The Chinese medicine spleen: How is it different?

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The Chinese medicine spleen: How is it different?

What and where is the spleen

The spleen sits in the upper left quadrant of your abdomen between your stomach and your diaphragm. The spleen in Chinese medicine bears little resemblance to it’s Western medicine counterpart. It’s function has little to do with digestion and more to do with immunity and cleansing of the blood. It filters the blood and removes any old or damaged blood cells and platelets. It supports the immune system by destroying any bacteria and foreign substances residing within it. The spleen also holds a small reserve of blood which can be released into the circulatory system if needed.

Transportation and transformation
The Chinese medicine spleen has a primary role in the transformation of water and food into qi and blood for the body. Once the nutrients are extracted from the food and drink the spleen then discharges them to other organs and tissue providing nourishment around the body. A person with a strong spleen has good muscle tone, a healthy appetite, a strong digestion and an abundance of energy. If a person has a compromised spleen then we can expect to see the opposite.

The metabolism of fluids is taken care of by a number or organs of which the spleen has a pivotal role. It absorbs, distributes and excretes fluids. If this system starts to function less effectively then we may see a build up of fluids aka damp. The discussion of damp deserves a whole article in itself which you can read by following the link.

Damp refers to an internal issue resulting from poor fluid metabolism. Problems arising from it may include lethargy, poor digestion and aches and pains. It may also solidify into fibroids/cysts/tumours which in turn can give rise to other issues.

Raises the clear
This refers to the spleens function of raising qi as well as keeping the internal viscera in place. Once the spleen has extracted the nutrients from food and drink it then sends it upwards to the heart and lungs to be delivered around the body. This is raising the “clear”. If the clear is not being raised effectively then we may see problems such as dizziness, blurred vision and fatigue.

It also has a role in stabilising the position of the internal organs. It does this by keeping ligaments, muscles and fascia well nourished and therefor strong in their holding ability. If spleen qi is not strong then some organs may become ptotic (droopy) or the the uterus or rectum may prolapse.

A picture of healthy foods

Commands blood flow
The spleen is the source of the development of qi and blood. It also serves an important role in causing the blood to circulate within it’s correct passages and not outside of them. If spleen qi is weak it loses it’s ability to command the blood. Blood can start flowing outside of the vessels leading to bleeding issues including blood in the stool, haemorrhage and uterine bleeding.

Controls muscles and the four limbs.
As we know by now the spleen provides nourishment to the muscles of the body. When the spleen is strong we can expect to see nicely rounded and full muscles which are strong and effective in their function. If the spleen becomes weak, muscle tone can suffer and we may start seeing flaccidity and muscle weakness.

Opens into the mouth, manifests in the lips.
The mouth is the upper end of the digestive tract. Strong spleen function results in a healthy appetite with a good sense of taste. If this function weakens then we may see the opposite occurring.

The lips are formed from a group of muscles. Like all other muscles they are fed by the spleen. If we see full and lustrous lips we may assume that the spleen is strong. If the lips are sallow, dry and pale then we may consider that the spleens function has been weakened.

The pivotal role the spleen has in our health.You may be able to see now just how much of an influence the spleen has on our over all health. If it becomes weak the problems arising are many and varied. We can see digestive issues such as poor appetite, diarrhoea, bloating and reflux. We can see more system issues such as fatigue, poor concentration, muscle weakness and cysts. As the spleen plays such a foundational role in the health of our other organs if our spleen remains weak for an extended period of time we may see other organs being effected and so other pathologies may arise.

I hope now that after reading this article you can see why it is that your Chinese medicine practitioner refers so much to your spleen. Look after it well and the rest of your body will thank you for it!


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