Naturally, the Lung is related to respiratory function. It controls the function of breathing. Did you know it’s also associated with inspiration? Just as our body sustains itself by ingesting food, it also needs to ingest air to live as well. We take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.
The Lung is related to the Metal element. Metal is one of the strongest substances on Earth. The Lung mirrors Nature’s metabolism function very well. When you breathe in, you are breathing in not just air, but the whole Earth, including the electromagnetic field that surrounds you. The air itself contains and carries the messages of Nature. Can you receive them?
TCM considers the Lung the most sensitive and delicate organ. Its emotions are associated with sadness and grief. If grieving is intense or prolonged, often the individual will develop a Lung function disorder that can manifest as a chronic cough. According to TCM, coughs are one of the most stubborn conditions to heal.
From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, what are the main responsibilities of the Lung?
The Lung has the responsibility of managing the distribution of all the body’s Qi. It derives this vital energy from the nutritive essences of food. The Stomach rots and ripens food. The Spleen then transforms this food into a nutritive essence, after which, the Lung disperses to the various organ systems in the body.
One main duty of the Lung is to cover and protect us. In the Five Element energetic framework, the skin is the “tissue” of the Lung. The skin is the body’s largest organ and serves as its first line of defense against external pathogens. There is a special, energetic layer covering the body—protective or wei Qi. Some major pathogens, especially Cold and Wind, have the ability to pierce this layer, make their way through the meridians, and travel to and disrupt healthy organ function. Often, these pathogens can cause serious internal damage.
Healthy Lung function determines the quality of your skin. Today, women and men spend more than $7 billion a year on skincare products alone in the belief these items will give them healthy skin. What actually produces beautiful skin is a well-functioning Lung. We all understand smoking is bad for you on many levels. If we look at it from a different framework, you can understand why smoking has such a major impact on skin quality. Smoking’s most obvious, undesirable effect is wrinkles! When we talk about the Lung’s lifelong partner, the Large Intestine or colon, you may be surprised at the role it too plays in preventing wrinkles. Today, our culture is focused on youth-oriented beauty. But, no matter what age, everyone wants to look good. The quality of your skin and how smooth it is reflects the state of your health. If you want to look your best, take care of the functions of your Lung and colon.
In addition to communicating with the external world through breathing or respiration and protecting the skin, the Lung has another major duty. Did you know that speaking is based on Lung function? If you are short of breath, cannot talk too long, sweat or experience palpitations when you need to speak, a TCM practitioner would recognize these as external signs of an internal energy imbalance—deficient or weak Lung function. Because of their connection, we may also find compromised Heart function behind these signs.
The Lung is also tasked to manage the body’s biomechanics, often referred to as kinesiology—the study of human movement. It relates to the operational mechanics of how body parts work efficiently and cooperatively in themselves and together with other parts. The Lung is responsible for the movement of the internal organs and external body parts to help them reach their highest purpose. While the Liver takes responsibility for eye function, the Lung supports the movement of the body’s physical structures, as well as the cooperation and coordination of its parts. Think of an eyeball and its actions. It blinks, it focuses on an object, it can move up and down and from side to side. Think too of how both eyes need to work cooperatively for good eyesight. Now, think of eye-hand coordination. Your eye has to work smoothly with your hand even just to accomplish a task as simple as placing a book on a table. The Lung has a big job! It has to make sure all parts of the integrated system operate efficiently, mesh well with other parts and support the body’s purpose for being.
Join us tomorrow for an understanding of how the Lung and Large Intestine work as a cohesive whole.