The air is crisp and fresh, the Farmer’s Market is bountiful with harvest, and the leaves are starting to shift their palette. It must be Fall in Walla Walla! In Chinese Medicine, that means the time of the Lung & Large Intestine functional organ system has arrived. In this post, we are going to focus primary on the yin organ, the Lung.
Note: When “Lung” is capitalized it refers to the functionality of the organ system in Chinese Medicine, whereas “lung” refers strictly to the organ as we know it in physiology.
When certain points during a session are particularly strong, or after insertion the patient feels an emotional response, I am often asked why that point is eliciting such sensations. There are many ways to answer this question, but my favorite is to thumb through the wonderful texts as my disposal to give the patient a translation of the point name and a deeper meaning into the nature of that point. Sometimes it is simply that the patient has a wet cough and the point that clears phlegm is aching, and that’s the end of the story. Other times, there’s more to it, and a new depth of understanding is received by the patient that speaks to their emotional experience.
The Lung’s Function and Meridian Connections
The primary Lung channel starts in the region of the stomach, descends to connect with it’s paired organ the large intestine, then leaps up to transverse the diaphragm, penetrates the lung organ, climbs up through the throat, and the channel then emerges in the delto-pectoral triangle where it descends along the antero-lateral aspect of the upper arm, forearm and toward the styloid process of the radius, terminating at the radial side of the thumbnail. Did you get all that? Essentially the Lung channel is connected to the digestive organs, lungs, chest region, throat, nose, and the medial side of the arm and thumb through the channel pathways.
The Lung has 5 principal functions:
- governing qi and controlling respiration
- controlling the disseminating and descending function in the body
- regulating the water passages
- influencing the skin and body hair
- opening the nasal passages
Lung Points and Their Stories
While points are rarely used alone, the meaning and function of a single point can be very powerful. Translations can differ from text to text, which is part of the fun. This is by no means an exhaustive exploration of the point’s indications or meanings, but let’s explore a few of my favorites from the Lung channel.
Zhongfu (Middle Palace) – Lung 1
Zhongfu’s actions are to descend Lung qi in order to alleviate coughing and wheezing. It can also transform phlegm, clear heat, and regulate the water passages. It will also descend Stomach qi (for example, hiccups).
The name Middle Palace refers to the origin of the Lung channel around the region of the stomach. This is why when cold food and drink enter the stomach, the cold can travel upwards, leading to cold in the Lung. This can lead to cough, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Zhongfu is also the “Front Mu point of the Lung”, meaning that is where the qi of the Lung system gathers and concentrates on the surface of the body. When one is struggling with unresolved or overwhelming grief, sadness, or other experiences that cause their breathing to be constricted, qi can bind in the chest. Zhongfu is a great point to help dispersed that full, stagnant qi and give the patient ease in their experience. Through the connection with the Stomach, it can offer “security in our core”. The watery experience of grief can sometimes make one feel adrift, without anchor, so the action of bringing someone back into their core can be soothing.
Chize (Cubit Marsh) – Lung 5
Chize also has the function of descending Lung qi, clearing heat and phlegm from the lungs, and moving qi and blood in the channel to relax the sinews (as in tendonitis of the elbow). As a “water” elemental point on the channel, it also regulates water passages through the bladder.
Another translation of Chize is “An Expansive Marshland”. This point has the elemental quality of water, so its actions reflect that. When we are stuck or feeling inert, this point can help us find what is real within ourselves to get us moving again with inspiration. It gives fluidity to the creative forces.
Taiyuan (Great Abyss) – Lung 9
This point tonifies Lung Qi, transforms phlegm, promotes the circulation of blood and influences the rhythm of the pulse.
The name Great Abyss speaks to the process of stepping into the unknown, when something changes with us and we go further into a new experience. Letting go into the ocean where we are both ourselves and somehow changed gives us greater security to simply be. The point Taiyuan can help connect us with our inner resources, our pulse of life, which can bring a sparkle back to our current experience.
The movement of qi throughout the entire meridian system begins with the Lung channel. The vital energy emerges and begins the process of circulation through the entire body with the movement of qi through the Lung channel. I find it interesting that so many of these points tell a story about connecting us to our core experience in life, anchoring us in a strong sense of self. Feeling grounded and centered in our sense of self is an appropriate way to begin any journey and proper functioning of the lungs is imperative for smooth functioning of all the other organs systems.
Amanda Johnson (AJ) practices at Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. She loves to show patients how Chinese medicine is fantastic at relieving body pain, aiding recovery and enhancing vitality. When not in the clinic, she will be out hiking, cycling, or playing in the water.