The Spleen and Traditional Chinese Medicine


Traditional Chinese medicine considers that the Spleen is one of the most important organs within our body. Many chronic and difficult health problems (such as oedema, chronic fatigue syndrome, digestive troubles, insomnia, brain fog, hair loss, iron deficiency, irregular periods, infertility etc) can be due to a disorder of the Spleen function. It is part of the immune system and is responsible for the production of WBC's and the removal of RBC's. It is paired with the stomach, and both are the main organs for digestion.

Western culture, in general, exhausts the stomach-spleen. A heavy reliance on wheat and dairy, too many cold, raw foods, eating on the run at irregular hours, sedentary lifestyles, and large amounts of unmanaged stress and anxiety are classic of much of American culture, and are all extremely disruptive to the spleen. Antibiotics and other medications add an additional level of stress. Energetically, antibiotics are cold and dampening, the exact opposite of what the spleen needs.

A Spleen in need of balance, on a physical level, looks like:

  • Digestive issues – this can include IBS, Crohn’s Disease, acid reflux, borborygmus, nausea, stomach pain, acid reflux, cravings, constipation, diarrhea, or a fluctuation between both constipation and diarrhea

  • Abdominal distention – especially after eating

  • Bruising easily – this is due to the yin/holding nature of the Spleen being unable to hold the blood in the vessels

  • Fatigue – this is usually accompanied by feeling “foggy-headed”

  • Weakness or heaviness in the limbs – this is particularly true if the Spleen mechanism has been compromised for a long time, creating a condition we Chinese Medicine practitioners call “Damp”. This may make your limbs even more heavy, and fatigue more pronounced.

  • Lack for firmness in muscles and flesh– this is because the Spleen rules the muscles and provides nutrients to them

  • Edema and swelling – due to fluids not being metabolised correctly because of a weak spleen

A Spleen in need of balance, on an emotional level, looks like:

  • Worry – the Yi (intellect) aspect of the Spleen is going on overdrive

  • Overthinking – sometimes obsessively, and can even cause issues when trying to get to sleep

  • Mothering or taking care of others at the expense of your own health – doing too much for others, to the point of neglecting your own nourishment and self-care on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels

  • Cravings – especially for sweets, carbs, and chocolate, this can often be our Earth element attempting to ground ourselves, or nourish ourselves, when our self-care has fallen to the wayside. Despite the fact that you may crave sweets, these sweets weaken the Spleen further. Try foods like sweet potato and pumpkin.

Yang Organ: Stomach

Emotions: Pensiveness, metal activity, worry

Element: Earth

Season: Late Summer

Taste: Sweet

Direction: Middle

Time: 9-11am

Body Tissue: Muscle

Change: Transformation

Colour: Yellow

Climatic Qi: Damp

Sense Organ: Mouth


Governs Transformation and Transportation The spleens function in Chinese Medicine is to transform and transport food, it breaks down the food we eat and extracts the Qi (energy) from it to form Qi & Blood.

When functioning properly: qi is strong, digestion goes smoothly, body is kept moist. When malfunctioning: qi is weak (lassitude), appetite is poor, digestion is sluggish, stools may be loose, phlegm and damp may accumulate.

Controls the Blood The spleen is the key to the production of blood and is in control of its quantity in the body. Additionally, the spleen qi holds the blood in the vessels. If the spleen qi is weak there may be haemorrhaging, spilling over of blood or a person may be easily bruised.

Controls the Muscles and Four Limbs The spleen is directly connected to the muscles and four limbs as it is in charge of sending nutrients to them. If the spleen is weak, the limbs and muscles aren't nourished and they become weak and tired.

Opens into the Mouth & Manifests in the Lips The spleen 'opens' into the mouth and manifests on the lips. When the spleen is deficient, the lips may be pale and the taste dulled.

Controls Upright Qi The upright qi is that which holds the body, particularly what holds the organs right and in place. It is like the gravity fighting force of the body, that without, the organs would all by lying at the bottom of your abdomen. If the qi is weak, prolapses may occur.

