The Lungs in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) are the lid of the yin organs – forming a cap on top of the thoracic cavity. They have two functions, (1) the descending and liquefying (su-jiang) and (2) disseminating or circulating (xuan) functions. They take in vital substances and propel waste products downward. It is where the Lung Qi meets external Air Qi (Kong Qi) and this process also means it is the organ most at risk from external pernicious influences.
Because air is vital to life, the Lungs in TCM are said to ‘rule qi’ , administering it around the body. When we hold strong lung Qi, we are full of life and vitality. The lungs are a major component of postnatal Qi (the kidneys are the source for prenatal Qi). Exercises such as qi qong can strengthen our postnatal qi and compensate for weak prenatal qi.
Everytime we breathe, we take in ‘non-self’ air and transform it into ‘ourself’. It becomes part of us. This applies in a general sense to not just air, but to our environment, food, the people we spend time with, the home we live in – there is no magical separation between us and the external environment. It follows then that if we are talking about lung function transforming air qi into ‘our’ qi, good quality air gives us a head start!
As we inhale, the lungs transform air qi and send it downwards along with assisting the movement of Qi and fluid around the body. This is their descending function. On exhalation, our lungs force impure air out. When our lungs are working properly, this process goes virtually unnoticed. When an imbalance occurs, symptoms such as cough, asthma and shortness of breath occur. When the lungs fail to disseminate properly, edema in the upper body and/or trouble urinating may occur.
The Lungs in TCM govern the skin, sweat and body hair which are all important in defending the lungs. Sitting atop the organs, the lungs ‘sprinkle mist’ to all other organs (the lungs force liquid water down while water vapour or mist is circulated). Dry lungs irritate us and when the lung is imbalanced, this moisture can dry up manifesting in other internal organs or the skin also. Because it meets external air, the lungs are particularly at risk from heat, damp, dryness and fire and these are all commonly found combined with wind. Restoring balance to the lungs can be an integral part of any treatment protocol. It is worth remembering that not only can the pernicious influences affect the lungs but the seven emotions can also unbalance their smooth operation.
The Lungs in TCM open into the nose and the throat is said to be the door of the lungs. Thus problems in the lungs are associated with poor smell. Vocal problems are often treated via the lungs.
When evil wind is present in the Lung, the nose will be congested.
When the lungs are dry, the skin and face will appear withered.
Craving pungent foods means the lung qi is deficient.
The corporeal Po (soul) is housed in the Lungs and is most affected by grief and sadness. Calm breathing can help balance the soul.
The lung is of the element metal, it’s season is Autumn and its direction West.
Important Lung points to know;
Front Mu point: LU1
Rear Shu Point: UB13
Shu Points – 11,10,9,8,5
Cardinal Points: – LU7 (neck / headaches), LU5 (lungs / respiratory system), LU11 (skin)
LU1 – Treats coughs and chesty colds (disperses heat from the chest)
LU2 – Treats coughs
LU5 – General lung problems, coughing, fever, elbow pain
LU6 – Acute attacks of asthma and coughing
LU7 – Fever, headache (good for headaches), coughs. LU7 is a cardinal point for neck pain (because the LI runs through the neck area. Also a good point for general release of exterior wind.
LU9 – Cough caused by asthma, pain in the wrist. Also good point for general pain along the LU meridian.
LU10 – Asthma attacks, sore throat, pain in thumb.
LU11 – Sore throat.
(Scroll down for textual descriptions of points)
Point Locations of Lungs in TCM
LU1 – Central Palace – Zhongfu – 1 cun below LU2, 6 cun lateral to the midline of the chest. Located in the first intercostal space.
LU2 – Cloud Door – Yunmen – Below the acromial end of the clavicle, 6 cun from the midline of the chest. In the middle of the triangle.
LU3 – Heavenly Residence – Tianfu – 3 cun below the front end of the auxillary fossa (the armpit crease!), on the radial side of the biceps biceps brachii in the middle of the upper arm.
LU4 – Guarding White – Ziabai – 1 cun below LU3. 4 cun below the front end of the auxillary fossa and 5 cun above the cubital crease.
LU5 – Cubit Marsh – Chize – On the radial side of the tendon m. biceps brachii.
LU6 – Maximum Opening – Kongzui – On the radial palmar aspect of the forearm, 7 cun above the transverse crease of the wrist. Approx. half way between LU9 and LU5. If you give a ‘thumbs up’, with the thumb pointing skyward, this point will be on the ‘top’ of the forearm, 7 cun above the wrist crease.
LU7 – Broken Sequence – Lieque – 1.5 cun above the transverse crease of the wrist, on the radial margin of the forearm. Just above the styloid process of the wrist. If you interlock your thumbs, the opposite index finger will fall at this point.
LU8 – Channel Canal – Jingqu – 1 cun above the transverse crease of the wrist, in the depression between the styloid process of the wrist and the radial artery. Take great care not to needle artery.
LU9 – Great Abyss – Taiyuan – On the trasverse crease of the wrist, at the radial end. The radial artery pulses here.
LU10 – Fish Borer – Yuji – Find the midpoint of the first metacarpal bone. The point is located between the midpoint of the this bone and the thenar muscle.
LU11 – Lesser Shang – Shao Shang – 0.1 cun from the corner of the nail on the thumb.