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Understanding Our Heart - An Acupuncturist's Perspective

by Emmanuel Arroyo

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 will have a recurrent attack. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event, and about one every minute will die from one.

Our heart is one of the most important organs next to the brain and lungs. An adult male has 5 to 6 liters of blood and 4 to 5 liters in an adult female (5 liters = 1.32 Gallons) which are transported via intricate and complex network of blood vessels that transport oxygen, water, minerals, hormones and many other components important for keeping us alive and functioning properly. No wonder in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners called the heart the emperor, the ruler of a big empire; this emperor had a messenger, the pericardium.

According to TCM theory the heart belongs to the element of fire and its color is red. Close observation to this shows some simple but astonishing truth: blood once oxygenated turns red and is warmth like the warmth of a fire that keeps up comfortable during the winter or cold night. Is the blood that keeps every organ working properly, is the blood that moistens our body and sustains not only life but mental activity hence it is called the house of the Shen or Spirit.

In TCM the heart has pathway, channel or meridian which is one of the shortest and most protected yet its influence reach every single part of its empire.

The heart, in TCM, has a close relationship with the small intestine (think of all those blood vessels wrapping around the intestine); the small intestine has a special connection with the urinary bladder and in men’s health a healthy heart leads to good erections, a healthy small intestine absorbs nutrients that are taken to the testes and even prostate hence a healthy diet and healthy peristaltic movement leads to proper flow of blood to the genitals. A healthy small intestine will be able to absorb the right amount of water and dispose of the excess via the urinary system in this case the urinary bladder, poor urinary functions means that the heart at the long run will also be affected which eventually will affect overall health.

In women the heart also connects with the genitals and imparts blood to the uterus as I mentioned before the heart is closely related with the small intestine hence a proper nutrition and absorption of nutrients from the small intestine is very important to ensure enough breast milk and proper menstrual cycle. Poor nutrition will bring poor nutrients creating a deficiency that eventually manifest in TCM as blood deficiency hence insomnia, restless sleep, scanty menstrual flow, poor milk production, and considering that the heart brings blood the uterus and ovaries we could also say that endocrine imbalances would manifest. As you might be noticing the heart plays a very important role in men and female health.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, water and avoiding solidified vegetable oils (i.e. margarine) and not smoking will also contribute to a healthy heart. At this point you might be wondering what other extra steps can be taken to ensure a healthy heart. Here are some other extra steps, stress reduction by practicing yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditation, proper breathing and walking or running. Still wondering what else can be done? Below I have created a table of some Chinese herbs and supplement that have cardiovascular benefits.

Table 1 Some Herbs and Supplements with cardiovascular properties

Herb or Supplement

Botanical Name

Used for

Hawthorn berry

Crataegus cuneata

hypertension, coronary artery disorders, high cholesterol

Red yeast

Monascus purpureus

high cholesterol

Radish seed

Raphanus sativus L


Chinese wolfberry root bark

Lycium barbarum


Sweet wormwood herb

Artemisia annua L







Erectile dysfunction, and other cardiovascular issues

Baikal skullcap root

Radix Scutellaria

hypertension and lately it has been linked with benefits to the cardiac muscle and valves, after stroke treatment


hypertension (makes blood vessels more flexible)


hypertension (makes blood vessels more flexible)

Vitamin C

in conjuction with L-Lysine, L Proline to clean arteries and make them pliable

Butcher’s broom

Ruscus aculeatus

varicose veins, phlebitis, venous insufficiency, heavy periods,hemorroids, gout


varicose veins, thrombophlebitis, blood thinner, hyperplasia

The table is not comprehensive and is just for education purposes, always seek professional advice. In Chinese medicine we rarely use or recommend taking just one herb but a well prescribed herbal formula.

Emmanuel Arroyo is a licensed acupuncturist of the state of New York with special interest on men’s health, and depression. Specializes on pain management using neuromuscular and trigger point techniques. Also Emmanuel Arroyo is an herbalist and works with chakras and essential oils. He can be reached via email at dr.agujas@gmail.com or by phone (917)324-1140


  1. Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese Medicine. Giovanni Maciocia.1998
  2. Principles of Medical Andrology. Bob Damone. 2008
  3. Principles of Anatomy & Physiology. Tortora & Grabowski 10th Ed. 2003
  4. The Energetic of Western Herbs. Peter Holmes. 2007
  5. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Chen. 2001

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