February is American heart month. From a Western medical perspective this means keeping our blood pressure under control and cholesterol low with the help of diet, exercise, and in some cases, medication. These are important since heart disease is very common in America. But what about the heart in Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine also acknowledges the importance of the physical heart. It is in charge of the blood and blood vessels and circulation to the entire body. The heart plays a major role in nourishing the organs and maintaining vitality. It is considered the emperor of the body. Hence, if it ceases to function, all other systems will fail.
This is not all the heart does in Chinese medicine. There are also mental, emotional, and spiritual components that are greatly ignored in Western Medicine. In February, we celebrate this aspect of our heart by celebrating Valentine’s Day. The heart is said to house the spirit, or shen. When it is weak or unhealthy it can not provide a proper home for theshen and may result in mental agitation, palpitations, insomnia, or anxiety.
The spirit is said to manifest in the face and illuminate the eyes. A person with a healthy heart should have rosy cheeks and eyes that are clear and bright with a hint of joy. The heart is rooted in the tongue, allowing us clear, concise speech. A nourished heart will allow joy to flow from us and truth to be spoken.
So this February make sure to have your physical heart checked out but not neglect your spirit. When functioning properly, it can bring joy to your life and those around you.