Spirit and Emotion in TCM

More often than not, first thing people associate with acupuncture is pain management or digestive issues. What is less known is that acupuncture is also very helpful when it comes to the trouble of the Spirit and imbalance of Emotions.

Chinese medicine has a beautiful, holistic and enchanting way of explaining the body, organ system and the Spirit.

According to the Chinese Medicine there are 5 Spirits that represent an aspect of awareness and consciousness. Each spirit resides in one of the Yin organs. And when there are strong emotions in our life, its related organ can be affected. Strong emotions alter the movement of Qi (energy, life force), and that in its intensity can cause a pathology. So let’s look at this in more detail.

Heart is seen as the Emperor of the body and the residence of the Mind. And so it is responsible for the circulation of blood and overall state of the emotions, as well as the well-being of spirits. Heart spirit, Shen is the most yang, most fiery one of the five.

Great Taoist sage once wrote that Heart is like a reflecting pool. When the pool is calm and still it is ‘the mirror of heaven and earth, the glass of the ten thousand things’. But when the Heart is disturbed by violent emotion, ‘it is like the wind-tossed sea’.

Anything that troubles the heart, upsets the Shen. This can be emotional drama, shock or abuse, or recreational drugs such as cocaine, nicotine or amphetamines.

When a person’s Shen is disturbed the light in the eyes may be dim, as if the person is not really present and making real contact is difficult. The person may be over talkative and have frequent inappropriate laughter or other signs of a split between the content of a person’s conversation and their emotion. They may feel that it’s hard for them to recognize what’s truly right for them; feel lack of inspiration and insight, and find it hard to concentrate.

Other signs of Shen disturbance may be insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, timidity or being easily startled, inability to distinguish true from false or real from unreal, anxiety, restlessness and hyperactivity.

Liver in Chinese Medicine is compared to a Military leader whose main task is strategic planning. Liver Spirit, Hun is therefore in charge of organizing the chaos of random possibility into meaningful patterns, giving direction to our lives.

There are two categories of Hun disturbance: the excess pattern and deficiency pattern. But it is not uncommon to have mixture of both. When Hun is disturbed there are signs of chaos and confusion and our capacity for clear thought and grounded imagining is ‘gone with the wind’. Without the Hun we cannot organize and plan our lives and put things in motion, implement bright ideas or carry through on promises we have made to ourselves and others.

When Hun is disturbed, there might be a feeling that whichever way we turn, we run into a brick wall, which may result in feelings of guilt and that nothing works out right.

People with Hun disturbance can often find themselves to be easily irritable, with repressed anger and blame. They may find themselves to be in a state of righteous indignation, obsession with injustice, unable to take responsibility for their own life. Some other signs may be erratic or repressed emotions, vague anxieties, lack of colour and clear vision in life and starting projects but moving on before they are finished.

According to Chinese Medicine, Spleens main function is to assist the Stomach digestion by transporting and transforming food essence, absorbing the nourishment from food and separating the usable from the unusable part of food. The Spleen is the central organ in the production of Qi.

Simply put, the quality of your Qi and Blood depends on the quality of the foods you eat.

The spirit that resides in the Spleen is called Yi. When Yi is fulfilling its function we fully commit ourselves to manifesting our destiny and bringing the light of our spirit into the world around us. Yi supports our capacity for thought, intention, purpose and clarity of thought.

When Yi is disturbed  there might be feelings of oppression and anguish that do not resolve, restlessness, obsessive and repetitive thought patterns, worry, muddled thinking, inability to make logical connections between ideas, over nurturing of others to avoid your own responsibilities and growth, continually generating new ideas but not taking action on any of them.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Lungs in Chinese Medicine are seen as Prime Minister in charge of regulation, governing Qi and respiration. Lungs are the resting place for the Po, which is seen as the most physical and material part of the human soul. It is said to be the somatic manifestation of the soul.

Po gets easily disturbed by worry, sadness and grief and this ‘knots’ Qi. There might be a feeling that something isn’t right, but unable to pinpoint the reason. There might be physical pain that takes over the entire life, yet seems to have no identifiable cause.

Person with Po disturbance may feel extreme sensitivity to outer influences of a psychic level; for example, being affected by other people’s negativity without awareness which may create somatic disturbances such as headaches, asthma and digestive upsets and can cause stress related skin problems.

Kidneys are often referred to as the ‘Root of life’. According to Chinese medicine, Kidneys store the Essence of life, govern birth, growth, reproduction and development.

The spirit that resides in Kidneys is called Zhi. When Zhi is disturbed, people continually push themselves to the point of total exhaustion or have no initiative at all. They use chemical stimulants, emotional excitement, ambition and desire to whip themselves forward which might result with insomnia, anxiety, chronic fatigue and back pain, fear, depression, inability to stay steady in pursuit of goals, lack of drive, motivation or over controlling nature.

