When your Spleen function goes wrong, you’ll know, because your body will get behind with its housekeeping jobs. As you’ll see, these start with your digestion but go on to include your Blood and your muscles, your ability to think and your energy.
Since your energy is involved, that means your immune system too.
So, in Chinese medicine, your Spleen function is in its own way as important as that of your Liver .
Main Spleen Functions
For the time being, please just forget everything you know about the spleen organ which lies under your lower left ribs at the front.
In Western medicine its function is to purify your blood by filtering out old or damaged red blood cells and microbes, and to produce the white blood cells that act as guardians of your system.
Chinese medicine is based on a completely different attitude to health and disease.
Still largely based on ideas probably 3000 years old, its diagnoses seem a million miles from modern medicine.
Nevertheless, these concepts are in regular practical use worldwide in major hospitals and by practitioners of Chinese medicine including acupuncturists.
1. Spleen Transforms and Transports
Traditionally it is said to ‘transform and transport’. It takes what comes from the Stomach, turns (transforms) it into Blood, fluids and Energy (‘Qi‘), and moves (transports) these round the body.
So its functions include what your intestines do in Western medicine: absorbing nutrients from the food passing through and turning them into the basic building blocks for blood.
Once the blood has picked up Qi from the Lungs and life from the Heart it becomes Blood (capital B). This is now the stuff that the Spleen uses to maintain health throughout the body, feeding and nourishing, sorting and clearing.
It also has the job of removing unwanted matter from wherever it finds it and transforming it back into usable Blood or passing it to the Kidneys to excrete.
When this function fails you see:
- poor digestion
- lack of energy
- loose stools
- weak blood, leading to what Western medicine recognises as symptoms of anaemia
- inability to lose weight
- inability to gain weight
- old matter not moving on. Specifically this occurs more as you grow old, when your skin heals itself more slowly and leaves behind scars that a younger Spleen might have cleared.
- the build up of what in Chinese medicine is called Damp
- accumulation of catarrh
- the accumulation of Phlegm (although on its own a weak Spleen does not produce Phlegm).
2. Spleen Houses the Intellect
This means how we process information and think things through – working with its partner, the Stomach.
It is not how we decide what we do with our lives, or how we reach decisions and assert ourselves; it is not our memory.
Over-thinking is a problem for it, and can make it malfunction.
Many students and office-workers, counsellors, philosophers, academics and homoeopaths – and others whose job involves mainly the intellect – suffer from over-thinking.