With the seasonal transition to a new Element, a great way to keep up with nature and what our bodies need is to take a closer look at the organs associated with the element and how to best support them (while learning how they support us on all levels!)
The organs of the Fire element in particular are extraordinary in that there are four organs/functions, compared to two like most elements, that actively work to keep our bodies warm or cool (depending on what is needed), sorting out the pure from the impure, and keeping the blood moving throughout our body.
As we enter the energy of the Fire element, Summertime is ramping up, and our hearts are in the spotlight as the first of four organs/functions related to this element and its corresponding season.
The Heart has the incredible task of pushing five thousand gallons of blood throughout our entire body every twenty-four hours. It ensures the body receives oxygen and nutrients and beats 100,000 times a day to make this magic happen.
And as we all know, the biggest strain on the heart that shows up in our daily lives is . . . stress.
The Heart is home to the spirit, or shen, and many mental and emotional patterns are brought to the surface when our heart isn’t functioning as well as it should be. In Chinese medicine, the heart is the ruler of everything and is protected by all other organs in our system. So the moment our heart stops functioning, everything stops functioning.
The Small Intestine
The second organ of the Fire element is the: Small Intestine. Did you know that 90% of the nutrients you need are absorbed in the small intestine? Talk about a ‘small’ organ with a big job!
Connected to the tissues, the tongue, and throat, the small intestine controls the way in which we absorb both food and information and is at its peak of activity between the hours 1pm – 3pm.
The Small Intestine is the third and final line of defense in keeping our minds free, our thoughts clear, and our speech both coherent and aligned with what’s true within our hearts. Being the ‘Separator of Pure from Impure,” it leaves us to ask:
Is this true?
Is this digestible?
Is this worthy of the heart’s time and energy?
What we know in Western medicine of the small intestine’s role is to receive food from the stomach that has been broken down and process it to sort out potent nutrients. It’s about twenty feet long (in an adult) and the inside lining contains tiny, finger-like projections known as: villi, which act like a comb pulling out all vital nutrients to be absorbed and sending them to where they’re needed most in the body, mind, and spirit.
The Pericardium is the third of the four organs of the Fire element and is an incredible sac of muscle that surrounds the heart and serves as its protector. It ensures that the heart won’t overwork or overfill with blood – but it also lubricates the heart for smoother movement.
As the protector, it helps prevent infection by acting as a physical barrier between the heart and the lungs – which are typically more prone to infection.
In Chinese medicine, the pericardium is known as the “Heart Protector” and the “Circulation-Sex Official” and its job is to take on the blows of life and keep the heart out of the way of as much fray and stress as possible. Acting as the protective shield of the shen (spirit) in the heart, the heart protector is the second line of defense against physical and emotional assaults.
On an emotional level, it’s an excellent intimacy meter helping us determine if a situation, person, or environment is considered ’emotionally safe.’ So, what does it mean to be emotionally safe? When our pericardium gives us the thumbs-up on emotional safety, we feel free to be our true selves and express ourselves honestly and fully.
When we get that thumbs-up, we increase our emotional availability. And when we increase our emotional availability – intimacy increases and the Heart Protector allows for more blood flow, an increase in circulation, and therefore an increase in sexual fluids, also.
On the flipside, when we receive the thumbs-down about the emotional safety of a situation or a person, the pericardium moves into protector-mode by restricting blood flow (as well as our emotional availability!) and contracting. We will also feel like that inside ourselves.
You know the saying “listen to your gut?” I’m all about listening to your pericardium as well!
The Triple Burner
Last – but certainly not least – the fourth organ/function of the Fire element is known by a few names: Triple Burner, Triple Warmer, Triple Heater, San Jiao, and Three Jiao. The three refers to the three major energy centers in the body and the burner/warmer/heater refers to its function (rather than organ) in managing the accumulated energy of these three energy centers: the low belly, mid belly, and upper chest.
The upper burner reflects the accumulated energy from our head, heart, lungs, throat, and pericardium. The middle burner reflects the accumulated energy from the stomach, spleen, liver, and gallbladder. Lastly, the lower burner reflects the accumulated energy from the kidneys, bladder, small + large intestine, reproductive organs, and genitalia.
The triple burner has the important function of regulating body temperature, blood pressure, heartbeat, fluid balance, appetite, digestion, and other autonomic functions – similar to the hypothalamus in Western medicine.
In Chinese medicine, the triple burner is referred to as the “Official in Charge of the Three Burning Spaces” as this fire function is at the frontlines of defense against physical, emotional, and spiritual attacks. So, as we’re engaging with the world around us – it’s the triple burner we can thank for telling us to move toward the things that make us feel safe and nourished and to move away from what doesn’t.
Knowing what each organ of the Fire element does for us on a daily basis physically, emotionally, and spiritually gives us a divine opportunity to learn how our bodies operate and what our organs need based on what they’re communicating to us.
To learn more about what primary Element is in your constitution – head on over to take one of my Five Element quizzes where you can get introductory insight and in-depth understanding of yourself through the lens of the Five Elements. You can also purchase my book – Everyday Chinese Medicine – to gain more knowledge on the elements, their corresponding seasons, organs, and archetypes to support you everyday. Enjoy!