Archive for tag: spleen

Yoga for the Meridians

Midterms, clinic exams, and one final down! To my great surprise, I passed all of my senior clinic exams and I believe I passed my acupuncture board review final (though I have a long way to go to prepare to take those boards)!

Now to prepare for finals...

Since finishing my board review final exam on Friday night, I've been able to resume my yoga practice, which got the boot during these last few tightly scheduled weeks of exams. I know that I shouldn't be disregarding yoga during the times when I need it most and that I should try to practice for at least a minutes a day, but as I wrote last week, my Spleen Qi was feeling especially deficient and I was often too exhausted.

While I was practicing yoga at home on Saturday and feeling my reduced flexibility from lack of practice, I was able to more readily feel the tension in specific muscles, which led me to think about their correspondence to the points and meridians in Chinese medicine. I started to notice how each of my movements affected the channels. This consciousness led me to transform my practice that day into one of movements that might alleviate stagnation in my Liver and Gallbladder meridians or that stimulated my Spleen channel.  

For example, the Gallbladder channel runs from the temples through the side of the head, neck and torso, down the sides of the legs and lateral side of the foot to the 4th toe. I noticed that this channel was extremely tight and while stretching it during side-angle pose or triangle pose it felt like I was opening up the area around the Gallbladder channel in my neck and around my eyes! I realized the poses that I had more difficulty with either involved areas where I have stagnation (Liver and Gallbladder channel) or Qi or blood deficiency (Spleen and Liver).

I'm excited to have found another way to associate TCM into my daily life. It will make me more aware during my yoga practice and help me to focus on the parts of my body that need it the most!

Along with neglecting my yoga practice, I had also been neglecting my garden plot at Madison Meadows' Community Garden. With all the heat and rain we got last week, I found on my visit yesterday that all the plants had exploded with a bounty of produce and flowers (and weeds)! Everything had grown a few feet in just a week. It really amazes me how well things grow here in the summer! Squash anyone? 

Students and Spleen Qi Deficiency

I just finished 12 exams in 9 days -- 6 midterms and 6 clinic exams and I have a final this week for the review class for the acupuncture and foundations boards. My Spleen is beat! In a past blog, I've written about how the stress of exams can cause Liver Qi Stagnation in students -- feelings of frustration, moodiness, irritability, chest stuffiness, and other symptoms that occur when the qi stops moving freely. And in last week's blog I wrote about how the Spleen plays a big role in allergies and sinus problems. Since I'm feeling a little Spleen Qi deficient, I thought I'd elaborate on Spleen Qi and how it's well being is a cornerstone to our academic success.


In Chinese medicine, the Spleen, along with its paired organ, the Stomach, is responsible for the transformation and transportation of food and drink in the body. The Spleen transforms the food it receives from the Stomach and transports the qi and essence created from it to various organs within the body for further qi and blood creation. Other responsibilities of the Spleen include governing the blood -- keeping it circulating within the vessels, ruling the muscles and four limbs -- muscle tone and strength are reflected in the Spleen, raising the qi and keeping organs in their place (preventing prolapse) and finally ruling thought -- the one that influences our capacity for concentration, memorization, thinking and studying.


As I mentioned last week, if a person worries excessively, focuses too intensely, or exhausts themselves mentally and physically, the Spleen takes the hit. These insults, along with others like eating a poor diet, eating too quickly, eating while reading or stimulating the mind with TV or other electronic stimuli, and multi-tasking all harm the Spleen. When this happens over a long period of time, one will start to feel tired and lethargic, their digestion may become compromised, and their focus and concentration will suffer.

I've noticed my energy level has decreased over the past couple of weeks. My memory isn't as clear and my concentration is suffering. I've been trying to eat healthily and mindfully to help my Spleen process and assimilate my food, but I still feel taxed, most likely from all the stress and worrying about how to fit study time into my schedule. Worry and pensiveness are the emotions of the Spleen, and in excess they are also what makes the Spleen vulnerable.

