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To understand the pathology “phlegm in Heart” we need to understand what "phlegm" is in traditional Chinese medicine.

In Chinese medicine the Spleen refers to the collective work of some organs and systems participating in the digestion rather than the anatomical organ spleen. When the Spleen is weak it cannot sufficiently perform its function to transform food and fluids into blood and energy, and transport them throughout the body. The inability of the Spleen to transform and transport fluids leads to fluid retention, called “internal dampness”.

“Internal dampness” very much resembles “external dampness”. Imagine visiting a damp climate environment. If you are not accustomed you will find it difficult to be as active and efficient as you would be in a non-damp environment. You will feel tired, “heavy”, and the simplest daily activities, even breathing, may become challenging.


Phlegm In The Heart


The exact same thing happens when the dampness is within our bodies. Our internal organs have difficulties to function in full capacity and become slow and sluggish. Depending on what organ is affected different “damp” pathologies manifest.

Although the Lung and the Kidney are in charge of the water metabolism together with the Spleen, the main originator of “internal dampness” is considered the Spleen.

If together with the “internal dampness” there is also “internal heat” the damp will condense into phlegm. The main quality of the phlegm is to obstruct and block.

Phlegm in the Heart manifests predominantly in mental dysfunction because the Heart houses the mind and the phlegm has blocked the orifices of the Heart thus "has blocked the mind".

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.




  • mental confusion and mental illness
  • cold-phlegm symptoms - passivity, rattling sound in the throat, difficult speech
  • hot-phelgm symptoms - insomnia, agitation, uncontrolled laughter or cry, shouting and attacking people


There are two types of “phlegm in the Heart” – “cold phlegm” and “hot phlegm”. Both types manifest in mental confusion and mental illness (the residence of the mind is blocked and obstructed).

“Cold-phlegm” manifests with “cold/slow signs” such as passivity, a rattling sound in the throat and difficult speech. In children this pathology is considered constitutional while in adults it is a combination of really poor diet and long term disturbing emotions. (1)

“Hot-phlegm” combines mental confusion with “hot/fire signs”. Such are insomnia, agitation, uncontrolled laughter or cry, shouting and attacking people.  (1)




The main strategy for clearing phlegm is to discontinue the consumption of heavy, greasy, phlegm producing foods. Such are eggs, meats, white sugar, white flour, and fried foods. “Cold foods” such as fruits and vegetables also will contribute to phlegm accumulation therefore the fruits and vegetables should be always cooked before consumption. Eating food straight out of the refrigerator should be avoided – the food should always be warmed up. The coldest temperature food and drinks to be consumed should be room temperature.


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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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