Posted by: Scott Stewart, MSAc., LAc., Dipl.Ac.
You’ve probably heard me mention the Spleen before, either as being deficient, dysfunctional, or not functioning at 100%. It often sounds like I'm speaking another language, but remember, in TCM the descriptions we give are always metaphorical and don’t always transliterate into Western medicine.
As I always stress, the Spleen is very important because it helps transform food and drink from our diet into usable nutrients, which are converted into Qi and blood. The Qi is then transported to other parts of the body where it is used by different organ systems. If the SP is healthy and performing it's duties, you’ll have a good appetite, good digestion, and regular bowel movements.
During this process of transportation, if the SP is healthy, the usable nutrients are separated from the non-usable ones. The “pure” nutrients ascend up to the Lungs & Heart as clear Yang Qi, and are distributed to the rest of the body. The “impure” nutrients descend down to the colon as turbid Yin to be eliminated. This raising up of Qi also refers to the stabilizing force that holds organs in place and prevents them from prolapse.
Spleen controls the flow of blood via SP Qi. The SP Qi prevents the blood from going outside the vessels. When the SP Qi is deficient and unable to command the blood, you can see such signs as: bruising, blood in the stool / urine, uterine bleeding, etc.
The muscles and extremities are controlled by the SP by way of the process of transformation and transportation, because the muscles and the sinews need blood and nutrients for nourishment, if they don’t get this they can become weak and flaccid, or even atrophied.
The mouth is related to both the Spleen and the Stomach, because this is where food & drink are first received. If the SP is not functioning properly your appetite will not be normal and you won’t be able to taste all 5 flavors. If the SP is deficient and dampness accumulates, then there will be a sweet taste in the mouth. Dry mouth and hunger can also occur if the SP Yin is deficient.
The color and luster of the lips can reflect the harmonious state of the SP as it manifests on the lips. If there is an abundance of Qi and blood then the lips will be red, moist and lustrous. If there is a disharmony in the SP then the lips will be pale and dry.
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