Heart and Spleen Deficiency

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Pattern factsheet

Chinese name: 心脾虚

Pinyin name: Xīn Pí Xū

Associated TCM concepts: Heart Spleen Qi Blood

Related conditions: Anemia Colitis Anxiety and eleven other conditions


Common symptoms: Fatigue Anxiety Insomnia Pale face Pale lips and eleven other symptoms

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Fine (Xi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

The Spleen rules transformation and transportation of food, Qi, and Body Fluids and their distribution to other Zang Organs. It is the origin of Blood production and keeps it running inside the vessels. 

The Heart's main function in Chinese Medicine is to govern the flow of Blood, the Blood vessels and to house the Spirit / Mind (Shen - 神).

The Heart can receive sufficient Blood from the Spleen, if the latter's transformation and transportation function work properly, providing sufficient nutrients for growth and development. In turn, Heart Blood circulates and supplies the Spleen with nutrients to better perform its functions.

In the Five Phases theory, the Heart is the Mother of the Spleen. In case of Heart Blood or Qi Deficiency, mental anxiety occurs and it can disturb the Spleen's transforming and transporting functions. Then it results in irregular distribution of nutrients for growth and development. It can also damage the Spleen's ability to keep the Blood flowing within the vessels.

In return, a combination of Heart and Spleen symptoms such as palpitation, insomnia, anorexia, fatigue and pallor can further damage Heart Blood and Spleen Qi or Blood. To treat it, herbs to invigorate the Spleen and nourish the Heart are used, such as Ginseng and Longan Combination (Gui Pi Tang). 

This pattern can be caused by a diet that is lacking in nourishment and Blood-producing foods such as meat. Such a diet causes general Blood Deficiency, especially Spleen Blood Deficiency. Emotional stress such as sadness, grief, anxiety and worry over a long period of time can harm the Mind and thus depress the Heart's functions. Because the Heart governs Blood, this leads to Heart Blood Deficiency in the end. Other reasons such as excessive physical work or severe blood loss can also be the cause. 

Related conditions

Peptic ulcers Anemia Perimenopausal syndrome Allergic purpura Congestive heart failure Depression Insomnia Postconcussion headache Nervous exhaustion Myasthenia gravis Colitis Supraventricular tachycardia Cervicitis Anxiety

Diagnosing Heart and Spleen Deficiency

The Heart is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Heart in Chinese Medicine

Diagnosing a pattern in Chinese Medicine is no easy feat and should be left to professional practitioners.

In particular one has to know how to differentiate between different types of pulses and tongue coatings, shapes and colors. Here patients with Heart and Spleen Deficiency will tend to exhibit choppy (Se) or fine (Xi) pulses as well as a pale tongue with thin white coating.

Practitioners also learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Here patients with Heart and Spleen Deficiency might experience symptoms like palpitations, insomnia, poor appetite and fatigue (full list here above).

Herbal formulas used to treat Heart and Spleen Deficiency

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Formula summary

Gui Pi Tang is a 12-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Ginseng (Ren Shen), Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi), Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu) and Liquorice (Gan Cao) as principal ingredients. Invented in 1529 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that tonify Qi and Blood.

Besides Heart and Spleen Deficiency, Gui Pi Tang is also used to treat Qi Deficiency or Blood Deficiency.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang

Diet recommendations

Eat a balanced diet including lamb, Dang Gui and ginger soup, bone marrow soup, milk, whole grains, protein, legumes (especially adzuki beans), congee. Eat only cooked foods and room temperature drinks. Avoid raw and cold foods and juices. Do not skip meals.

Most important herbs used to treat Heart and Spleen Deficiency