We have discussed the the fivefold concept of the Five Elements and that each element is associated with particular colours, seasons, senses, emotions, personality types and body organs.
The main organ correspondences of Metal are the Lungs and Large Intestine. This is considered to be a Yin-Yang pairing, as is common for the other elements. Also associated with metal are the Nose and Skin.
The TCM Role of The Lungs
At a simple level, the Lungs take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. They take in the new and let go of the old, in a TCM analogy. So the Lungs, and their associated tissues (nose, skin,) form a boundary between the external and internal. Across this vital boundary respiratory materials can be exchanged – all our energy derives from respiration which requires oxygen – and the Lungs are responsible for our physical vitality.
However, TCM not only considers the “boundary” as an important role of the lungs but also adds “breath” and “renewal” as important functions. “Breath-work” is now used quite commonly in many healing contexts.
The Physically Defensive Role
Most pathogens enter our body through the respiratory and digestive systems, so the Lung and Large Intestine are related to immunity and the strength of the “protective boundary.” The skin also breathes and exchanges substance with the outer environment and thus the skin is seen as an aspect of Lung function.
According to Chinese medicine, the body’s defensive energy is directly dependant on the strength of the Lungs and Large Intestine.
The Non-Physical Realm Of The Lungs
The physical concept of the Lungs as a boundary is extended in a psychological sense as a “personal boundary.” We receive experience through boundary and communicate outwards through it. When the boundary is strong, flexible and responsive we have a good sense of personal identity are open to ‘good’ influences and closed to ‘bad’ – in other words we are able to say “no” when necessary.
The Well-Nourished Lung
A well nourished Lung system manifests in the physical and psychological
- physical vitality
- clear voice
- relaxed chest muscles
- strong immunity
- good complexion
- deep breaths
- fresh breath
- upright posture
- positive sense of self-worth
When The Lung System Is Weak
- poor immunity and vitality
- shallow breathing
- respiratory problems
- dull skin
- excessive sweating
- emotional constraint
- difficulty letting go of people, places, things, grief
- low self esteem
- lack of respect for own and others boundaries
How To Nourish The Lung System
The best way to benefit the Lungs is through breath-work or exercise that develop the breathing system eg swimming.
Movements to expand and relax the chest and shoulder muscles and the muscles around the rib cage also help. Voice work such as singing or practicing voice projection also develop the Lungs. Some of us find this very difficult (I hate singing in the presence of others) and this may reflect an issue within the Lung system as it reflects our inhibitions.
Dry brushing the skin and wearing natural fibres (or loose fitting clothes sometimes) and appropriate exposure to the sun benefits skin health.
Foods that nourish the Lung system include:
- low fat proteins – white meat, beans, tofu
- organic veg, sprouted seeds
- dairy if it is not mucus forming for you – otherwise goat/sheep product
- Sweet potato
- Black pepper
- Soy Beans
- Mustard Greens
Avoid foods which cause congestion – fatty meats, processed foods, dairy for some.
If you recognise any of the symptoms of the physical or emotional aspects of the Lung system being imbalanced in yourself, then you might consider acupuncture.
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