The Lung in Chinese medicine is a yin organ. It is paired with the Large Intestine, a yang organ. The most important function of the Lungs in Chinese medicine is to govern respiration – the inhalation of air, or pure qi. This pure qi inhaled by the Lungs is combined with the food qi extracted from food by the Spleen to produce the “gathering qi” that supports the functioning of the whole body after birth.
The Lungs assist the Heart in the circulation of Blood. Qi and Blood flow together in the blood vessels. If the Lung qi is weak, it will not be able to push the Blood through the channels, and the limbs may feel cold, especially the hands.
It is a well known fact in Chinese medicine that acupuncture points to treat various diseases can be chosen based on their anatomical location. For example, acupuncture points for bone disease are located close to bones. Acupuncture points close to tendons are powerful to treat tendon diseases. The source acupuncture point on the Lung meridian is Lung-9, located at the wrist crease lateral to the radial artery. This point is called the meeting point of the Blood vessels and is used to treat many circulation disorders.
Because the Lungs are the connection between the human body and the environment, they are said to be the most exterior and delicate of the yin organs. Therefore, the Lung is the organ that is most easily affected by environmental factors such as wind, heat, cold, damp and dryness. The Lungs also have the function of dispersing qi. In Chinese medicine there is a type of qi called the Defensive qi that exists all over the body and is located between the skin and the muscles. This concept most closely correlates to the immune system in western medicine. The Lung is responsible for dispersing this Defensive qi. When the Lung qi is weak, the Defensive qi is weak, and a person is more susceptible to catching cold easily.
The Lung is the uppermost organ in the body, it therefore it has a descending function. When this descending function is impaired, the Lung qi “rebels” manifesting as coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath. The Lung not only descends qi, but also bodily fluids. The Lungs direct fluids to the Kidneys and Bladder. When Lung function is impaired, there may be urinary retention, especially in the elderly.
The Lung controls the skin. When the Lung function is normal, fluids will be dispersed evenly. The opening and closing of the skin pores will be normal. If this function is impaired, skin will be dry and a person may have spontaneous sweating.
The Lung is associated with the Metal element and the color white. A pale white face could be associated with a deficiency of Lung qi.
The Lungs govern the voice. When the Lungs are healthy, the voice is compared to a bell and gives off a clear ringing sound. If the Lungs are weak, the voice may be soft and low. The emotion associated with the Lung is grief and sorrow. Prolonged grief and sadness will weaken Lung qi. The voice may take on a crying sound.
The Lung opens to the nose and controls the sense of smell. Lung pathology, often in combination with imbalances of other organs, is associated with sinusitis, rhinitis, nosebleeds, loss of voice, and colds and cough.
The Lungs are associated with the Autumn season. This is a particularly good time to seek the advice of your Chinese medicine practitioner. Acupuncture can strengthen the function of the Lungs!
About the Author: Joyce Marley is a licensed acupuncturist who provides acupuncture therapy in New Hartford, NY. She writes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) health articles about acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.