The lungs 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 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.
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 govern the skin, sweat and body hair which are all important in defending the lungs. Sitting atop the organs, this is like the sprinkling of 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 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.