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Lungs be on Guard!

by Dr. (Shihan) Mary Bolz
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Licensed Acupuncturist
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor, 5th and 6th Degree Black Belt in Karate & Kobudou

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a universal and world view of the human body and of all other bodies and beings. It looks at the setup of the operations of nature and its cycles. By understanding the way the patterns occur in nature, it can understand the principles of harmony that keep the earth, the beings, the plants, and every phenomena in balance. By understanding the way, the cycles, the principles of nature; then when something or someone is out of balance, it can discover what has broken the natural cycle to cause this imbalance. Thus, when humans are sick, we first must understand which part is unbalanced and what is the cause of the unbalance. It is this simple. But what is simple is easily made complicated by human beings. If we respect nature and understand our position in it, we will know that we are quite ignorant and are quite small in the scheme of the universe and its natural laws. If we realize this fact, then we can more easily study and understand nature and realize how we must cooperate with nature. We do not control things in this universe, we are a part of this large web with a design in place that no humans could have ever made. Because the ancestors who developed and practiced Chinese medicine knew this, they developed an extremely scientific, well-designed and intricate medicine for bringing that which is out of balance in humans and animals back to normalcy, i.e. healing method. 

While I cannot give a course on Traditional Chinese Medicine here, one of the basic principles is that spirals and cycles are a constant setup of the universe; movement and change are the only constant. Nothing is solid, nothing is stagnant, but everything is constantly moving because the universe is made up of energy which has a cyclic pattern. We all see some form of patterns. Winter changes to spring which changes to summer which changes to fall which changes to winter and the cycle goes on and is constant. 

Having an understanding of the many types of phenomena and cycles shows that our own bodies and specifically our own internal organs have a certain affinity and relationship with the seasons. The five phases in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.  Earth is in the center and is neutral. These phases correspond to the seasons. While each phase is intertwined with the other, each has a special affinity for the seasons. Wood is related to spring and is associated with birth. Trees and plants come out in the spring. Fire is related to summer and corresponds to growth; fire is hot, the sun feels hotter and brighter in summer and makes things grow. Metal corresponds to autumn and is associated with harvest; metal cuts wood and plants. Water corresponds to winter and is associated with storage. Earth corresponds to each time between the seasons and is associated with transformation.  

Many relationships like this are seen in nature and another is how the human internal organs are related to the seasons. All the organs are related to all the seasons, but each of the organs have a special affinity with, and at the same time sensitivity, to each of the seasons. For example, the kidneys correspond to winter; the liver corresponds to spring; the heart corresponds to fire; the lungs correspond to fall. 

Because the lungs have this affinity with yet sensitivity to autumn, they are easily attacked by the weather or other outside influences during the fall. For this reason, we must be especially careful to take care of them. If we take care of our bodies in general with good food and exercise and rest; the lungs will be able to remain strong. At the same time, however, we must realize the power of the seasonal change and weather and take steps to take care of the lungs in fall. For example, the lungs hate cold. This means you should cover up well when the weather starts turning cold, cover the front and back of the neck, the passageway for cold air to enter the lungs. Be careful of strong wind, the passageway for cold air and pathogens to enter the nose and skin. The sensory organs connected to the lungs are the nose and the skin; cold and pathogens enter both ways. The lungs are the intermediary organ between the organism and the environment as they are in charge of inhaling air. 

The main functions of the lungs according to TCM are

  1. governing “qi” and respiration
  2. control channels and blood vessels; essential to aid the heart to circulate blood.
  3. control dispersing and descending; the lungs have the function of dispersing or spreading Qi and body fluids all over the body to the space between skin and muscles.
  4. descending function; The lungs are the uppermost organ in the body, Chinese medical texts often referred to them as the “lid” or “imperial carriage roof.” Because they are the uppermost organ in the body, their Qi must descend.
  5. regulate water passages; after receiving fluids from the body, the lungs reduce them to a fine mist and directs fluids down to the kidneys and bladder.
  6. control skin and hair. If the lung function of dispersing fluids is normal, the skin will have luster and the hair will be glossy.
  7. open into the nose. The nose is the opening of the lungs, and through it respiration occurs.
  8. the lungs govern the voice. When the lungs are weak, the voice is low; when the lungs are strong, the voice is clear with a ringing sound.

Physical symptoms of the lungs being imbalanced can range from laryngitis, to nasal congestion, to bronchitis, asthma, throat infections, circulation problems, even COPD and weak immune system, etc.

Besides covering up well in the fall, you can aid your lungs by including some of the following foods in your diet: azuki beans, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, cooked apples, cooked pears (NOT raw), leeks, lotus root, mustard greens, oatmeal, onions, peaches, sweet brown rice (mochigome) tangerines, mandarin oranges, and walnuts.

Some spices to include in your cooking are anise, basil, caraway seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, dill, ginger, black pepper. Remember spices are to be used sparingly. Very small amounts are a medicine; large amounts are a poison. Avoid alcohol, beef, cigarettes, coffee, dairy products, fried foods, greasy foods, overeating, raw pears, pork and sugar. 

Did you notice that cinnamon and cooked apples are both good for the lungs? What does that remind you of? A good apple pie for Thanksgiving? Use organic apples and cinnamon with a pinch of sea salt. Make your own crust with organic whole wheat, almond, or brown rice flour. Don’t use any sugar. Good apples need no sugar. Don’t use butter or margarine in a crust. You can use only the flour of your choice, sea salt and water. If oil is desired, used a bit of toasted sesame oil in the crust. Mmmmmmm. Good! Also good and warming for the lungs. Maybe our Western ancestors also intuitively realized that apple pie with cinnamon in the fall (apples are in season, cinnamon is warming) was just what our lungs wanted!

Anatomy of the Thymus Gland - AdultPractice deep breathing and exercise enough but not to severe exhaustion. Wake up your immune system by tapping the area above your thymus gland which supports and improves the immune system and its response to foreign invaders. Use it when you feel overwhelmed, run down or possibly like you are catching a cold. You can also use it to “wake up,” and improve overall strength and vitality. The thymus gland is located in the upper part of the chest, directly under the breastbone.

Stay healthy and make a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have so much to truly be thankful for. 

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