproductive health and function. Problems with the Kidneys can be seen in the ears and genitals. Problems may also result in anxiety or emotions of fear arising at inappropriate times.
- The Liver
The Liver is the home of Shen, the soul. This may seem strange to us in the West; we are used to thinking that the heart is the seat of the soul. In Daoist belief, the Heart is the home of thinking. When our Shen is calm, the Liver is functioning well and we can watch the world unfold dispassionately. The Liver also has many physiological functions but mostly it regulates the amount of blood in the circulation. While the Heart may govern the flow of blood, it is the Liver that stores and releases it. Because of this, Liver Chi is important for the vitality of all parts of the body. In fact, acupuncture treatments often focus on releasing Liver Chi, to dispel stagnation throughout the body. Weakness in the Liver can be seen in the eyes and in our tendons. Aching knees are one indicator of weakness, yellow eyes are another. When the Liver Chi is weak, we may suffer from too much anger or irritation or be unable to express anger at all.