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In traditional Chinese medicine the Lung is referred to as the “umbrella organ”. It is the upper most body organ in the torso and like an umbrella guards the organs and systems beneath from external threats. Such threats are extreme climatic factors like wind, cold, damp and heat and pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. Whenever the body is under attack all of the above evils are met first by the Lung.




In Chinese medicine there are different types of Qi flowing in the body which take various forms and have different duties (to understand the concept of Qi please read the introduction material What is Qi?) There is the “Original Qi”, which originates from the Kidneys and is the Qi manifestation of Kidney Essence (to understand what Essence is you can read the material The Concept of Essence). There is Food Qi – the Qi that is the product of transformed/digested food. Gathering Qi – derived from the contact of Food Qi with air. Finally True Qi – when Gathering Qi is met/stimulated by the Original Qi from the Kidneys.


Qi Shodo


True Qi originates in the Lungs and is further divided in Defensive Qi and Nutritive Qi. Here we will not discuss all types of Qi but only talk about the Defensive and Nutritive Qi to help draw a richer picture of the Lung.

Defensive Qi, as the name suggests, has the function to defend the body from external pathogens and extreme climatic factors. Unlike the other types of Qi it does not flow in the body's channels but rather circulates within the muscles and the skin. Residing in the muscles it helps to warm, nourish and protect them; residing in the skin it is in charge of opening and closing of the pores, thus in charge of the perspiration. If the Defensive Qi is deficient one will experience spontaneous sweating throughout the day. Spontaneous sweating (sweating without exertion) is the first red flag that one’s defenses are being compromised or under attack. A chronically deficient Defensive Qi will lead to catching cold frequently and easily. As the Defensive Qi is deficient it will fail to warm the skin and muscles thus one will also easily feel cold.

Nutritive Qi, as the name suggests, has nourishing function. It nourishes the internal organs and the body as a whole.

Residing in the Lung the Defensive Qi and the Nutritive Qi give a clear understanding of the “umbrella organ”. Defensive toward the outside and nurturing toward the inside the Lung is essential in the maintenance of good health and the balance between health and disease. To learn more about the Lung visit the Project and read the material The Lung in Chinese medicine.

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