February is Heart Disease Awareness Month, so this week let’s discuss the East Asian Medicine (EAM) view of heart disease and heart health.
Please visit the Heart Foundation website to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of heart disease. If you think you are experiencing symptoms that align with any linked to heart disease, please seek help from your General Practitioner or the hospital in the case of an emergency.
Unlike the Western medicine perspective, which focuses on anatomical and physiological aspects of heart disease, EAM believes that heart health is much deeper than that. It views heart health holistically, emphasising the interconnected nature of the body, mind, and spirit. In this article, I hope to shed light on heart disease (and heart health!) from an EAM perspective.
In EAM the heart is seen as the “monarch” of the body, governing the flow of blood and the vitality of all organs. More than just a physical pump, the heart is also a seat of consciousness and emotions. Imbalances in the body’s energy, or Qi, and any disruption of the harmonious flow of this vital flow can contribute to the development of heart disease.
According to EAM, the heart is closely linked to the Fire element. When the Fire element is in balance it fosters warmth, circulation, and joy. When it is out of balance, either because of an excess, or a deficiency, Fire can lead to disturbances in the heart’s functioning. For example, excessive Fire may manifest as symptoms such as heart palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia; a deficiency of Fire can result in lethargy, weakness, and poor circulation.
A key concept in EAM is the notion of Qi and Blood stagnation. Remembering that Qi is the life force that flows through the body’s energy pathways, Blood is what nourishes the organs and tissues. When stagnation occurs, it impedes the smooth flow of Qi and Blood, which leads to a variety of health issues – including heart disease.
But how do Fire, Qi, and Blood combine in the context of heart disease? Much like Western medicine, EAM emphasises the importance of lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise and stress management. However, from an EAM perspective, the diet should be rich in warming foods such as ginger and garlic – which can help balance the heart’s Fire element. Regular, moderate levels of exercise, such as Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga, or walking promote the free flow of Qi and Blood – supporting overall cardiovascular health.
Acupuncture and Heart Health
Acupuncture is a well-known element of EAM and can also play a crucial role in addressing heart disease. By inserting the thin acupuncture needles into specific points along the meridians, acupuncture helps regulate the flow of Qi, alleviating stagnation and restoring balance to the body. This ancient practice can not only be effective in managing the symptoms of heart disease but also in addressing the root causes of heart imbalances. Read more about acupuncture here.
Herbal Medicine and Heart Health
Herbal medicine, another cornerstone of EAM, offers a range of natural remedies to support heart health. Herbs like hawthorn, salvia, and danshen have been traditionally used to tonify the heart, improve circulation, and resolve Qi and Blood stagnation. Read more about herbal medicine here.
To summarise, the EAM perspective of heart disease goes beyond treating symptoms; it seeks to restore harmony and health to the entire body. By addressing energetic imbalances, promoting a balanced lifestyle, and using modalities such as acupuncture and herbal medicine, we can embark on a journey towards heart health that encompasses not only the physical but also the emotional and spiritual aspects of our well-being. As a doctor of EAM, my role is to help guide your body back towards a balanced and vibrant heart, fostering a life of vitality and joy. If you would like an appointment to discuss how EAM can help you and your health you can book here.