From the moment we wake up to the time we sleep, we are communicating with others.
We rely on language to relay our thoughts, feelings, and intentions to each other. However, sometimes our words can have a hidden meaning that is lost in translation.
This is especially evident in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where our organs have a different meaning from what we typically understand in Western medicine.
In this blog post, we will explore five of the organ pairs in TCM and differentiate each one from its Western/literal equivalent.
Lung and Large Intestine
In TCM, the lung and large intestine work together, forming a yin-yang pair. The lungs control breathing, regulate Qi energy, and open to the nose, while the large intestine has the function of receiving waste and excreting waste. The Western equivalent of the lungs is the same; however, the large intestine is just seen as another organ in the body that is responsible for physical waste.
Stomach and Spleen
The stomach and spleen are another yin-yang pair. The stomach functions in receiving and descending food, while the spleen transforms the food into nutrients for the body. Interestingly, in TCM, the spleen also governs the muscles and limbs. In contrast, in Western understanding, the stomach digests food, and the spleen is an immune organ.
Heart and Small Intestine
The heart and small intestine work together as a pair, with the heart being the ruler of the body and spirit, while the small intestine is responsible for receiving and transforming food. In TCM, the heart also has the functions of housing the mind and controlling blood circulation. In Western medicine, the small intestine is responsible for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients.
Bladder and Kidney
The bladder and the kidney work as a yin-yang pair, with the bladder being responsible for excretion and the kidney being the foundation of Yin and Yang. The kidneys also have the functions of governing bones, marrow, and the reproductive system. In Western medicine, the bladder and kidneys are responsible for urinary function and waste management only.
Triple Burner and Pericardium
The triple burner and pericardium are two unique organs in TCM, not found in Western medicine. The triple burner is a three-part organ that regulates water metabolism, while the pericardium is known as the heart protector and has the function of protecting the heart, mind, and spirit. The holy grail of TCM is the balance of the three burners, which is imperative for a healthy body and mind.
Liver and Gallbladder
The liver and gallbladder manage digestion in TCM. The liver regulates Qi and blood circulation, and the free flow of these elements is integral to health. The gallbladder has the function of storing and secreting bile, which helps break down and digest fats. In Western medicine, the liver is responsible for detoxification and the gallbladder’s function is only linked to fat digestion.
This blog post has explored five organ pairs in TCM and their differences from their Western/literal equivalent.
It’s essential to remember that our terminology sounds the same as the Western words, but the meanings can be radically different. Understanding these different organ pairs’ roles and functions is crucial when it comes to TCM treatment.
If you ever have questions about terminology you may have heard, be sure to ask about it at your next acupuncture appointment – we would be more than happy to help you understand better.