Houses Thought The spleen is directly related to our capacity for thinking. How well we manage things that require concentration is dependent on the strength of the spleen. It is meant that the spleen controls how much we overthink and analyze and when strong the spleen is weak it can't keep the mind from running through things over and over. Foods that are beneficial for the spleen are:

- Lightly cooked vegetables; corn, celery, watercress, turnip, pumpkin, sweet potato, mushroom, radish, caper, alfalfa sprouts - Brown rice, oats, already, rye, barley - Legumes, kidney beans, adzuki beans, lentils - Raspberry, peach, strawberry, cherry - Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds - Seaweed, kelp - Walnut, chestnut, pine nuts, pistachio - Black pepper, cinnamon bark, clove, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, peppermint, rosemary, sage, turmeric, thyme, horseradish, cayenne, nutmeg

Foods that hurt the spleen: - Dairy - Wheat - Cold drinks - Fruit juice - Processed foods - Refined foods, pastry, pasta, bread - Cold raw foods - Refined sugar and sugar substitutes - Coffee, alcohol - Deep fried foods - Peanuts and peanut butter - Bananas and avocado

Other things that contribute to an imbalanced spleen are:

Overworked Immune System – If the immune system is fighting hard to remove threats from the body, an undue burden can fall on the spleen, making it challenging to keep up with the high demand.

High Toxic Burden – Several organs in the detoxification system work together to help remove toxins. The spleen works as part of the body’s natural “drainage network,” producing protective white blood cells and carrying waste and bacteria away from the body. If key detoxification organs, like the liver or gall bladder, are overburdened, the burden can fall on the spleen causing it to become overworked.

Poor lifestyle habits – Prolonged use of drugs, like antibiotics, a poor diet, diet low in protein or high in cold raw food can damage spleen energy as can cold, damp climates.

StressOver-thinking and chronic worrying can deplete spleen energy. Our spleen helps us process both our food and our thoughts. The act of having to process many thoughts at the same time can wipe out our energy reserves.

Additional tips:

- Avoid prolonged exposure to damp environments

- Have more soup, stews and broths

- Focus on an organic, whole foods diet

- Reduce your intake of processed and refined foods

- Choose foods that are easy to digest or additionally you may want to add a digestive enzyme to your meals

- Chew food properly & don't drink while eating

- Avoid ice in drinks and excessive amounts of cold / raw foods

- Be mindful: adding yoga or meditation into your daily routine can help alleviate excessive stress and reduce its impact on your organs

- Keep active: exercise daily, even if just for a walk

- Take a break every 1-2 hours from sitting at a desk, go for a 5-10 minute walk

- Eat more cooked and warm foods

- When eating do so with pleasure and take time to acknowledge the food you are eating. Try not to eat in front of the tv or while talking.

- Try to keep meal times consistent and to not over eat

- Don't drink large amounts of liquids quickly

Essential Oils to Support the Spleen

Spleen Support™: The spleen, located in the left upper abdomen, is a critical organ in supporting physical, mental and emotional energy. It supports the immune system and the detoxification system and helps us process emotions and thoughts, the magnitude of which can wipe out our energy reserves. You can support the spleen and boost your energy by applying 2- 3 drops of Spleen Support™ blend over the spleen (left side of the body, under breast) or around the earlobes.

Immune Support™: An overburdened immune system places an undue burden on the spleen, making it challenging to keep up with the high demand. To help support the immune system so and lessen to burden on the spleen, apply Immune Support™ 2- 3 times daily on the throat (diluted) or the bottom of the feet. To keep the family healthy, rub the oil on the bottom of the feet prior to bed (kids can even be asleep when you apply it).

Lymph™: The spleen is part of the lymphatic system and can be overburdened when detoxification pathways are blocked. If you support the lymphatic system in its ability to move metabolic waste, toxins and infections out of the cells via the lymphatic fluid, it lessens the burden on the spleen. Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system does not have a central pump—it only moves as the muscles squeeze it along. So the lack of movement makes the lymphatic system stagnant, with waste accumulating and excessive toxins building up. Lymph™ blend helps keep lymph flowing to move toxins out of the body. Liberally apply 2 to 3 drops of Lymph™ to both sides of the neck, the lymph nodes under the arms, and around inguinal ligament (bikini line area—think where your leg creases when you lift it) to ensure optimal drainage and health.

Spleen Qi™: Can help support the Vitality of your Spleen and improve sleep quality. Apply 2- 3 drops of Spleen Qi™ over the spleen (left side of the body, under breast) or over the Spleen 6 point (inside of leg just above the highest peak of your ankle (four finger widths up from, apply deep pressure slightly behind the tibia bone).