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HoloSapiens - the TCM "Food as Medicine" Project

Fear and anxiety - two disturbing emotions that bring about the anticipation that something dreadful is going to happen to us. Two emotions very similar yet quite different.

Anxiety appears to be a rather "general feeling", which is often felt without a specific cause. Everything in our lives might be just perfectly fine yet we would still wake up with unexplained feeling of anxiety. Or we could become anxious at certain point of the day without any specific reason or change in our immediate or extended environment. Fear on the other hand seems to be more particular and better defined. We are afraid of certain things that can be objectified - heights, closed spaces, crowds, flying, death... We feel fear not generally like we feel anxiety but rather when we are close to or in the circumstances that make us feel threatened.


  Black Shrimp For Kidney


In any case what both emotions have in common is that they both feel as there is something out there that will destroy or diminish what is most meaningful to us – health, love, happiness, life (ours and this of the ones we love).

According to traditional Chinese medicine anxiety manifests when some aspects of the Heart are not in balance. Fear is experienced when the Kidney is deficient. But how are they connected? Here we need to talk briefly about the Five Elements theory.

The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Besides being nature substances the elements also own qualities - the wood ascends, the water moistens, the fire flares, the metal cuts, the earth contains growth. Within these qualities the elements form different types of relationships with one another. For example the fire needs wood to burn, the ash from the fire creates earth, the earth contains metal, etc. In this type of relationship every element generates, and is generated by an element. Thus this relationship is called a “generating relationship”.  In another type of relationship, each element is controlled by and controls another element – metal cuts  wood, water extinguishes fire, fire melts metal, etc. Thus this type of relationship is called a “controlling relationship”

Each organ corresponds to a certain element. The Liver and its partner organ the Gall Bladder correspond to the element Wood; the Heart and its partner organ the Small Intestine correspond to the element Fire; the Spleen and its partner organ the Stomach correspond to the element Earth; the Lung and its partner organ the Large Intestine correspond to Metal; the Kidney and its partner organ the Urinary Bladder correspond to Water.

As the Five Elements are in a relationship with one another the organs that correspond to the Five Elements also form a relationship with one another. For example  Wood generates Fire, thus the Liver (Wood element) and the Heart (Fire element) are in "generating relationship", in which the vitality of the Liver maintains and supports the Heart and its functions. On the other hand Water extinguishes Fire, thus the Kidney (Water element) and the Heart (Fire element) are in "controlling relationship", in which the Kidney "controls" and restricts the Heart, etc. In the case of fear and anxiety it is this very relationship between the Heart and the Kidney that is not working properly.


Kidney Heart Relationship


If the Kidney water ceases to “control” the fire of the Heart the latter will incite leading to excessive uncontrolled Heart fire. In Chinese medicine the Heart houses the mind thus Heart fire manifests in “heated” mental disharmony with symptoms such as mental restlessness and insomnia. Anxiety – emotion associated with the excess or deficiency of some aspects of the Heart – manifests. Meanwhile, the incited up-flaring Heart fire cannot turn downwards to reach and harmonize the Kidney water, which if chronic will lead to the manifestation of coldness in the lower part of the body (unrestrained water) and the emotion felt when the Kidney is in disharmony – fear.

As the Kidney is the root organ of the body it is always most beneficial to treat Kidney-Heart disharmony by tonifying the Kidney and empowering the water (to learn how please review the posts in the Blog that belong to the Season Winter/Organ Kidney topic and the materials in the Physiology chapter of the Project which review the Kidney - it’s pathologies, and the foods and acupressure points that benefit them)

The Heart fire should also be subdued. How - will be discussed in future posts.


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