People can live without the spleen and other organs like the appendix but if there has been a splenectomy, there is increased risk of infection because the spleen is an important part of the body’s defence system.
Is there a difference between the modern interpretation of the spleen and the ancient one?
From a western medical viewpoint, the function of the spleen has some similarities as well as differences when compared to the traditional Chinese medicine view of the spleen.
Is the ancient interpretation of the spleen still relevant to day?
Some modern medical practioners may ridicule traditional Chinese medicine diagnostic theory but in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially recognized Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and diagnosis and updated their International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD).
Hence, first let me say that western medicine states that the spleen is the organ that they know the least about. Secondly, traditional Chinese physicians were the first to write about the spleen over 2000 years ago. Modern western medicine only wrote about the spleen around 500 years ago.
The Tonify Spleen School
Western medicine states that a major function of the spleen is to protect against infection. Chinese medicine has always emphasised how the spleen has an important function to strengthen the body against disease. In fact, a whole specialist school called “The Tonify Spleen School” evolved many centuries ago. In the second century AD, a Chinese physician performed the first splenectomy.
The Spleen and the blood
Modern medicine has found that the spleen holds a reserve of red blood cells whereas Chinese medicine says the spleen helps make blood from the food we ingest.
This is where the traditional viewpoint of the spleen can be expanded upon. If the spleen does not manufacture sufficient blood for the heart, then palpitations can result or if insufficient blood reaches the mind, then insomnia arises. A common Chinese herb formula Gui Pi Tang tonifies the spleen and treats insomnia and palpitations. Alternatively, acupuncture points zusanli and shenmen could be selected to treat this.
The Spleen and the muscles
Further to this, the spleen is responsible for the health of the flesh, aka muscles. Conditions where the muscles are flaccid or tense and in spasm are often treated via regulating the spleen. This could include conditions like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia or post sequela of a stroke. An example of an herb formula to treat stroke is Bu Yang Huan Wu Pian which has a proportionally large dose of huang qi, astragulus, is in the formula to rebuild the flesh. Modern acupuncturists use electro-acupuncture to help with post stroke rehabilitation.
The Spleen and the mind
Modern medicine has the view that all emotions, thoughts and ideas come from the mind whereas traditional Chinese medicine allocates different types of emotions and their imbalance due to specific organs. In the case of the spleen, when it is imbalanced, causes one to think and dwell too much and causes inability to concentrate and study. Some people remark that their brain feels like it is full of cotton wool and makes it hard to think. This is a classic sign of spleen deficiency according to traditional diagnosis.
So instead of venting your spleen, perhaps consider some acupuncture to cool down and get in control of your thoughts.