Balancing the Earth Element - The Spleen Houses Thought
Rachel Condon, Lic. Ac.
The main organs of the Earth Element are the
Spleen and Stomach
, and one of their main functions is the transformation of food we eat into energy that we can use.
One of the other main functions of the Spleen, according to the
Foundations of Chinese Medicine
, by Giovanni Maciocia (a primary textbook used in acupuncture schools across the US), is that
the Spleen “houses Thought.”
We are often talking in the clinic about how “
everything is connected
” and how we can often treat more than one symptom at once, how Chinese medicine is an integrated system of medicine, keeping the aspects of
mind, physical body, emotions, and spirit, as aspects of one another, in constant dialogue.
In this article, I would like to highlight the Spleen’s function of housing Thought, and
how our modern technological-based lifestyles, can impact the Spleen
One of the most common patterns of disharmony or imbalance that we see is called
Spleen Qi Deficiency
– with the two main causes being
irregular (or out of balance) dietary habits
xcessive mental activity
. As stated in the Foundations text (which is solidly based on the ancient Chinese medical classics), excessive thinking or mental strain eventually leads to spleen qi deficiency,
“common in students or business people who spend long periods of time every day in mental work… particularly harmful if one goes straight back to work after a hurried lunch.”
(Maciocia, p. 243)
signs of spleen qi deficiency
are low appetite, fatigue, loose stools, nausea, a heavy feeling in the chest, and sometimes an overall feeling of heaviness in the body and limbs. It can also lead to fogginess in the head and inability to concentrate. Other symptoms emerge as the Spleen’s weakened function affects other organs, such as the Lungs and Kidney organ/meridian systems.
Spleen Qi Deficiency is an example of a very common pattern of imbalance that we treat regularly in the clinic, coming straight from the classics of Chinese medicine. Now let’s bring that together with
our 21st century lifestyles
, with the
24/7 access to information
, to our phones, tablets, and computers, to the internet and Google and social media, etc., and the beeps, pings, rings and vibrations that incessantly give us “information” of some kind or another.
This is VERY new to us as a species.
According to google (I know, I know, the irony!), the internet was invented in 1983, and the world wide web in 1990. And now, according to the Pew Research Center, 77% of Americans go online daily, and 43% say they go online several times a day – and get this,
26% of American adults said they are online “almost constantly,” in 2018
. This isn’t huge news to most of us, even though those numbers are still a bit shocking.
But if you pay attention, and just watch people walking down the street, in restaurants, waiting for buses, appointments, the light to change green, etc,
we seem to be constantly needing to engage our minds – even while doing other activities!
In fact, it is considered a radical suggestion to try just doing – one activity - at a time. It is truly profound how much technology is changing the ways we live our lives.
There is much being written about this topic, and the ways it is starting to change the wiring of our brains, along with our physical structure even – check out this
article on the development of horn-like bone spurs at the back of the skulls of young adults
, linking it to cell phone use. It is something I find increasingly disturbing, and worth paying attention to. Engaging our minds in these ways constantly throughout the day depletes our bodies and interferes with optimal functioning, from sleep to digestion to fine motor control to posture, among others. And from the perspective of Chinese medicine, it can be quite depleting to the Spleen, which is considered central to digestion, and truly the functioning of every other organ in the body.
How do we get back into balance?
Unless you plan on relocating to one of the (increasingly few) places that doesn’t have cell phone and internet connectivity, or choose not to use such devices, it falls upon each one of us to take matters into our own hands, and find our way back towards balance. Have you ever taken a
? Or set up
rules regarding technology use for yourself
(or your household, kids, etc), to turn phones off at a certain time in the evening, or not turn it on for at least an hour after you’ve woken up? How might it feel to just wake up and assess how you feel and what you’d like to do with your day, BEFORE you’ve turned on the phone, read the text or email messages, listened to the news report or checked your facebook feed?
Especially if you suffer from any of the commonly experienced spleen qi deficiency symptoms (or would if you weren’t treating them with medications, caffeine, etc), it is worth your while to
consider experimenting with some small changes, and redefining your relationship to technology
. You just might be surprised… and find you have more energy, less pain, and even a better appetite!
The Earth Element Treatment - August 21st!
Anne Louise Smallen, Lic. Ac.
