Joy, Summer, and the Heart in Acupuncture
Living According to the Seasons
Welcome to Summer! Summer is a time of joy and laughter. It is a very common time to travel and spend time with friends and families. It is a time to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and feel social and lively. One of the underlying principles of acupuncture is that our bodies are a microcosm of the world, we mimic nature. It is natural to be social and have more energy in the summer because that is a reflection of the current environment. Living with accordance of the seasons is important for health and wellbeing.
Summer and the 5 Elements
Acupuncture relates the body to nature in many ways. One of the ways is through a system of correspondences based on the five Elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each internal organ corresponds to other aspects that in turn help to understand the mechanism and tendencies of the organ. For example, the Heart relates to the element fire, the season summer, the temperature heat, the emotion of joy and sadness, the color red, the sound of laughing, and the taste bitter. It is important to know these correspondences because it helps us to understand how we can influence it in treatment and our lifestyle. For example, the expression, laughing is good for the heart, follows this correspondence.
Heart in Acupuncture
We know from a biomedical perspective that the heart organ acts as a pump for our circulatory system, ensuring that oxygenated blood circulates throughout the body. The muscles of the heart are controlled by electrical impulses from cells of the heart. Electrical impulses, or nerve impulses, are electricity passing from one cell to the next (The heart: All you need to know). Doctors use an electrocardiogram, ECG, to measure the electrical activity of the heart. Electricity is a form of energy, thus viewing the body as an energetic being is accurate. In acupuncture, energy is encompassed in the Chinese word, Qi. Our body functions through electric impulses and the movement of energy. One of the vital aspects of health in acupuncture is how Qi, or energy, is moving in the body.
In acupuncture, the heart is not just viewed as a pump for our circulatory system and an electrical force, but also as what we think of as the mind and spirit. An ancient Chinese text dated by experts to be written somewhere between 400BCE and 260CE (Huang di Nei Jing) Su Wen chapter 8, describes the actions of the heart as follows, “The heart holds the office of lord and sovereign. The radiance of the spirits stems from it.” (Larre & Rochat, pg.36) This shows the Heart as controlling everything and relating to the spiritual and emotional aspects of a person. The idea of the heart being at the center of our being and controlling our emotions is a commonly held view. Heart references are used throughout literature and art. As Anotine de Saint Eupery wrote in The Little Prince, “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi’s say in their book, The Healing Self, “Your heart is very responsive to how you feel emotionally and physically. There’s almost no choice you make that your heart doesn’t know about” (pg.50).
The Heart Channel and Acupuncture
The Heart channel in acupuncture is an extension of the Heart organ. It is on the channel that the acupuncture points exist and we are able to have an influence with acupressure or acupuncture needles. Anatomically, the channels are said to be the connective tissue planes, or fascial planes, inside which electrical impulses occur. Dr. Daniel Keown describes this as Fascial Qi theory. He says that acupuncture is so great for pain relief because it is modulating the flow of electricity through the fascia. In referred pain, he says, pain is traveling through the network of nerves in the fascial planes. This is a way to describe referred pain from organs, such as the pain associated with a heart attack. The referral pain pattern seen in a heart attack tends to follow the Heart acupuncture channel. The pain can be felt in the arm and face. (Keown, 275-277). These are the areas of the acupuncture channel and branches relating to the Heart. The main Heart channel is on the arm and follows the fascia of the arteries, moving from the heart to the aorta, to the axillary artery (armpit), following the brachial artery to the elbow then the ulnar artery to the pinky finger. The acupuncture points are located along this pathway (next to the arteries) from the armpit down the arm to the pinky. There is also an internal branch that follows the carotid artery to the facial artery and carotid artery of the eye (Keown, 136). While there are no points on this internal branch, it shows the connection of the Heart to the face and the eyes which is important in treatment. It is often said that you can see the spirit of a person by looking in their eyes. In acupuncture, the clarity and sparkle in someone’s eyes shows the nourishment of their mind, spirit, and Heart.
Symptoms in Acupuncture relating to the Heart
According to the philosophies behind acupuncture, a person with a healthy Heart is kind and friendly with a clarity of mind that allows them to easily solve problems. Whereas, symptoms of a Heart imbalance in acupuncture appear as,
lack of laughter or inappropriate laughter
a very pale face or very red face
issues with speaking
aversion to heat
(Pitchford, 332). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, an acupuncture treatment using the Heart channel will be beneficial.
Acupuncture Treatment for Heart Disease
Whereas, in biomedicine, the following conditions are related to the heart,
High blood pressure
Congestive Heart Failure
Coronary artery disease
In these cases, acupuncture can be a good complementary medicine to standard care. As cardiologist, Dr. Joel Kahn, said in a MindBodyGreen article , he has seen a positive response when acupuncture is used in the following heart conditions, angina pain, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, hypertension, and smoking cessation.
Acupuncture Summer Seasonal Treatment
As mentioned earlier, living in tune with the seasons is important for health and wellness. It is around the change of seasons that our body becomes vulnerable to exterior pathogens because of the change of weather and energy. Therefore, seasonal treatments are important in acupuncture to ensure the body is adapting harmoniously to the changes in nature. For overall wellness, it is a good idea to be treated around the change of seasons. It is especially indicated for people that are having issues adjusting to the new season. It is now around the time of Summer. People that are having trouble adjusting to Summer energy may feel fatigue, overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or have an aversion to heat. The Summer treatment usually involves four points on channels of organs that relate to the season of Summer, such as the Heart. The point Heart 8, Lesser Palace, is often used during the time of the Summer solstice. This point on the hand is great for helping to ignite the Summer energy in someone who feels it lacking in such cases as feeling burned out. It can also be used for the opposite, to calm down excess Summer energy that can occur from repressed desires and too much strain and pressure (Jarrett, 349).
Acupuncture Treatment Near You
If you are in the Philadelphia area, I would be happy to see you at my office in Elkins Park, PA, Red Panda Acupuncture, for acupuncture treatment. If you are located elsewhere, the NCCAOM has a list of licensed acupuncturists on their website.
Wishing you a joyful summer,
Kearney DeFillipo L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
Red Panda Acupuncture LLC
Larre, Claude & Rochat de la Valle, Elisabeth. The Secret Treatise of the Spiritual Orchid. 2003.
Chopra, Deepak. Tanzi, Rudolph. The Healing Self. 2018.
Keown, Daniel. The Spark in the Machine. 2014.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. 2002.
Jarrett, Lonny. The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine. 2006.