The Lungs and the Large Intestine in Chinese Medicine

Autumn is the time of year to take action and boost the lungs and the large intestine’s qi. It is easier to strengthen the organs at this time of year because the organ qi is aligned with the season’s element. Each organ in Chinese medicine is related to an element, these elements are fire, earth, metal, wood and water.

Our lungs distribute Wei Qi, this is our defensive layer which protects us from harmful pathogens which may lead to disease. It is similar to what western medicine calls our immune system. If our lung qi is weak then our defensive layer is also weak which can allow pathogens to enter through our pores.  Prevention is key, so strengthening your wei qi before the winter season kicks in will help ward of the colds and flus.

The lungs and the large intestine are termed paired organs, the lungs are Yin and the large intestine is Yang. Both these organs work together closely influencing each other and play a role in the digestion and metabolism of the body.

The lungs are closely related to the function of the skin, as we also breathe and expel toxins through the pores. When our lung qi is deficient and/or our large intestine qi is in excess we are prone to developing skin conditions and allergies.

The health of the skin reflects the strength of the lungs and large intestine qi. When healthy, your skin should be glowing, fresh looking, smooth to touch and has a certain quality of elasticity.


Some of the lung and large intestine symptomslungs

  • Shortness of breath
  • Asthma
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Chest fullness and distension
  • Hoarse or a weak voice
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Skin conditions
  • Allergies


The large intestine

The large intestines function is to separate the pure from the impure, and eliminate waste. Psychologically and physically it is related to sorting out what is useful or un-useful, the rights and wrongs. When our large intestine qi isn’t flowing well we develop digestive disorders such as constipation and diarrhoea. The mind seems full, confused and has difficulties in letting go of attachments. In Chinese medicine the practitioner will ask about your bowel movements, colour, shape and texture this is all to help with diagnosis. Our waste tells us a lot about our state of well-being.

The psyche of the lungs and large intestine

In Chinese medicine our consciousness has five main parts, the Po, Zhi, Hun, Shen, and the Yi. These make up our behavioural and mental processes, our psychology. The Po is related to our lungs, and of the five spirits it is Yin in nature. The Po our spirit of the lungs is responsible for our attachments.  The organs are also related to different emotions, the lungs are related to the emotion of sadness, melancholy, a low mood of doom and gloom. Out of the five elements its element is that of metal. People who are born with a higher constitution of metal tend to be perfectionists, and hold high values. They are always seeking perfection, but perfection can never be found, this leads to disappointment, a low mood, a mourning of loss for what it can’t grasp.

How can we nourish our lungs and large intestine? 

Fresh air, get out in to nature, be amongst the trees and next to the sea. Breathe deeply instead of taking shallow breaths, this can also help release tension and bring about relaxation. Live with the rhythm of nature. Eating produce which grows at that time of year can help keep you tip top.

Introduce spicy pungent foods to warm the body as the climate gets cooler, drinking warm drinks such as ginger tea is also beneficial. Slow cooked foods, such as roasted vegetables or slow cooked stews and soups are very warming and nourishing for the body. Try to eat less raw foods such as salads and smoothies during this time of year.

gingerAutumn is a season of storage and loss. The beginnings that started in the spring are now coming to an end. Just like the leaves falling from the trees we let go, and use it to fertilise and grow. Just don’t get stuck in the melancholy of loss!


Painting credited to Saatchi Art Artist Elena Kraft, “Autumn Melancholy”.


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