In the international best selling book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the authors hypothesized the legendary Holy Grail symbolized the sacred royal bloodline of the historical Jesus of Nazareth. According to some other traditions, the Holy Grail was the cup from which Jesus and his disciples drank at the Last Supper, in which Joseph of Arimathea caught Jesus? blood as he hung on the cross. Deeply ingrained, blood-driven mythological stories pervade our consciousness. Blood is the essence of life. It carries our heritage in each strand of DNA, our literal life-line that spirals along from generation to generation. In China, blood is called Xue (pronounced “shway”) and is considered the most important liquid in the body, surging through our veins like a mighty river.
Not only is our heritage transported to every cell in the body, but our blood continuously carries necessary oxygen and vital nutrients to our organs, muscles, bone marrow and brain. Nourishing each and every cell, this nutrient stream moistens our tendons and sinews, ensuring we stay hydrated rather than living in internal drought.
Just as the waters on the surface of the Earth need movement and proper care to remain clean and clear, our body?s tributaries need movement via exercise and proper nutrition for us to thrive. Exercises like tai chi, qigong and yoga have been found to be extremely beneficial towards these goals.
Our bloodstreams have become polluted with toxins, chemicals and debris leftover from unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. Luckily, nature provides us with opportunities for us to clean our blood. We need to look no further than the plant world.
Herbs like Holy Basil (tulsi) are powerful blood cleansers.
Chlorophyll, which is basically metabolized sunlight, soil and water, is the closest relative to human blood. The molecular structure of chlorophyll is almost identical to the molecular structure of hemin, which is a part of hemoglobin, a protein in blood that transports oxygen throughout the body. Ingesting chlorophyll is almost akin to getting a fresh blood transfusion. Thank you wheatgrass!
Qi “energy”, Jing “essence” and Shen “spirit”
Shen, Qi and Jing are considered the Three Treasures of Chinese Medicine. Shen relates to spirit, Qi to energy and Jing to essence. This trinity of “substances” is expressed and contained within the blood. In comparison, blood is basically made up of a holy trinity including these three components:
1. Erythrocytes (red blood cells), which carry oxygen and glucose
2. Leukocytes (white blood cells), which defend the body against disease and correlate to our immune system
3. Plasma, the liquid component in which the blood cells are suspended
Qi (also known as “chi”) is inseparable from blood. Qi vitalizes the blood through the blood vessels, flushing our arteries and veins. Blood in Chinese Medicine is a denser form of qi, which is life force energy that surges through us and all living things.
According to Chinese Medicine, blood is the material aspect of qi. Our blood would be inert if not infused with qi. Blood and qi, like day and night, or fire and water, are all expressions of Yin and Yang philosophy.
Jing is essence. It is most closely represented in a material form by the matter which sperm and ovum are derived from. Literally life from creative material: our sexual essence. In blood, it would be represented as the nutritive value of the blood or the nutrients which make up the blood, in particular the red blood cells as they are our body?s oxygen and nutrient carrier.
Jing is more closely associated with the sperm or ovum that combine to form life. In Ayurvedic medicine, semen is the most precious essence extracted from blood in its most refined form. It takes 40 drops of blood to secrete one drop of semen. You can only imagine the importance of the role blood plays in regards to women?s health. A woman?s menstrual cycle is totally dependent upon the health of the blood from menarche to menopause. PMS, menorrhagia, amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhea and postpartum depression are all signs and symptomatology of blood disorders of the female reproductive system. Breast milk is also produced and extracted from the mother?s blood. Therefore, breast-feeding mother?s menses are suspended until the mother ceases to breast feed her child.
Our shen (spirit) is carried in our blood, according to traditional Chinese medicine. Not only does our blood carry nutrients and hormones, but also our intelligence. The Chinese Classic, “Ling Shu” (Simple Questions) states, “the blood is the mind of a person.” It is interesting to think of our blood as mind and it is easy to imagine that what we eat directly influences our mind-state. Why do vegetarians seem much more calm, peaceful and compassionate than carnivores?
Stagnation, Deficiency and Heat
Clearly, caring for this mighty river is paramount if we seek to avoid the three main blood disorders and disharmonies: stagnation, deficiency and excessive heat. Let?s look at each of them more closely.
Blood stagnation occurs when Qi (our vital energy) is obstructed by trauma, whether physical, emotional or environmental. An example of blood (and qi) stagnation would be a headache or a bruise. The principle behind the treatment of a bruise would be to move blood and qi through the use of Acupuncture and herbs. In addition, treatment may include live raw foods, which retain more “life” or energy to encourage our bodies to release obstructions. These living foods activate our lymph with their potent enzymatic sparks. Releasing stagnation on all levels and letting go of what is no longer serving our highest purpose or well-being allows our inner waters to flow more freely. Long term stagnation leads to necrosis (cell / tissue death).
