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  • Yin deficiency
  • stress, overwork, and lack of rest
  • chronic worry and anxiety
  • Liver fire


To understand what "heat in the Heart" is we need to do a quick review on how the concept of Yin and Yang is implemented in traditional Chinese medicine.


Since Yang in nature represents activity, light, warmth it logically represents energy/warming faculty in the human body. Since Yin in nature represents stillness it translates into the material aspect of the human body. In other words Yin represents matter, blood, body fluids, while Yang is the force that makes them come to live.

There is good health when Yin and Yang are in balance (i.e. energy and matter are in balance). When there is deficiency of Yang Yin instantly becomes excessive and vice versa – when there is deficiency of Yin Yang becomes excessive. Yang deficiency means that the energy/warming principle of the organ is deficient leading to “excess matter”, i.e. sluggishness, lethargy, overflow. Vice versa – Yin deficiency means that the matter of the organ is deficient leading to excess energy. If this excess energy remains for a longer period of time it will transform into heat. Thus Heart Yin deficiency  leads  to accumulation of  "heat in the Heart".

One cause for the Yin of the Heart to become deficient is the Kidney. The Kidney is the root source of Yin and Yang in the body. Kidney Yin deficiency leads to Yin deficiency in other organs, especially in the Heart as the Heart and the Kidney are in "restricting relationship" (the Water element - the Kidney - extinguishes/restricts the Fire element - the Heart).


Red And Black Fish


Another cause for the Yin of the Heart to become deficient is stress, overwork, and lack of rest.

Maybe the major cause for the accumulation of "heat in the Heart" is chronic worry and anxiety (the emotions of the Heart). A long-term presence of these emotions may be so intense on the Heart that it could give rise to what is called “Heart Fire" - severe heat in the Heart.

“Heart fire” may be also transmitted from “Liver Fire” as the Heart is Fire element and the Liver is Wood element thus both organs are in a "generating" relationship. Wood makes/generates fire, thus the Liver transfers its pathology to the Heart.

If you want to learn more about the Heart and its functions from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine go to "The Heart in Chinese medicine" in the Physiology chapter.



  • heart palpitations
  • mental restlessness
  • insomnia and dream disturbed sleep


  • deficiency heat symptoms - anxiety, night sweats, hot palms and soles, dryness
  • excess heat symptoms - thirst for icy cold drinks, aversion to heat, redness
  • heat transformed into fire - red face, severe mental restlessness, agitation and impulsiveness, mouth and tongue ulcers


General "Yin deficiency" symptoms manifest in minor heat signs such as thirst, night sweats, hot palms and soles, dryness. Symptoms of "Yin deficiency" pertaining specifically to the Heart are heart palpitations (the major symptom of Heart disbalance), mental restlessness (the Heart houses the mind), insomnia and dream disturbed sleep (the Heart is deficient thus the mind has no residence and wanders homeless at night).


Red Oragne Montain


General "excess heat" symptoms manifest in major heat signs such as thirst for icy cold drinks, aversion to heat, redness. Symptoms of “Heart Fire” are red face, severe mental restlessness, agitation and impulsiveness, mouth and tongue ulcers (the tongue is the sense organ the Heart opens to). Dark urine, blood in the urine and bitter taste in the mouth (other heat symptoms) might be also present.




To treat heat in the Heart – whether it is “deficiency heat” or “fire” - both the symptom and the cause of disease need to be addressed. To do that the heat in the Heart needs to be cooled down while matter (Yin) needs to be build in order to restrain the excess heat energy. Selecting cooling and “matter building” foods and herbs is the way to approach that pathology. 


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(1) Maciocia, Giovanni (1989). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Nanjing: Harcourt Publishers Limited

(2) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books



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