Understanding the Chinese Medicine Concept of the Stomach Organ System
Chinese medicine views the organs not as separate entities, but as connected physical, chemical, and energetic networks. Here, we’ll dive deeper into the Chinese medicine concept of the Stomach system and how we can use herbal medicine to boost digestive health.
(Note: we will capitalize “Stomach” when discussing the Chinese medicine Stomach system to differentiate from the general organ of the Stomach.)
THE STOMACH: OVERVIEW & ASSOCIATIONS
The main functions of the Stomach system in Chinese medicine are to start the digestive processes, manage fluids, and store abundant energy for the body.
Emotions: worry, anxiety, overthinking
Sense Organ: Mouth
Paired Organ: Spleen
Western Associations: digestive system, stomach, esophagus, digestive glands, pancreas
Other Associations: muscles and tissue, tongue
Common Conditions: nausea, vomiting, ulcers, appetite changes, weight changes, skin rashes or acne, bad breath, acid reflux
THE STOMACH ORGAN SYSTEM
When we think about our “stomach,” we are really thinking about our entire digestive system. But in reality, the stomach itself is just one part of a bigger system. There are several digestive organs, glands, and even trillions of bacteria that help us turn food into energy and nourishment.
In Chinese medicine, the Stomach has the specific function of “rotting and ripening”. This is the first step of the digestive process. The Stomach helps the body begin the process of breaking down the food we eat so it’s paired organ, the Spleen, can extract all the most beneficial nutrients.
When out of balance, the Stomach can cause both digestive issues and other issues throughout the body. “Stomach fire” is an imbalance where Stomach heats up. This could be related to stress, diet, or general constitution. As a result, we crave more food, the Stomach burns up our fluids, and inflammation ensues. Issues like increased appetite, dry skin, acne, rashes, toothaches, heartburn, and irritability can be seen with this imbalance.
Another common Stomach complaint is nausea, vomiting, or low appetite. These issues tend to be related to disharmony with Stomach qi. Usually, our Stomach energy moves downward, pushing food through to the lower part of the digestive system. When this energy gets reversed, we may belch, have hiccups, regurgitation, feel nauseous, or even vomit.
Lastly, the Stomach and Spleen are related to the emotions of overthinking, worry, or ruminating thoughts. When we can’t stop “chewing” over things in our head, there’s an imbalance in the Stomach and Spleen system.
THE STOMACH CHANNEL (STOMACH MERIDIAN)
Each organ in Chinese medicine is associated with an energetic channel where qi travels along the body, closer to the surface of the skin. These channels create a web of connections and are how acupuncturists “tap” into the body’s energetic system to stimulate change.
The Stomach Channel starts at the inner eye, moves down to the outside of the mouth, follows the jaw up to the ear, and ascends to the side of the forehead.
From here, it jumps to the side of the neck, down the side of the chest, and along the abdomen. After passing the navel, it moves out to the inner hip, down the front of the thigh, lower leg, and over the top of the foot.
The Stomach Channel is long, and as such can be used to treat a wide range of conditions. Along with general digestive issues, it can be used to address issues with the eyes, jaw, or headaches. As a major source of qi and blood for the entire body, it can also be stimulated to boost energy, circulation, and strengthen the body’s defenses.
OUR BEST CHINESE MEDICINE FAVORITES FOR STOMACH HEALTH
Herbal formulas that address Stomach health tend to improve digestive function, regulate appetite, or reduce inflammation. Here are a few key formulas to try:
Bloating and indigestion are common signs of an imbalanced Stomach system. The Stomach’s natural function of processing and sending food downward gets interrupted and needs a boost to restore proper functioning. Calm Stomach Teapills help you restore the Stomach’s ability to “rot and ripen” and reduce any issues that could be preventing healthy digestion.
When the Stomach gets backed up, tummy troubles ensue. Poor diet, stress, and other factors can cause a build up in the Stomach of what Chinese medicine practitioners call “turbid” substances or “phlegm.” This makes digestion hard for the Stomach, and the backup of food causes nausea, poor appetite, and fatigue. To help, Xiang Sha Liu Jun Wan breaks up the turbid materials, helps the Stomach regain it’s processing power, and boosts the body’s overall energy.
Inflammatory skin conditions tend to be the result of excess heat in the Lung and Stomach systems. This heat rises to the skin and surfaces as rashes, acne, eczema, or generally irritated skin. Margarita Acne Pills use herbs to cool and calm the Lung and Stomach to soothe the skin and reduce acne inflammation and breakouts.
Best Chinese Medicine Supplements for Stomach Health
Ready to better support your Stomach and entire digestive system? Shop our full collection of Chinese herbal formulas for better digestive health today!