Chinese medicine, like Western medicine, believes that the Heart is responsible for the circulation of Blood and the health of the blood vessels. If the Heart is strong, circulation will be good, all of the body’s tissues will be well nourished, and the pulse will be full and regular. Physiologically, both believe that a weak Heart can lead to palpitations and chest pain – even heart attack. Chinese medicine believes that the Heart controls sweating. So, it is no surprise that one of the main symptoms of a heart attack is breaking out in a cold sweat.
Chinese medicine also believes that the Heart “houses the mind”. This may be a difficult concept to grasp, but according to Chinese medicine, the health of the Heart energy has a lot to do with our mental activity – even consciousness. The Heart governs our ability to sleep soundly, think clearly and have a good memory. A healthy Heart plays a big role in our emotional health and our ability to have meaningful relationships. When the Heart energy is weak and Blood is deficient, we may suffer from anxiety, insomnia, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, and in extreme cases manic behavior or coma.
The health of the Heart is reflected on the facial complexion. When the Heart is strong, the complexion is rosy. When the Heart Blood is deficient, the complexion is pale. When the Heart Blood becomes stagnated, the complexion has a purple cast. When the Heart has too much heat, the complexion will be too red. Heat in the Heart can be caused by chronic stress, emotional trauma or excessive grief and worry.
In Chinese medicine, each of the organs is said to “open to an orifice”. The Heart is said to open to the tongue. Although, the state of all of the organs is reflected on the tongue, the Heart therefore has a particularly strong connection. Heart health is specifically reflected on the tip of the tongue, but the Heart governs the color, shape and overall appearance of the tongue in general. Pathology of the Heart is clearly reflected on the tongue. I see this every day in my clinic. A red tip indicates heat in the Heart and almost always is associated with restless sleep. Sometimes heat in the Heart will lead to tongue ulcers. Tongue tips that are pointed, curled up or under, are indented or have protrusions all indicate a Heart imbalance.
Because of the close affinity of the Heart to the tongue, the Heart controls the sense of taste. The condition of the Heart also effects speech. When the Heart is out of balance, a person may talk fast or laugh inappropriately. More serious Heart disharmonies may manifest in stuttering or aphasia.
The Heart is related to the emotion of joy. Excessive joy or excitement (like winning the lottery) can injure Heart Qi.
Chinese medicine believes that the Heart is connected to the uterus and plays a crucial role in triggering ovulation.
The Heart, a yin organ, is paired with the Small Intestine, a yang organ. Heat in the Heart can be transmitted to the Small Intestine, and because if the Small Intestine’s connection with the Bladder, this may lead to painful, bloody urinary symptoms.
In five element theory, the Heart corresponds to the element of fire. The Heart is associated with the color red and the summer season. Ironically, though, the Heart dislikes heat and is susceptible to being invaded by exterior heat – symptomatically equivalent to heatstroke.
Acupuncture and herbal formulas have been used for thousands of years to tonify the Heart and Blood to prevent and treat a Heart imbalance