Wherever the heart may lead, might you have the courage to follow?
How Traditional Chinese Medicine views the “Heart”
From a western point of view, we usually think of the human heart as an organ that pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory system supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide and other wastes. When we think of heart disease, we look for something wrong with the organ or its ability to do its function properly. However, we also refer to the heart in a very emotional way usually connected with love, heartbreak, loss, etc. We will say things like “I have a broken heart” or “my heart is full of love”. When someone describes a panic attack, they will often cover their hands over their heart, gesturing the feeling.
Step into the eloquent language of Chinese Medicine. In Chinese Medicine the heart has its physical function (considered to control the blood) and its emotional function (described as “housing the mind”). Some Chinese Medicine texts will also refer to this phenomenon as “Shen” (which is the spiritual integration of all the emotions and psyche of a person). For example, almost all insomnia patterns are related to a heart pattern of dysfunction in some way. If you feel stressed and anxious, how often is your sleep disturbed in some way from vivid dreams to waking up at night?
In Chinese Medicine, the physical and emotional (mind) aspects of the heart are not considered as separate – but more clearly, part of a complete puzzle that fits together to describe a certain pattern of disease or a subtle disharmony. Differentiation into these patterns and exactly how to treat the pattern through acupuncture point prescriptions, herbs, nutrition and lifestyle is what gives Chinese Medicine its unique edge.
For example, if someone is suffering from palpitations made worse with fright and fear, indecisiveness (or struggling to make decisions), easily losing their courage or waking in the night frightened – this person, in Zang Fu pattern differentiation, is suffering from Heart and Gallbladder Qi (or vital energy) Deficiency. The principle of treatment would be to settle the fright and the person’s will, nourish the heart, and quiet the spirit. The Oriental Medicine practitioner would then choose acupuncture points, herbs, nutrition and some lifestyle changes to address this specific pattern.
A Sample Treatment
To give one an idea about treatment (this is just an example and is not a prescription!)
- Some points that might be used: Heart 7, Pericardium 7, Gallbladder 40.
- A formula that might be prescribed: An Shen Ding Zhi Wan
- Nutrition that might be recommended: electrolytes, lean proteins, and steamed greens.
- Exercise that may be beneficial- slow moving exercises like Pilates, yoga, and Qi gong.
- Lifestyle issue – it may be helpful to make a decision or take a break from making too many decisions.
Taking care of your heart on a daily basis.
Based on the metabolism of the heart muscle, a diet that includes these main nutrients: Magnesium, Electrolytes, CoQ10, D-Ribose, L-Carnitine and Essential Fatty Acids are beneficial for the heart.
Stress and Emotions:
Is there anything bothering your sleep, concentration or ability to make decisions? How are your daily and long term relationships? Building in self care and taking the steps to address these issues can have long term health benefits for your heart. The human mind is very efficient sometimes in logging things that can or could potentially hurt us or upset us. Those memories are stored and whenever something ‘feels’ the same, we very often will have a similar physical response. For example, something that may have caused us anxiety and palpitations in the past or as a child, whenever something ‘feels’ the same, we suddenly feel anxious – sometimes without knowing why. Acupuncture works by accessing these feelings (and consequently the cascade of response by the endocrine, hormones etc. that are released into the body) and ‘calms the mind’ so to speak, so that the anxiety is relieved. A course of treatment along with understanding what the trigger is, can help a person heal so that the ‘trigger’ no longer creates the anxious response.
Do you have a diagnosed Heart Disease?
If you have a diagnosed heart condition or disease, take medication, have had surgeries or implanted mechanical devices and wonder if Oriental Medicine can help you – it can. The strength of Oriental Medicine treatment can help you to improved the quality of your daily life. It can increase your sense of well-being and support your overall general health. Integrative Oriental Medicine works well alongside medications, surgeries and mechanical devices. These conditions include (but are not limited to) high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, pacemakers and ICD’s, palpitations, arrhythmias, bypass surgery and congenital heart conditions, to name a few.
- Dr. Xie Zhu-Fan “Lectures on Traditional Chinese Medicine” 1981-1982
- John Vogel, Mitchell Kucoff “Integrative Cardiology, Complementary and Alternative Medicine for the Heart” 2007
- Peter Lambrou, Ph.D. & George Pratt, Ph.D. “Acupressure for the Emotions, Instant Emotional Healing” 2000
You’re not stuck with the health you have!
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Tansy Briggs, DOM, L.OM
Integrative Oriental Medicine Practitioner
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The views and nutritional/herbal advice expressed by Tansy Briggs, DOM, L.OM is not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. Purchasing a product, program or wellness coaching does not establish a practitioner patient relationship with Tansy Briggs, DOM, L.OM. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider. We suggest that you continue to work with qualified medical professionals as you engage in our material, products and services. No information offered here should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition. Information and statements regarding products and/or services made available by Tansy Briggs, DOM, L.OM have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Tansy Briggs, DOM. L.OM or Integrative Health Link products and services are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.