In Western science, the lungs are where air exchange takes place. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), these organs regulate fluid metabolism, blood circulation, the autonomic nervous system and the immune system.
The lungs transform the inhaled air into qi, the vital energy that circulates around the body.
All basic movements of qi—be it ascending, descending, outwards or inwards—are influenced by the lungs. Hence, when the lung qi is strong, breathing is normal and the body has sufficient energy.
The lungs assist in moving qi and body fluids down to the lower body, providing the rest of the organ networks with body fluids and thus regulating urination. If the descending function of the lungs is impaired and qi flow is disrupted, cough, shortness of breath, water retention and difficulty in urination may occur.
The lungs send protective qi, body fluids and nutritive essence to nourish the body surface, and protect us from pathogenic factors that may come from the environment. If the dissemination function is weak, the skin and hair will not be nourished properly, resulting in symptoms such as aversion to cold, fever, nasal obstruction, nasal discharge, cough or even asthma.
The lungs are the body’s first line of defence and tend to be ‘delicate,’ meaning they are likely the first organs to be affected by strong environmental and emotional influences, particularly when the body is weak. Disharmonies in the lungs can be manifested as fatigue, low immunity, respiratory disorders and skin problems.
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock. This article first appeared in NATURA magazine issue No.9. Find NATURA at Eu Yan Sang retail outlets, newsstands and major bookstores in Singapore.