Getting to the Heart of the Matter

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There are many expressions that use the heart as a metaphor to describe virtuous traits, such as hearts-thumb“Getting to the heart of the matter”—the core of something; “Coming straight from the heart”—with feeling and tenderness; and “Like a heart of gold”—someone with great goodness and compassion.

The ancient Taoists considered the heart the emperor of all the internal organs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart represents the shen, or spirit, of a person. When the shen is disturbed, there can be pain, heaviness or tightness in the chest. The same symptoms could be related to anatomical problems, such as blockage of the arteries leading to a heart attack. On the other hand, shen disturbances can be emotional problems, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The Spiritual Pivot, a classic ancient Chinese medical text, describes the shen as follows, “If the heart is injured, the spirit will depart; if the spirit departs, the person will die.” This sounds like a very dire situation. It can be quite dire for many people that suffer from mental illness or physically debilitating heart issues.

There are nine acupuncture points that can be accessed on the heart channel. It begins in the chest at the heart and radiates through the most yin (medial) part of the arm along the pinky side. The heart channel also connects to the small intestine channel. An organ pattern must first be determined based on asking questions, feeling pulses on both wrists and looking at the tongue. Once an organ pattern has been determined—for example heart qi deficiency (irregular heart beat), heart blood stagnation (arterial blockage), heart yin deficiency (insomnia), heart blood deficiency (insomnia or heart failure), or a combination of these with other organ patterns—individual herbal and acupuncture prescriptions will be created by your acupuncturist.

As you can see, there can be many facets of treatment for a single condition. The beauty of Chinese medicine is to bring a unique treatment to the individual. Acupuncture and herbs encourage the patient’s body to heal naturally.

Source: Sharon McDermott, LAc, of Westbury Healthy Living Center (433 Maple Ave., Westbury). For more information, call 516-410-4297. 

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