top of page

Five Zang-Organs vs Mental Health

          In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), five Zang-organs consist of the Heart, Lung, Liver, Spleen, and Kidney. Each of them corresponds to its meridian system and Fu-organ.

Yoga at Home
Vasculature of the Heart

The Heart

          In TCM, the Heart houses Shen (神), which would be the same as the spirit or soul. It houses the mind and the spirit; within the spirit, it controls the mental activity, memory, consciousness, thoughts, and dreams. The best way to determine an individual’s state of Shen is through a person’s appearance such as his or her eyes. The saying “the eyes are the windows to the soul” is very relevant. If there is a health issue with someone’s Shen, their eyes might be dull. Having speech problems or not being able to taste good food shows that there might be an imbalance in the Heart function. These health issues can be detected from tongue reading because the tongue is the sense organ of the Heart. The Heart is also related to the emotion of joy. This is because, in TCM, smiling goes a long way compared to cardio exercise to maintain longevity and good health. The act of smiling creates positive Qi that spreads throughout the body, healing the Heart and changing Shen of the Heart. However, excess joy injures the Heart function and may lead to restlessness, whereas not enough joy leads to depression. The fear and fright emotions associated with the Kidney can help balance out the excess joy that the Heart has.

The Lung

          The Lung stores the corporeal soul. In TCM, this would be called Po (魄). Po is the idea that at the time of death, consciousness, and elements of the body dissolve together. In other words, it refers to the body’s basic reactive instincts. This is more of the physical aspects of consciousness. The Lung and Po belong to the metal element. Because Po only exists in one single lifetime, it is more likely associated with individuals’ immediate desire. The corporeal soul, Po, is closely related to the Essence (Jing). Po is responsible for all physiological processes that animate all physiological activities. It gives individuals the capacity of sensation, feeling, hearing, sight, and to be able to breathe. The Lung is associated with the emotion of sadness. As grief and melancholy damage the Lung function, they dissolve and diffuse Qi. These emotions are very similar to sadness, as melancholy is defined as pensive sadness. Referring to the engendering relationship among the five elements, the illness of the "child" element/organ affects the "mother" element/organ. In this case, when these negative emotions attack the Lung function and further affect the Spleen function, an individual might experience digestive orders such as weight loss, loss of appetite, diarrhea or constipation, etc.

The Liver

          The Liver stores the ethereal soul, which is also known as Hun (魂). Hun refers to a self-awareness and self-control mechanism. Hun provides ideas, intuition, images, and creativity to the mind, also known as Shen. Unlike the corporeal soul being about the physical aspects of consciousness, Hun is more about ethereal aspects which are more beyond the earth and immaterial. It is said that Hun enters the body three days after birth. When an individual dies, it returns to Heaven. Hun allows individuals to plan their life by giving them a sense of direction. Hun’s activity depends on how well the Liver functions. If the Liver is flourishing, Hun will be useful in helping us plan our life. The Liver is associated with the emotion of anger. As anger occurs, Qi starts to rise and leads to redness of the face and inflamed neck veins. Even just mild anger can lead to abdominal distension or pain. The Liver function is to maintain the free flow of Qi, however, anger would interrupt the smooth flow. A few other consequences of anger include but are not limited to irregular menstruation, belching, and impairment of blood vessel circulation.

          Having damaged Liver function also leads to damage in the Spleen function. According to the five-element theory, the Lung controls the Liver. Regulating the emotions in the Lung will help regulate the emotion of anger.

Anatomical Model

The Spleen

          The Spleen is associated with reflection or the intellect. This is also known as Yi (意), which is responsible for applied thinking, studying, memorizing, focusing, and generating ideas. Yi influences Hun, Po, Zhi, and Shen. Yi governs personal thoughts, opinions, and knowledge. Yi also makes sense of our life experience. According to the five-element theory, the Shen of the Heart promotes the Yi of the Spleen. Whenever there is a weak Shen, a strong Yi can overcome corresponding health issues. On the other hand, as overconcentrated thinking builds up, there could be damage to the Heart function which may lead to mental disorders. The Spleen relates to the emotion of pensive because if an individual worries too much, obsessive thinking could occur. In other words, a person might easily express what they know about a subject but would have a difficult time taking it into practical action. If there is damage to the Spleen function such as overthinking or excess pensiveness, loose stools or poor absorption of nutrients can be the consequences.


The Kidney

          Speaking of Zhi (志), the Kidney is the organ that is associated with it. Zhi is responsible for the effort and intention to accomplish goals. It rules the will, drive, ambition, and survival instincts to follow one’s destiny or as mentioned, to accomplish goals. When Zhi is unfolded, an individual would fulfill their destiny because Zhi contains a destiny code. Zhi and Shen must be coordinated because while Zhi is a building block for Shen. Shen directs Zhi. If an individual has both strong Zhi and Shen, s/he is clear about what path s/he wants to take in life and will have the drive to pursue multiple goals. The Kidney is tied in with the emotion of fear. Fear causes Qi to descend which can lead to bedwetting. According to the five-element theory, the Kidney controls the Heart. Fear in the Kidney injures the Heart function, resulting in possible mental illnesses such as mania, insomnia, confusion, or abnormal laughing. There could also be damage to the Liver and Gallbladder functions if the Kidney, which is the water element, does not nourish the wood element. Since the Gallbladder is responsible for decision-making, a constantly fearful individual can be indecisive. To balance out the emotion of fear, the Spleen should be nourished because it oversees concentrated thinking as it controls the Kidney.

recent posts...

TCM Tips for Anxiey & Moodiness

Five Zang-organs



ActiveHerb. (2018, February 19). Zang fu organ theory: The yin/yang of your internal body.


Brown, D. (2018, March 30). Kinesiology and the five shen (part 2). Kinesiology Concepts.


Healthcare Medicine Institute. (2021). Seven emotions.


Reninger, E. (2019, March 05). Introduction to the five shen of Chinese medicine. Learn Religions.,west%2C%20and%20the%20planet%20Venus.


Suttie, E. (2020). The heart in Chinese medicine. Chinese Medicine Living.


Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation. (2021). How joy impacts the heart.

bottom of page