Blood deficiency, also usually accompanied by qi deficiency, can be identified by unusual sweating, inability to cool the body, resulting in the body fluids escaping, weakness of limbs and dryness of the eyes. Due to the deficiency of blood, the blood is not able to grasp the bodily fluids to nourish or moisten. Paleness, numbness, anemia and palpitations are other symptoms. Menstrual and menopausal symptoms such as irregular periods, also result from blood deficiency. The bodily fluids contained in the blood are responsible for cooling the body and when the body is depleted of these fluids, we can experience hot flashes or night sweats.
Finally, heat in the blood disturbs the mind. It may result in insomnia and can manifest as psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, mania or delirium. Blood stagnation and blood deficiency are both possible root causes of heat in the blood. If you have ever experienced the proverbial “broken heart” after the breakup of a relationship or the death of a loved one, you may notice that it can be very difficult to sleep. Your heart may feel aflame, disturbing your shen (spirit). The tip of your tongue would be red, an indication of excessive heat in the heart.
The consumption of raw living foods stimulates red blood cell productivity and increases their ability to carry oxygen and cool the blood by nourishing our body fluids. Adequate hydration and clean, optimally alkalized water is very important to the formation of blood. Reportedly during WWII, the British and Japanese used an emergency IV of coconut water to replace plasma and hydrate our military forces. We may have to nourish our blood through supplementation, such as Floradix® or LifeGive™ OceanEnergy,™ which contains the vitamin B-12, to improve stamina and energy.
Blood and our Organs
The three major organs involved with the process of blood are the heart, the liver and the spleen. They all have their own unique function and responsibility. The heart rules our blood and blood vessels. Our liver stores and detoxifies our blood. The spleen governs, and is the main source of blood which generates the creative soup of nutritive materials from the food we eat.
“Water is transformed into Qi, Fire is transformed into Blood. Blood and Fire are both red in color, Fire resides in the Heart where it governs Blood, which moistens the whole body. Fire is Yang, and it generates Blood that is Yin.” — from Discussion on Blood by Tang Zong Hai, 1884.
The emotions of joy, love and passion are associated with the heart. Lack of one of these emotions can result in imbalance. In life it is essential to feel safe, loved, guided and supported. Just as the banks of a river guide the waters to their source, our self-love guides us to the infinite well of nourishment within. Self-love and self-acceptance are key so that our hearts may blossom open, like a rose bud blossoming open on an early spring morning. As our hearts blossom open we can share our love with others. The
essential oil (blood) from a rose, nature?s expression of love in liquid form, or rose water spray are both nourishing and cooling to our hearts. A tea of valerian is also good for sleep as it calms the spirit and rosehips help build blood.
Dietary recommendations for nourishing the heart and blood are bitter greens, such as dandelion, broccoli rabe, kale and spinach. The Chinese have a saying, “to eat bitter,” and they have many ways of preparing bittermelon. The 16th Century alchemist and physician, Paracelsus, used bitters as a healing remedy.
The liver is responsible for detoxifying our blood as well as storing our blood at night, while our eyes are shut. In classical Greek medicine, during the time of Hippocrates, it was believed that blood was actually produced in the liver. The liver rules the free flow of qi and blood to the tendons and sinews. The liver nourishes our eyes and manifests in our nails. Decreases in night vision and dry, brittle nails are signs of blood deficiency of the liver. Walking moves the blood to our connective tissue. Sour lemons and limes detoxify the liver.
The spleen produces blood from the food we eat to nourish and strengthen our muscles. The blood is transformed and transported to the muscles to hold up the organs in their proper place. Prolapse of the uterus, hemorrhoids, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are signs of imbalance of the spleen. Sweet corn and peppers nourish the spleen. Aspartame and high fructose corn syrup are detrimental to our spleen and the production of blood and energy. Sitting meditation is useful to calm the mind and increase spleen qi energy.
In conclusion, the three treasures are represented in many different facets of blood, including our red blood cells, white blood cells and plasma; jing (essence), shen (spirit) and qi (energy); as well as heart, liver and spleen.
Walk. Move your blood. Eat bitter. Love well. Wake up and smell the roses. Meditate and breathe-in deeply as you tend to the rivers within.
Note: Reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, middle-aged Americans face a 90% chance of developing high blood pressure (hypertension), which is a major risk factor of heart attack and stroke. Heart attacks are contributed to an imbalance in the heart. Strokes are associated with an imbalance with the liver, aka Chinese medical diagnosis of liver yang rising. Studies show Acupuncture has been found to significantly lower blood pressure, an imbalance involving our heart, liver and spleen. A combination of acupuncture, herbs and dietary and lifestyle modifications can help reduce blood pressure, and thus the risk of heart attack and stroke.