SPLEEN HEALTH 101
The Best Herbs For a Healthy Spleen
Pop quiz–do you know what your Spleen is and what it does?
If you said that it was a moon shaped organ that filters your blood, you’d be right. It also works as part of your immune system, hunting down and fighting off bacteria and germs that could get you sick.
But if you said that the Spleen was way more than just an organ that filters blood and kills germs, you’d also be right! In Eastern medicine, the Spleen does so much more than digest your food and maintain your immunity. In fact, many believe that ”Spleen/Pancreas” is a better translation of the functional organ.
The Spleen and Digestion
In TCM, the Spleen is connected to the Stomach and helps with digesting food and extracting nutrients. Then the Spleen sends these nutrients to the Heart and Lungs, which make Qi and blood. However, if your Spleen Qi isn’t strong enough to send these nutrients upwards to the Heart and Lungs, the Qi can end up flowing down, leaving you with a poor appetite, gassiness, and diarrhea.
The Spleen and Blood
The Spleen also helps regulate our blood, so if your Spleen Qi is weak you might notice problems like bruising or blood in your stool. And because your blood flows throughout your body, sending nutrients, oxygen, and Qi to all your major organs, the spleen affects those too. So good spleen health means your brain, muscles, and kidneys will be in good shape, too.
The Spleen and Emotions
For people new to eastern medicine, it can be confusing to understand how closely related our body and our emotions are. Western medicine usually treats the body and mind as two very different things, but TCM and Ayurvedic practice emphasize how our emotions and physical health work together. When the two are in harmony, we feel healthy and strong. When they’re not, we can get sick!
Think about it like this: when we get really happy, we don’t just feel the emotion in our brain–we also feel the effects on our body. Maybe our heart rate goes up, or we get butterflies in our stomach. On the other hand, when we get really scared, we might start to shake, our muscles might freeze, or the hair on our neck stands up. That’s why TCM considers managing your emotions an important part of your overall health!
There’s one more layer to all this–the five elements of earth, fire, water, wood, and metal. Our organs, emotions, and the elements are connected because we’re also supposed to be in harmony with the natural world.
As part of our digestive system, the Spleen is connected to the element of earth. To keep your spleen healthy, you need to keep your earth element nice and balanced. That means not overworking yourself–physically or mentally–and making time for the rest you need. When you feel overworked, try to make some time for rest and relaxation, or get outside and ground yourself in nature.
The Best Herbs For A Healthy Spleen
Ginseng is a popular plant in TCM that is also used to make non-medicinal tea. It’s great for spleen health because it reinvigorates and re-energizes the spleen.
One of the ways it does this is by calming your Shen energy. Since the sSpleen takes a hit when we’re overworked, calming this anxious energy helps restore the Spleen. Ginseng also helps with digestion and regulating the flow of blood, making it easier for the Spleen to do its job.
If you want to take Ginseng for spleen health, look for “red Ginseng.” This means that it was steamed before it was dried. And it is energetically hotter than raw ginseng. If you don’t run cold, take American or Raw ginseng
Astragalus, also known as huang qi, is popular in traditional Chinese medicine for its immune-boosting benefits. It’s also used for heart, spleen, and kidney health. There are over 1,000 different varieties of Astragalus, but make sure to get Astragalus membranaceus for the health benefits.
Astragalus helps power up the spleen, especially if you’re feeling a lot of fatigue and you’ve lost your appetite. You can usually find it in a ground-up powder that you can cook with or take in a capsule. Since it barely has a taste, it is generally better to take it in food.
Now, we’re not saying you should grab some twizzlers and call it a day if you’re trying to boost your spleen health. But the licorice root, known as Gan Cao in TCM, can nourish the Spleen by removing excess heat and toxins. Licorice is a popular remedy for Qi deficiency and affects the Spleen, Stomach, Heart, and Lungs- in fact all of the meridians.
When it comes to the Spleen, licorice helps with digestion and managing blood flow throughout the body. Try drinking licorice root tea after a meal–it’s nice and sweet and will help you digest your food. If you’re not a fan of tea, licorice is also usually available in pills and tinctures.
Since it barely has a taste, it is generally better to take it in food.
If you’re having problems with your Spleen, Lungs, or Kidneys, Chinese Yam is a powerful ingredient to incorporate into your diet. Despite its name, Chinese Yam isn’t related to sweet potatoes–it’s actually more like a vine. It’s especially known for its help with digestive problems like a low appetite or diarrhea.
Chinese Yam is special because it contains a substance known as allantoin, which helps your body heal much faster than normal. It’s also got lots of vitamins B and C, as well as antioxidants, making it a super healthy addition to your diet and health routine.
If you’re having digestion problems or think your Spleen Qi is low, you can take Chinese Yam by itself, although it’s also available mixed with other healthy herbs. You can eat it raw or prepared, drink it as a tea, or take it in a pill. It even works topically, which means you can apply it directly to your skin if you’re having problems with boils or ulcers.
In TCM, everything is connected: your body, your emotions, and the elements. So when one organ has problems, you might see pain or sickness pop up in other parts of your body–or even your brain!
And though we probably don’t think about it very much, the Spleen is an important part of our digestion and blood flow, so you have to take good care of it. If you think your spleen might be struggling to do its job, give it a little extra TLC with these herbs and you might notice relief in areas you didn’t even know were related!