First a look at the three primary organs associated with Blood:1. Spleen (Earth Element) – transformation and transportation of food and drink, controls the Blood, rules the Muscles, manifests on Lips and opens to the Mouth. The Spleen’s #1 job is to transform food and drink into pure Qi & Blood and transport it upwards to the Heart for circulating throughout the body. The Spleen is also primary in the control of blood, helping to keep it in the vessels. Easily bruising is a mild deficiency, whereas hemorrhaging is more serious failure to control the blood. Poor muscle tone and fatigue, along with pale or dry lips are signs of Spleen Blood disorders.2. Liver (Wood Element) – stores the Blood, regulates flow of Qi, rules Tendons, manifests in the Nails, opens to the Eyes. Qi moves Blood, therefore the Liver pays an important role in normalizing the movement and volume of Blood. This is especially true for women in regulating the menstrual cycle and reproductive activities. Tightness in tendons, brittle nails, and eye weaknesses are all indicative of Liver Blood disorders.
3. Heart (Fire Element) – dominates the Blood and Vessels, houses the Mind, manifests on the Face, and opens to the Tongue. The Heart Qi is the motive force for blood circulation throughout its network of vessels that nourish (arteries) and remove toxins (veins) from all the organs and tissues of the body. Cold, weak or numbness especially of the hands and feet, along with a pale complexion and pale tongue are signs of Heart Blood related disorders as is insomnia, anxiety, poor memory and concentration.
Now let’s look at three specific ailments:
1. Blood Deficiency – ie. not enough blood. Often originating in the Spleen’s failure to produce enough Blood d/t constitutional weakness in the Spleen Qi and/or poor quality food and drink (amongst other issues), but can come from a loss of blood or external pathogenic influence as well. Patients often present with symptoms of pale face and lips, blurred vision or floaters, dizzy-lightheaded, insomnia, palpitations, poor memory and concentration, cold extremities and the pulse is thin and tongue pale.
2. Blood Stagnation – ie. blood not moving. Blood will stagnate due to an obstruction in the vessels, a deficiency failing to fill the vessels, and/or sticky blood. Blood stagnation is marked by pain that is sharp, stabbing, in a fixed location, and tends to be worse at night (when the Qi moves less). Often visible signs are present including bruising or laceration in the event of an external trauma and varicose or spider veins through the course of prolonged but mild stagnation of blood. Women may experience painful menstruation and clotting. Blood stagnation can also lead to more serious and deadly ailments like thrombosis, stroke and heart attack. The tongue may be purple and pulse choppy.
3. Blood Heat – ie. overheating. Too much heat in the blood can come from internal sources such as extreme emotions like anger as well as external pathogenic factors like rheumatic fever. Symptoms include mental restlessness or even mania, red-raised skin rashes, and bleeding disorders including epistaxis, hemoptysis, hematuria, as well as profuse menstrual flow in women. The pulse is rapid and tongue red.
It is important to remember that our body is an inter-connected whole… imbalances in one area will affect others and may grow larger over time. Prolonged or severe Blood Deficiency is likely to result in Blood Stagnation as the weaker the flow of blood, the more likely it is to stagnate. Blood Stagnation tends to engender Blood Heat as the pressure and friction of accumulated blood leads to heat. In addition, prolonged Blood Deficiency leads to overheating as the cooling and nutritive effects of Blood (Yin) fail to balance the warming and moving effects of Qi (Yang). Prolonged Blood Heat leads to Stagnation and Deficiency as the body fluids are burned-off due to the excess heat and blood becomes sticky.
So what can you do to take better care of your blood? In addition to following simple dietary and lifestyle guidelines, a Licensed Acupuncturist (who is also trained in Chinese Herbs) can help to diagnose and treat blood related disorders with acupuncture, herbs or a combination of the two.