The Heart system in Chinese medicine has a very important place: it governs the Blood and houses the Mind. There are numerous functions that the Heart is responsible for:
- Governs Blood
- Controls blood vessels
- Connects to the face
- Houses the Mind (Shen 神)
- Opens to the tongue
- Controls sweat
- Affects dreams
It Governs Blood: The Heart governs Blood by transforming nutrients from the Spleen into Blood, and by circulating the Blood. The latter is consistent with the Western view in the function of the heart. Deficiency in Heart Blood resluts in poor circulation. This condition could be caused by prenatal factors.
It Controls Blood Vessels: It refers to the strength of the pulse. Weakness in the Heart results in a weak and irregular pulse.
It Connect to the Face: The health of the Heart is reflected on the complexion of the face. A healthy Heart gives a rosy lustrous glow. Stagnation of Blood results in purple or blue face. Heart Fire gives rise to a red face, and deficiency in Heart Blood gives a pale or bright white face.
It Houses the Mind (Shen): Shen is the mind or spirit, or mental, emotional and spiritual functions of the body. When the Heart is healthy and Blood is sufficient, Shen is strong and therefore the person is in high spirit, has good memory, the mind is sharp, thinking is clear and the reasoning power is normal. When the Heart Blood is deficient, Shen is said to be not rooted, resulting in emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and restlessness. When there is excessiveness of Heart Fire (Yang), the temper gets short and sleep is difficult. Other Yin organ systems also play different roles in emotions, the mind and spirit.
It Opens to the Tongue: The tongue is the orifice / sense that connects to the tongue. Excessiveness in the Heart shows up as a red tongue with an even redder tip. In severe cases, ulcers can occur on the tongue.
It Controls Sweat:Sweat and Blood have the same origin. Since Heart governs Blood, it also controls sweat. Deficiency in Heart Qi results in spontaneous sweating, while deficiency in Heart Yin causes night sweating. Excessive sweating, on the other can, can result in deficiency body fluids and eventually deficiency n Blood.
Affects Dreams: Deficiency in Heart Blood causes the Mind to float, resulting in excessive dreaming and other sleeping disorders.