Chinese Med 101: Heart/Small Intestine System, Circulation

In order for our patients to receive more information on the fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and associated western symptoms, we are putting together a series of very basic information of each system.  It is not meant to be all inclusive or include every combination or possibility of a diagnosis from a TCM perspective, that is up to your practitioner to figure out. Your practitioner will help you understand your specific diagnosis.


We are also including some common foods that a patient can eat in order to assist in balancing their energy and associated patterns.

Heart Meridian

The Heart Meridian travels from the pinky, up the inner side of arm as shown in the picture.

Heart Syndromes

The  Heart System in TCM is different in many ways than what we think of as the circulatory system in western medicine.  The heart element has the following correspondences:

  • Yin  associated Yang organ is the Small Intestine
  • Color: Red
  • Flavor: Bitter
  • Emotion: Happiness/Joy
  • Tissue: Blood and vessels
  • Sense: Speach
  • Element: Fire


The Heart Qi in TCM has the following etiology and associated pathology signs/symptoms:

  • Dominates blood – Stagnant blood, extremities cold, lack of strength, poor constitution
  • Controls vessels – Irregular pulse
  • Complexion – Blue lusterless complexion, ruddy lustrous complexion
  • Hair is the ends of blood – dry brittle hair
  • Small Intestine relationship – Defecation and urination disorders
  • Houses Shen (spirit) – Mental symptoms, illogical speech, mind not clear, insomnia
  • Controls speech – forgetfulness

Heart Qi deficiency:

  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive perspiration (daytime)
  • Symptoms worse after exertion
  • Facial pallor
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Suffocating sensation in the chest

Western symptoms: Cardiac failure, Cardiac disease, Arrhythmia, Reactive depression (neurosis), Coronary Arteriosclerosis

Dietary recommendations:

Oats, Rye, Wheat germ, Reishi, Apple, Cherry, Longan, Chickpea, Lentil, Pheasant, Cinnamon bark, Hawthorn, Licorice, Sage, Thyme, Arnica Flower, Hawthorn, Pollen, Rue, Yarrow, Algea, Ginseng (American), Coconut

Heart Yin Deficiency.

  • Palpitations
  • Low grade fever
  • Irritability
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth, thirst
  • Excess dreaming
  • Dry throat, mouth
  • Poor memory
  • Malar flush
  • Anxiety
  • May be depressed

Western symptoms: Anemia, Arrhythmia, Reactive Hypertension, Hyperthyroidism, Neurosis, Tachycardia

Dietary recommendations:

Wheat, Apple, Persimmon, Mung Bean, Coconut milk, Cuttlefish, Arnica Flower, Chickweed, Ginseng (American), Hops, Rose

Heart Blood Deficiency:

  • Palpitations
  • Poor memory
  • Excess dreaming
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Pale lips
  • Dull complexion
  • Lack of concentration
  • May be depressed
  • Fatigue

Western symptoms: Aesthenia, Anemia, Neurosis, Hyperthyroidism

Dietary recommendations:

Oats, Wheat germ, Beetroot, Reishi, Longan, Coconut, Chickweed, Microalgae, Pollen

Heart Yang Deficiency:

  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath on exertion
  • Four limbs cold
  • Watery stool with undigested food
  • Mental cloudiness
  • Bright – pale face

Western symptoms: Cardiac insufficiency, Cardiac Failure, Depressive neurosis, Arrhythmia, Shock, Angina pectoris

Dietary recommendations:

 Scallions, Aniseed, Cayenne, Chili, Cinnamon bark, Garlic, Ginger (dry), Rosemary, Aconite, Arnica Flower

Heart Fire:

  • Ulcerations, erosion and pain in the mouth and tongue
  • Thirst with a desire for cold drinks
  • Irritability
  • Feeling of heat and disturbance in the heart
  • Insomnia
  • May be red or flushed face
  • Bitter taste in mouth
  • Inability to stay asleep
  • Extremely anxious
  • Deep yellow urine

Western symptoms: Tongue ulcers, Avitaminosis

Dietary recommendations:

Wheat, Wheat germ, Lotus root, Apple, Persimmon, Watermelon, Aduki bean, Mung bean, Vitamin C, Clary Sage

Heart Phlegm-Fire:

  • Irritability
  • Palpitations
  • Bitter taste in mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Dream disturbed sleep
  • Agitated
  • Restless
  • Alternates between depression and confusion

Western symptoms: Manic or hypomanic psychosis, Schizophrenia, Epilepsy, Neurosis

Dietary recommendations:

Hijiki, Agar, Persimmon, Aduki bean, Chickpea, Aniseed, Licorice, Sage, Calamus, Lobelia, Myrrh, Rhubarb root, Sandalwood, St John’s Wort, Yarrow, Tea (black and green), Neroli

Heart Qi/Blood Stagnation:

  • Palpitations
  • Cold hands
  • Heart pain radiating down arm into palm
  • Oppressive discomfort in the chest

Western symptoms: Angina pectoris, Coronary artery disease, Heart Attack, Myocardial infarction, Pericarditis

Dietary recommendations:

Oats, Rye, Wheat Germ, Beetroot, Lotus root, Scallion, Cherry, Aniseed, Cayenne, Chili, Cinnamon bark, Garlic, Ginger (fresh), Hawthorn, Licorice, Oregano, Pepper (black), Thyme, Arnica flower, Barberry bark, Camphor resin, Catnip, Celandine, Cinnamon twig, Aduki bean, Frankincense, Hops, Mistletoe, Lavender, Limeflower, Lobelia, Motherwort, Myrrh, Pasque flower, Passionflower, Rhubarb root, Rose, Rue, Scullcap, St Johns Wort, Spirits


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