Person with Zhi imbalance might feel inability to face fears which interfere with expression of their true self, identification with God using will to try to control others and situations around them. They might experience nervous breakdowns, which may be the result of extreme stress or long term repression of instinctual impulses.

If my brief overview of Spirit disturbance according to Chinese Medicine has aroused your curiosity to find out more, I recommend Lorie Eve Dechars book ‘Five Spirits’, where she so beautifully paints the picture of all the spirits through Chinese legends, beliefs and interesting case studies. This book is easy to read without having in-depth knowledge of Chinese Medicine.



Pick-me-ups and Put-me-downs

There is this two sided coin – can’t fall asleep can’t stay awake… We hear a lot of it, don’t we!
So here it is, few tips to help you along in both counts.

But remember, these suggestions here are just a quick fix, a Band-Aid. It is very important that you find out the true root cause for your sleeplessness or regular mid-day tiredness.


The reason you might regularly have the mid-day slump is lack of proper sleep during night time or perhaps you had a heavy meal for lunch. What can be considered ‘heavy meal’ is different to everybody and their individual constitution. So perhaps pay attention to what you eat and how do you feel afterwards.

Cooked and warm foods are less energy consuming to digest than raw and cold foods such as fresh salads and yogurts. Maybe have more fish introduced to your diet rather than red meats. And maybe try to leave out bread or aim for gluten free bread even if you know you don’t suffer from gluten intolerance.

Now that the spring is in full force, the weather is more favorable to go out for a short stroll just to get the circulation going and to clear your head. But if deadlines don’t allow you these little luxuries in Regent Park, there are few things that you can try to boost your energy.

First thing I suggest is Ginger. Cut 2 – 3 medallions of fresh ginger root and pour on hot water. Cup of that brew will get you hopping in no time. Ginger tea contains a host of antioxidants and nutrients to give you that needed afternoon boost.

Bananas, rich in potassium and energizing B vitamins, bananas also help keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Pineapple is a good fruit to keep you going. It’s high in the amino acid tryptophan, which boosts levels of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin in your brain; plus manganese, essential for energy production, and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, and vitamin C.

Dark chocolate which has at least 70% cocoa will be rich in iron and magnesium which are highly-effective energizers.

Slow energy release foods such as raw nuts and seeds are good source of healthy fats and protein to balance blood sugar levels.

And where would we be if we didn’t mention Coffee. Assuming that by that afternoon low this will not be your third cup, coffee is a great stimulant. It’s known to improve memory, energy levels, mood, reaction times and general cognitive function.

Always keep hydrated! Water is your body’s most essential fuel. It keeps all of your body’s cells working at optimum levels. To avoid mid-morning fatigue, start your morning with a glass of water. Or better yet – juice from half of fresh lemon in the glass of water and half of teaspoon of soda. Let it fizz and drink first thing on empty stomach in the morning. This will leave you feeling fresh and ready to roll. And throughout the day, aim for about 2 liters of water per day.


It goes without saying that there should be no eating at least an hour before your bedtime. And no TV or last minute work on your laptop. If your body is still struggling to digest or if your mind is still racing over the drama in your favourite soap or that odd shortfall of your company’s quarterly income, then no matter how many sheep you’ll try to count, sleep will be hard to come.

But if despite all the precautions taken you still can’t sleep, then I recommend some of the tried and tested methods below:

Lavender is well known calming remedy. Few drops of Lavender essence on your pillow might be just the thing you need.

Camomile tea – mild and calming herb, known from far back in history as a solution for insomnia. With its anti-inflammatory properties it promotes healthy skin and is soothing for upset stomachs as well.

Valerian tea – is most effective natural herb for counteracting insomnia and anxiety. Stronger and faster in action than Camomile, it can cause drowsiness in more sensitive individuals.

Hops – as a tea or a tincture before bedtime has a sedative effect. It’s beneficial in relieving anxiety and inducing sleep and relaxation.

Acupressure – massaging your third eye with small circular movements can help your mind drift off the mundane and is known to work fast wonders with fussy babies.

You would also benefit from finding out if perhaps you are Magnesium deficient. It is known to be the ‘relaxation mineral’ and antidote to stress. Foods rich in magnesium are Pumpkin and Sesame seeds, Spinach, Quinoa, Soya and Black beans and Sea vegetables such as Kelp and Alaria.

And if you have time, just before bedtime, have a hot shower or a bath with Epsom salts. Water treatments are very calming as you surely remember from your last beach holiday.

And last, but not least, try guided meditation if you have trouble with busy mind. There are hundreds of versions to choose from on Youtube. Find the one you like, put on headphones, follow the guidance to concentrate your mind on one direction and let yourself drift off. Works on me like a charm!

When it comes to bad habits and addictions, such as chocolate, pastry, coffee or crisps and other processed, sugary or greasy foods, I believe, and I also speak from personal experience, changing them or giving them up is only difficult during the first week. Withdrawal symptoms can be annoying but if you keep your eye on the prize, and let your body detox, you will feel like a fresh new person soon enough.