Spleen Qi Deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine

The spleen qi governs aspects of digestion and circulation.

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Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, conceives of the human body as a set of inter-related systems which work together in harmony. Problems in one part of the body may be the result of injury to a different part of the body -- or to the flow of energy (qi) through the entire body. Traditional Chinese treatment of disorders involves the use of complex prescriptions made up of multiple herbs.

What Is Qi?

In Chinese philosophy, qi is the life force that flows through all things. Everything in the universe derives from qi.  When qi flows properly, all things are in harmony and function correctly; when qi is blocked, problems arise.

Within the human body, says this philosophy, qi flows through the organs maintaining health and balance. It is thought to provide the energy needed for our bodies to function, support body temperature, maintain the structure and strength of our organs, and keep our metabolism constant.  In order to do all of these things properly, qi must flow through our bodies.  Where there are blockages and qi cannot flow, we experience health problems.

What Is Spleen Qi Deficiency?

Spleen qi refers not only to the actual organ called the spleen but to the entire digestive system and aspects of the circulatory system. Ordinarily, when the spleen qi is flowing properly, the digestive system also functions properly.

Blood and all the fluids of the digestive system move smoothly, and there are no backups or sagging of the organs.

When the qi is blocked as a result of dampness, however, a number of symptoms can develop. Many of these symptoms relate to appetite and weight; others to fatigue and pale skin. Western diagnoses associated with spleen qi deficiency include ulcers, gastritis, chronic fatigue, AIDS, chronic indigestion, and hepatitis.

What Causes Spleen Qi Deficiency?

According to Chinese Traditional Medicine, the spleen prefers a dry environment. Thus, dampness can cause issues with the spleen qi. For example, living in a damp climate or eating cold or raw foods can cause spleen dampness.

Symptoms of Spleen Qi Deficiency

  • Weakness, lethargy
  • Pale, bright face
  • Shallow breathing
  • Low, soft voice
  • Little desire to speak
  • Poor appetite
  • Prolonged headache
  • Fatigue
  • Loose stools
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Tired eyes
  • Dislike cold greasy foods
  • Headache after exertion
  • Symptoms are worse in the morning
  • Abdominal discomfort which feels better when pressure is applied
  • Indigestion
  • Bloating and gas
  • Weak limbs

Tongue Appearance

Pale or normal tongue. May have swollen sides.

Pulse

Weak pulse

Related Conditions

  • Gastric or duodenal ulcer
  • Dyspepsia
  • Hepatitis
  • Anemia

Herbs Used For Spleen Qi Deficiency

These are just some of the herbs that are believed to help spleen qi deficiency:

  • Codonopsis
  • Ginseng (part of the traditional tonic called Four Gentlemen decoction)
  • Astragalus
  • Jujube Dates

    Foods to Strengthen the Spleen

    • Beef
    • Root vegetables
    • Warm foods
    • Soups
    • Warming spices, such as black pepper, ginger, cumin

    Of course, if you experience symptoms such as those described above, it is important to visit a physician to develop a proper course of treatment. While herbal remedies may be helpful for mild discomfort, issues such as ulcers, anemia, and hepatitis are very serious and can even be life-threatening if not medically managed.

    Sources

    Kaptchuk TJ. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. Chicago: Contemporary (McGraw-Hill) 2000

    Lu, H. Chinese Natural Cures, New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 1994.

    Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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