The Essential Zang Fu Organs

Like every part of the universe, the human body is a balance of yin and yang. Chinese medicine teaches us that our five major organs—the spleen, heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys—regulate and control the body’s major functions and general health. Collectively, these organs are known as zang fu, or “solid organs.” Western science does not acknowledge the power and responsibility of these organs the way traditional Chinese medicine does, so this concept is probably new to you, especially if you are new to qigong. All the remaining organs are secondary to the zang fu organs and are largely controlled by them; for example, the lungs control the skin.

Understanding the roles and functions of these organs is essential, and each one influences how you are affected by the weather and temperature conditions of your environment, by the stresses in your life, by the food you eat, and by injury or illness. You achieve well-being by creating balanced yin and yang and a steady flow of qi. Every organ has a two-hour window of time during the day when its qi is strongest. Qi, the vital energy that connects us to heaven and earth, moves through each meridian at specific times, continuously circulating in a daily cycle. The result is a 24-hour human body clock of qi flow.

Your Essential Spleen: Located on the left side of the abdomen, toward your back and below the rib cage, the spleen’s primary job is transportation: it transfers energy, or qi, to all the organs, storing energy and shifting it to organs as they require it.

Your Beating Heart: In Chinese medicine, we refer to the heart as the king of the body, in a sense that is as much a functioning ideal—the heart as the center of emotions and the place where joy comes from—as a flesh-and-blood organ.

Your Hard-Working Lungs: They extract oxygen from the air, and that oxygen is carried to all parts of the body.The lungs are yin.

Your Vital Kidneys: The kidneys are the power source for the entire body, controlling its balance of water. A pair of organs located in the back of the abdomen on either side of the body, the kidneys filter all the blood in your body several times a day.

Your Essential Liver: The liver’s job is to store blood and, according to traditional Chinese medicine, to work with the kidneys to regulate the flow of qi through the body.