The Lungs in Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine the Lungs govern Qi (energy) and respiration.

The Lungs are the intermediary organ between the inside of the body and the external environment. Thus external pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria and climatic factors, are first met by the lungs.

Together with the Spleen and Kidney the Lungs play a vital role in the movement of Body Fluids. Receiving refined fluids from the Spleen, the Lungs distribute them to the body’s skin and mucous membranes, creating a protective coating on all mucous membranes. This function of the Lungs, referred to as “defensive Qi” in Chinese medicine, is essential for protecting the body from external pathogens and determines the state of the person’s overall immunity. People with healthy Lungs are protected against infectious diseases like colds and flus and have good immunity in general.

The Lungs are described as the foreign minister, from whom policies are issued, as it assists the Heart (which is the Emperor) to circulate the Blood.                                                                 

In Health Lung Qi (energy) is characterized by its ability to consolidate, gather together, maintain strength, and unify against disease at every level. The personality of those with strong Lungs is influenced by this Qi; they seem unified, hold onto their direction, create order, and are effective at what they do but also have the ability to let go of everything that is unpractical and needless. The Colon is the Yang organ paired with the Lungs, and its function is releasing what is no longer needed. In Chinese healing traditions this release is on emotional and psychic levels as well as physical. 

On an emotional level, the emotions associated with the Lungs and Colon are grief and sadness. Repressed grief causes long term contraction in the lungs, which interferes with their function of dispersing nutrients and Qi, thus the Lungs becomes congested with undistributed matter. It is not rare to find the connection between Lung and Colon problems and longtime unresolved sadness that needs to be addressed and transformed.    

Functions of the Lungs:

Govern Qi and respiration

By the action of inhale and exhale, the constant exchange and renewal of Qi performed by the Lungs ensures the proper functioning of all the body’s physiological processes.

Controls channels and Blood Vessels

The Lungs govern Qi and Qi is essential to aid the Heart to circulate Blood. The Lungs control the circulation of Qi in both Blood Vessels and the energy channels (meridians).

Control Dispersing and Descending

The Lungs have the function of dispersing or spreading Defensive Qi and Body fluids all over the body to the space between skin and muscles for protection from exterior pathogenic factors, for moistening the skin and for regulating the opening and closing of skin pores and sweating. This function is impaired when a person contracts a cold, preventing the Qi and Body Fluids from spreading normally. One may feel “blocked” with a headache, stuffed nose, sneezing etc.

As the Lungs are the uppermost organ in the body, their Qi must descend. The Lungs descend Qi and Body fluids to the Kidneys, Bladder and Large Intestine.

Regulate the water passages

The Lungs evenly spread fluids to the area under the skin all over the body and regulate the opening and closing of the pores. The Lungs are responsible for the excretion of Body Fluids through sweat and urine.

Control Skin and Body Hair

The Lungs spread fluids to the skin all over the body; this gives the skin and hair nourishment and moisture

Open to the nose

The nose is the opening of the Lungs, and through it respiration occurs. If Lung-Qi is strong, the nose will be open, respiration will be easy and the sense of smell will be normal.

The Lungs govern voice

The strength, tone and clarity of voice are all dependent on the Lungs.


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