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The Role of the Heart (Xin)

…  in Traditional Chinese Medicine

The role of the heart, known in traditional Chinese physiology as the ruler of the other organs, has exceptional importance. Its function in traditional Chinese medicine parallels its Western anatomic function of pumping blood throughout the body to maintain life, but in the Eastern tradition it is also intimately involved with mental and emotional processes.
Considered the residence of the mind and spirit, the heart is the organ most often involved in psychological imbalances. Properly nourished and balanced, the heart maintains our innate wisdom, contentment, and emotional balance.

The Traditional Functions of the Heart

The heart controls the blood and blood vessels. When the heart is healthy, it pumps blood normally through the vessels to all parts of the body, nourishing the organs and maintaining vitality. A deficiency in this function can appear as pale complexion, cold hands and feet, palpitations, insomnia, and emotional disturbances.
The heart manifests on the face. When the heart is strong and possesses sufficient blood, the complexion is rosy, and the individual looks robust and healthy. When the heart blood is deficient, the person may look pale and unhealthy.
The heart houses the shen (spirit) and mind. This function encompasses the full range of human consciousness, including emotional health, mental function, memory, and spirituality. When the yin of the heart is deficient, a person can experience symptoms such as palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.
When the heart blood is deficient, poor memory, depression, and a tendency to be “spaced out” or “in the clouds” can result.
TCM holds that “the heart controls speech.” Be sure to speak sweetly to your loved ones!