Earth element Chinese character

We have just moved into time of year that corresponds to the Spleen and Stomach according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. This means that the energy of those organs flourishes now and is at its strongest — or should be. This time lasts from approximately July through mid-September, and while these organs’ effects are most strongly felt at the end of the season, now is the time to protect these organs and keep them strong.

The Spleen and Stomach are partners in the Earth Element. This is the most prevalent and influential element of all five (the others being Metal, Water, Wood and Fire). First of all, it encompasses the organs of digestion and good digestion is a major key to health. But secondly, the energy of the Spleen and Stomach surfaces at the end of all the other element seasons, so that the last two weeks of every season is a mixture of its native element’s energy plus the Earth Element energies.

For example, we just finished the Heart and Small Intestine season that ran from mid-April to near the end of June. For the last two weeks of this time, these Fire Element energies were influenced by the Earth Element energies as they surfaced at that time. This means that along with Fire signs of palpitations, for instance, indigestion signs may have been present as well.

The Earth Element influence and its organs are influential in many ways. The Spleen is responsible for the assimilation and transportation of nutrients
throughout the body (metabolism). As this occurs on all levels, Spleen Qi not only controls food and fluid metabolism, but also cell respiration and other similar metabolic functions.

The Spleen opens to the mouth and manifests on the lips. It rules the sense of taste, lymph and saliva along with muscle tone and development, the flesh and limbs. Spleen Qi is in charge of keeping the organs in place and the Blood in vessels. The flavor associated with the Spleen is sweet, meaning that a little sweet strengthens the Spleen while too much weakens it.

The Spleen hates to be damp (externally in the environment or internally in the body), as this interferes with its ability to transform and transport food and fluids. As well, excessive sitting and the emotions of worry, melancholia, nostalgia and obsession target the Spleen. Conditions involving any of the above factors both indicate a Spleen/Stomach imbalance and can likewise cause one.

A weak Spleen causes poor digestion, low appetite, gas, bloatedness, acid regurgitation, loose stools, undigested food in the stools, malnutrition, weakness in arms and legs, fatigue, poor muscle development, edema of abdomen, hips and thighs, blood spots under the skin, easy bruising, lack of sensation of taste, prolapsed organs, frequent bleeding, abdominal distension, obsession, worry, and anemia.

To tonify Spleen Qi, use herbs such as ginseng, astragalus and dioscorea (Chinese wild yam). To tonify Spleen Yang, warm it with a heating herb such as dried or fresh ginger, give a yang tonic such as psoralea. To transform Spleen dampness, give herbs like agastache or cardamom.

The best way to treat and protect the Spleen and Stomach (digestion and metabolism) is through diet. Foods that are cooked and warm in temperature most closely match our own digestive fires and so metabolize and assimilate easiest. This means that although it is hot outdoors, the intake of raw foods, salads, juices and fruits should be limited and balanced with cardamom or fresh ginger. Likewise, iced drinks and foods (ice cream, etc.) also need to be limited and balanced with warming spices to protect the digestion. Doing so will promote good digestion throughout the year and prevent those late season Earth Element experiences of gaining weight without being able to lose it (one of the ‘delights’ of late summer for most!).

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