The pericardium (xin bao) is literally called “heart envelope” in Mandarin because it protects the heart from any external pathogenic factors. Due to this relationship, there are many overlapping aspects between the two organs. The pericardium has been likened to the Office of Envoys and Ambassadors in relation to the metaphor of the body as a kingdom, working closely to represent the Emperor (the heart).
According to many centuries of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pericardium imbalances lead to tightness in the chest, heart conditions, restless mind and nausea.
Throughout the twenty four hours of each day, every two hours each of our twelve organs experience an abundance of qi, known as the Qi cycle. The time of day associated with an abundance of pericardium qi is 7-9 pm. In order to nurture our pericardium, and allow it to fulfill its function of protecting the heart, this time in the evening is best for resting and contemplating the day’s events.
The pericardium meridian begins bi-laterally near the nipple, runs down the inner arm and ends at the tip of each middle finger. An acupuncturist will insert acupuncture needles into this meridian if there is an imbalance, in order to encourage the pericardium qi of the body to realign itself.
Summer is the season associated with the pericardium, the element is fire, the taste is bitter and its colour is red. In order to maintain strong pericardium energy, increase activity in summer as this is traditionally the time to play. Take advantage of the longer daylight hours with an early morning walk along the beach, absorb the sun’s nourishment – so full of yang energy – and eat juicy fresh fruits.
Steam or simmer the abundant supply of vegetables as quickly as possible to guarantee as little depletion as possible of natural vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Eat smaller, lighter meals. Use less salt, but add spices such as ginger and cayenne to stimulate perspiration.
Bitter is the healing flavour associated with the fire element, so add dandelion greens or nasturtium leaves to a salad as this will help boost your immune system.
In our fast food culture, it’s tempting to consume cold, congesting foods (such as icy drinks and ice cream). According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, eating these foods introduces coldness into the system. Our digestion is weakened when summer heat is combined with too much cold food. Coldness creates contraction, which stops perspiration and traps heat inside. This process interferes with good digestion it’s like throwing water on a fire and that’s exactly what happens to our digestive ‘fire’.
Remember, the pericardium’s element is fire. A fire can burn too brightly or fizzle out if it’s not monitored.
Foods which nourish the pericardium include:
Lychees, watermelon, dandelion greens
peanuts, cherries, red lentils
nasturtium leaves, radish, rhubarb
Longan fruit, oily fish, red dates
Exercise for the Pericardium
The pericardium is responsible for joy and happiness, so if your pericardium qi is low, get out and try some exercise that makes you smile maybe dancing, or jumping on a trampoline!