Wednesday, August 21st,
between 7 am and 11 am will be high time for the Earth Element. This is the best time of year to use Spleen and Stomach meridian points. The clinic will open between
on the 21st to accommodate those who wish to receive the seasonal five element earth treatment. The points used are the earth points of the stomach (ST 36) and of the spleen (SP 3), whose benefits are discussed in the article below.
You might notice that the earth element
coincides with the harvest
. Tending to our earth element and taking care of the spleen and stomach are central to our health. Naturally it helps process the food we eat but it does much more: Earth element points help us
live fully at each of the different cycles of our life
(childhood, puberty, youth, menopause and old age, etc..) and
rule our inner clock
(sleeping, breathing, exercising, eating and digesting, etc.). Rarely do we give a treatment without using stomach or spleen points. It is part of most acupuncture formulas and protocols. The
earth is at the center of all the other elements
. It helps digestion, growth (including growing new blood cells and building muscles). It makes us
feel connected and centered
. It helps us remain balanced and grounded in the middle of difficult or chaotic situations. It helps us take logical steps to
accomplish our goals
So what would a weak earth element look like in a person? There could be
showing up as obesity, indigestion, edema, anorexia, acid reflux and other food imbalances. A person would
struggle with keeping a healthy rhythm in life
(irregular menstrual flow, difficult sleep cycle at night: falling asleep, staying asleep, muscle tension, and inability to wake up refreshed in the morning), Mentally, they would
worry a lot
about future events, overthink everything, and be
unable to make decisions
. They could have
difficulty with fertility
. They would have
muscle tension or weakness
Whether you have challenges with your earth element or you simply want to use it as a preventative to imbalance, think of registering online (or calling the clinic at 413-586-8251) for the five element earth treatment on Wednesday, August 21st.
As always: Be well and prosper!
Zusanli (Stomach 36) and Taibai (Spleen 3)
Anne Louise Smallen, Lic. Ac.
The earth element treatment uses two of my favorite points: Zusanli (ST 36), translated as
"Leg Three Miles"
, on the Stomach meridian and Taibai (SP 3), translated as
, on the Spleen meridian. ST 36 was named Leg Three Miles because it could add three miles to your walk with the extra energy it gives. ST 36 is located near the exterior base of the knee and SP 3 on the interior arch of the foot.
treats stomach pain, nausea, poor appetite and digestion. It is also used for edema, dampness in the legs or anywhere in the body, difficulty urinating, diarrhea and constipation. It is
one of the great acupuncture points of Chinese medicine
, and there is a saying that if you regularly moxa this point 100 times (burning an herb on top of the point), you will live a long and healthy life. It helps the spleen, stomach and kidneys to function at their maximum, and moves the qi throughout the whole body, generating energy and blood cells and feeding the muscles. It helps with lung problems (asthma, shortness of breath and coughing), and can help with decline of vision in old age. As the Chinese saying goes, "with ST 36, all diseases can be treated."
is an important point to treat any form of dampness in the body.
Dampness and inflammation are the harbingers of pain
: arthritis in the joints and the bones, lower back, knee, foot or toe pain. Damp heat impairs leg movement and makes walking difficult. SP 3 treats diarrhea and loose stools but also constipation and undigested food in the stools. Constipation arises when there is insufficient qi to move the food through the digestive system. Loose stools and diarrhea are bad for us because they eliminate necessary nutrients along with the non-digestible debris. Sp 3 also helps rectify the thinking process.
Both points build red blood cells and help develop muscles. They are important for the treatment of anemia and fatigue and help those with leukemia.
I am THRILLED that our new free Lending Library has been such a grand success!!
It truly delights me to see books being signed out on an almost daily basis... sharing information, ideas and resources, is part of the journey towards greater health and well-being.
When you know better, it's that much easier to Do Better - make more informed choices, understand what your body is trying to tell you, and contemplate the latest research and theories out there about why we get sick, and how to stay well.
A friendly reminder ~ to please return - or renew - noting the sign out sheet in the waiting room,
if you've had a book more than four weeks, so that others may utilize these books as well. If you don't have an appointment, no problem - you can always just swing by to drop off a book if you're done with it, anytime the clinic is open - OR -
me and I'll note the sign out list for you, if you'd like to renew.
Happy Reading! ~ Rachel