Last week, my ND intern suggested that I practice a guided relaxation meditation (in addition to my weekly constitutional hydrotherapy), which I've been trying to do before bed. While lying there and relaxing, I've realized that I haven't taken a minute for rest and inactivity in I don't even know how long. Not good! So now I'm trying to get in some moments of non-doing to see if that will help my Spleen and me get through the rest of the trimester. (I'm also getting acupuncture and Chinese herbs for additional brain support!). Hold on Spleen, only 4 more weeks left!

2016-07-18_cloud1     2016-07-18_cloud2

I've really been enjoying the amazing clouds that have been forming in the evening skies. One of my favorite things about the Midwest is the storms and the amazingly beautiful and striking skies that they produce! Here's some shots I took around campus after a storm passed last week.


Allergies and Chinese Medicine

For the past month or so, I've been seeing quite a few patients in clinic, primarily students, who have complaints of sinus issues due to allergies. Many say that they're reacting to seasonal pollens or to molds and are experiencing symptoms such as itchy eyes, sinus pressure, stuffy or runny nose, headache, post-nasal drip and sneezing. I've been keeping track of the air quality this season and have noticed that level of pollens and air particulates have been pretty high this summer season, which could be causing or exacerbating their symptoms.


In Chinese medicine, allergies fall within a few different patterns of disharmony. The one consistent factor in all cases on allergies is the external pathogen wind. Characteristic of wind, it comes on suddenly without warning. In the case of allergies, wind combines with other external pathogens - damp, cold, heat or dryness. In the case of summer/seasonal allergies like hayfever, it would most commonly be due to damp, which is what creates the feeling of heaviness of the head or there is mucus or stuffiness involved.

Usually with allergies, there is also some underlying deficiency that is allowing this "excess" of wind and damp or other external pathogen to affect the body. In Chinese medicine, the Lung is responsible for our respiratory tract, as well as our defensive qi, which fights off external pathogens. It opens to the nose, which is usually the sense organ most affected by allergies. If it is deficient due to constitution, smoking, or long-term grief and sadness, it's necessary to address that first.

The Spleen also plays a role in allergies; when it's deficient and the digestive functioning is compromised, fluids aren't properly transported, which leads to damp and an overproduction of mucus, which will then affect the Lung's functioning.


A compromised spleen may make students more susceptible to allergies, especially during exams. The Spleen gets taxed by "pensiveness". Traditionally this would be worry and overthinking, two things that students do a lot of. But in modern day, this includes the excessive mental activity of studying. Eating in a hurry and reaching for sweets for an afternoon or late night pick-me-up make matters worse. One of my teachers once told me that AOM students will usually start suffering from Spleen Qi deficiency within 6 months of starting school.

An underlying deficiency, especially in the Spleen makes it all the more important for one to have a diet that doesn't contribute to the dampness, especially in the summer when the humidity is high and external dampness is at its peak. This means avoiding dampening foods like dairy products (say no to ice cream in the summer!), cold foods (iced tea and iced water), fried foods, sugars, and overconsumption of raw fruits and veggies. Although it might sound counterintuitive to drink warm drinks in the summer like herbal teas, they can actually be beneficial, since they don't tax the spleen and the warmth helps to dry the dampness.

Chinese herbal formulas are very effective at treating both acute and chronic allergies. In Hawaii, the volcano has been producing a lot of volcanic emissions (vog) in the past few years, causing many people to suffer from allergies and asthma. One of the most effective products I've seen to alleviate sufferers is a product called 'Vog Buster'. It's a tea made by acupuncturists in Maui who modified a Chinese herbal formula that helps with wind-invasion symptoms. I believe they also make a 'Smog Buster' for southern Californians who suffer from respiratory distress due to poor air quality. I personally have made up formulas for allergy and sinusitus patients using the same herbs used in those products.


Acupuncture is also effective for treating acute symptoms, as well as helping to tonify underlying deficiencies and alleviate chronic allergies. Local points around the nose and on the forehead can help to alleviate congestion, sinus pressure, headache and itchy eyes. Other points on the Lung channel can help with the respiratory tract to clear the nose and stop wheezing, while working to tonify the Lung and build up the body's resistant to that pesky wind!