Wood Element, Yin and Yang Organs

March 18th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Most everyone in Minnesota is floating on cloud nine about the early spring we are having. It is seriously beautiful, 50 some degrees, bulbs poking through the soil, buds on the trees and so on. Personally, I am still hoping for a monster snow storm, since I loooove snow and we had only one blizzard this winter – and it was in December! How unsatisfying…

We have late springs, so why not have an early spring? I guess I gotta accept it is here. I’ve already talked about Wood, the Chinese element of spring, in an emotional, symbolic and philosophical perspective in the past. The funny thing is I published that entry on May 19th, and now it is March 16th. Did I say spring was early?!

The Liver and Gallbladder represent the element of Wood in the body (these nouns are capitalized to remind us of their symbolic, not literal, meanings). Here is a brief list of qualities associated with these organs. See if you can recognize the thread of Wood qualities like growth, healthy ego and self-esteem, the creative spark among them.

The Liver, a Yin organ:

  • Rules smooth flow – “The Liver is exquisitely sensitive to boundaries and demarcations and maintains the smoothness and harmony of movement throughout the body” (Kaptchuk, 81).
  • Stores the Blood -  Menstrual cycles can be influenced by the liver.
  • Controls the tendons, ligaments and nails – A healthful circulation of blood ensures that the connective tissue and skeletal muscles remain supple without excessive spams or tightness.
  • Opens to the eyes.
  • Absorbs what can’t be digested - Blood flows through and is filtered through the liver, so everything excess in the blood could be absorbed by the liver through the detoxification process.

The Gallbladder, a Yang organ

  • Makes and stores bile – Bile is the body’s natural lubricant of the bowels; in this way the Gallbladder may affect digestion.

The Yin organs store fluids or energy, and their function is to transform and regulate the activity of that particular organ. Chinese medicine puts more emphasis on the Yin organs than the Yang organs. The Yin organs are often deeper in the body while the Yang organs are closer to the bodies surface.

On the other hand, Yang organs are more active in getting our body the energy it needs to be active in the world. They tend to act to break down and absorb food, and transport and excrete wastes.

Organ pairs, and associated season:

  • Liver and Gallbladder – Spring – Wood
  • Heart and Small Intestine – Summer – Fire
  • Spleen and Stomach – Late summer – Earth
  • Lungs and Large Intestine – Fall – Metal
  • Kidney and Bladder – Winter – Water

Kidney Yang Tonics – Warm the Source

February 2nd, 2008 § 3 comments § permalink

Remember that the Kidneys are the root of both Yin and Yang, even though in and of themselves the Kidneys are considered Yin. Michael Tierra says that Kidney Yang is the “pilot light for our energy system”. When deficient, the warming ability of the Kidneys decreases and can manifest in one or more of the following patterns:

  • Cold, sore, weak low back
  • Copius clear or pale urine, incontinence, nighttime urination, weak or dripping urine stream
  • Coldness, cold limbs, avoiding cold and wanting warm
  • Weak legs, leg edema
  • Poor appetite, loose stools
  • Sexual dysfunction, infertility, premature ejaculation, nocturnal emission
  • Chronic vaginal discharge, leukorrhea, spermatorrhea

As you can see, some of these Kidney Yang deficiency patterns overlap with other Kidney deficiency patterns, although the bolded symptoms are the most tell-tale of Kidney Yang. We should also keep in mind that a person may very well have Kidney Yang deficiency and another pattern of excess, and maybe more deficiency patterns, as our bodymind is connected on so many levels. For example, the Kidneys receive from the Spleen and give to the Heart and Pericardium, so if the Spleen is out of balance that may be the underlying reason for Kidney deficiency. It is also a good practice to add a bit of yin tonic (like lycii) to balance a yang tonic.

A few Yang tonics:

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a warm, bitter and aromatic seed has a multitude of culinary and medicinal applications. As a Yang tonic, it is used for coldness, sore lower back, pain in the torso and extremities, morning sickness and indigestion. Make into a gruel with milk or tea to nourish the body and stimulate the appetite during or after debilitating diseases and sicknesses, including infant diarrhea. Lesley Tierra suggests sprouting and eating the seeds to aid digestion.

  • Fenugreek gruel: 1 1/2 tablespoon fenugreek ground coarsly simmered low in 1 cup milk or water, for a 5 minuets or until it thickens. Add herbs to flavor or thicken, cinnamon, fennel, slippery elm, marshmallow, ect. Turn off heat, let sit to cool, covered. Three times daily.

Damiana‘s (Turnera aphrodisiacea) spicy leaves combined with cinnamon, dried ginger and lemon peel are one of my favorite ways to warm up and tonify yang in the winter. The herbalist/acupuncturist at the Medicine Tree in St. Croix Falls formulated this “Libido Lifter/Kidney Tonic”, one of the most popular tea blends. Damiana is attuned to the Kidneys as it is a well-known aphrodisiac (just check the botanical name) that also treats impotence. The Tierras use it for irritable coughs, which I have yet to try, but I don’t doubt its soothing expectorant abilities, as I have felt how calming damiana can be to the nerves.

Blend and drink as needed. I like it strong; 2 tablespoons to a pint of boiling water, steeped an hour.

  • 2 parts Damiana
  • 1/2 part each cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel ground coarsely
  • 1 part Spearmint

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) tastes bitter, with an underlying sweetness and a slight warming to the body. Its has yang tonic, aphrodisiac, sedative, astringent and adaptogenic properties. Some yang tonic can be too stimulating (think deer antler, yohimbe), but ashwaganda apparently does not overstimulate and in fact is used for improving sleep and clearing the mind when stressed or overworked. I have witnessed a complete turn around for a friend with lower back pain, creaky knees, low libido and a general state of low energy by mixing a teaspoon of the powder in heated raw milk daily. Personally, I have used ashwaganda tincture in adrenal formulas, which I always seems to need in spring. Perhaps I should be taking some right now for to tonify my Kidney Yang so to prevent adrenal exhaustion.

  • Delicious dosage to nourish yang: Mix 1/2 teaspoon powder with warm milk (can be rice, almond, soy, or ghee), take twice a day.

Other notable herbs:

Teasel Root (Dipsacus sylvestris)

Saw Palmetto (Sabal serrulata)

Celery Seeds (Apium graveolens)

False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium luteum)

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