How the major organs are each affected by sustained emotional states.

Emotions and Organs

Woo Shin Acupuncture

Emotions are a central element to what makes us human, yet it cannot be scientifically measured or digitized. Nonetheless, their effects on health and the associated physical symptoms are very real.

Chinese medicine tells us of five categories of emotions with potential effects on the human internal organs with enough dose: sadness, joy, worry, anger, and fright. Each emotion is associated with a specific organ: Lung is effected by sadness, heart by joy, spleen by worry, liver by anger, and kidney by fear or fright. What we need to watch out for is frequent bursts of emotions or prolonged period of emotional state, which may damage the associated organs, actually doing physical harm in the form of emotional stress. Chinese Medicine puts substantial focus on emotional stress in treating and preventing numerous illnesses. Below is a highlight of relationships between each emotion and organ.


Needless to say, sadness is a natural human emotion. Prolonged period of sadness or excessive degree of sadness, however, can adversely affect the lung, potentially causing various health complications.

Take a case study of a patient who lost her spouse. So great was her grief, and understandably so, she lived in sadness for over 10 years. Once an active and energetic businesswoman, she gradually lost energy in her daily life, and developed constipation and COPD seven years after losing her spouse. Such profound effects of human emotion are only too common around us. In Chinese Medicine, the lung is associated with sadness, which can affect the energy level, as well as having an effect on the large intestine. Acupuncture treatments for the aforementioned patient were focused on revival of her lung functions, which have indeed produced positive results.

One cannot prevent becoming sad, as sadness is a natural human emotion, but it is important to seek help to cope with and overcome the suffering. Deep and lingering sadness can do great harm to body and soul. There are various options, and acupuncture is one that can directly address both physical and emotional damages done by sadness.


It may seem strange to find joy under the category of potentially harmful emotion. Sure enough, joy is the opposite of sadness. Joy, like all other emotions, is a natural emotion we feel in normal daily life. Complications arise, however, with excessive bursts of it. Heart is the organ affected by excessive joy. Palpitation, crying, shortness of breath, red face, difficulty in speech, and insomnia are some of the symptoms of excessive joy. For most people, these symptoms disappear as the emotion returns to normal state, in a few days at most. For others, they can develop into recurring conditions due to frequent occasions of excessive joy or to a pre-existing conditions such as heart issues.

In rare occasions, extreme joy can be a cause of death. A death has been reported at the World Cup soccer match after which an elderly died of heart attack, following a victory of his supporting team.

Palpitation in itself is a symptom to a problem that needs medical attention. Excessive emotions, including joy, can be cause to visible symptoms like palpitation. Whether emotions are involved or not, acupuncture, along with other forms of Chinese medicine, can help attending to the health of the heart.


The organ most affected by worry is spleen, as is documented in the Chinese medicine literature. Appetite drops in state of worry, as the spleen controls appetite and can be the cause for abdominal distention and diarrhea due to its close association with the stomach. In Chinese medicine, Spleen produces Qi by absorbing the essence of digested food from the stomach. A healthy spleen of a worry-free individual would therefore result in a high-level of energy. On the other hand, when you are in a deep worry, the spleen, in its poor form, fails to work properly to generate appetite. In turn, the stomach cannot accept sufficient amount of food due to the dropped appetite, and also experiences difficulty digesting food, potentially causing abdominal distention. Even if you were able to eat, indigestion and diarrhea often follow. Consequently, the stomach provides only so much essence to your spleen, resulting in dropped level of energy in your body. This causes a vicious cycle of further-dropped appetite, which may eventually induce more serious implications, including tumors or even cancers.

Do not take any emotional stress for granted. Acupuncture has an excellent efficacy for stress that has been empirically proven for thousands of years.


Liver is the organ associated with anger. Some of the most serious illnesses that we encounter at the clinic are caused by anger. Common symptoms include red face, red eyes, breathlessness, high blood pressure, blurred vision, dizziness, unconsciousness, incoherent speech, and, and severe cases, stroke.

Anger produces heat in liver. The redness in the face and eyes are caused by the heat from the liver travelling upward. Blood volume can quickly decrease as it is dried up from the heat. Not enough nourishment is transported through the human body, and the face in particular, when there is not enough blood. This malnourishment caused by lack of blood can subsequently cause the above-mentioned symptoms. Stroke is an extreme example of its consequences – it too is caused by the lack of blood flow to the brain. Diabetes is an illness sometimes caused by severe anger. While the head is the most commonly affected area, anger can cause problems in all parts of the body, as the heat produced in the Liver can quickly spread to elsewhere.

Acupuncture treats both the illness caused by anger and the anger itself. As with all illnesses, the earlier you seek treatment, the more effective and quicker you will see results.

Fear and Fright

People wetting their pants from fear or frightful experiences is a very real symptom, caused by the kidney being drained of Qi from fear. Urinary bladder functions to hold and release urine, but the qi that controls the urinary bladder comes from kidney. Due to this close relationship between urinary bladder and kidney, the urinary bladder weakens as the kidney weakens. This is why, when gripped by extreme fear, the urinary functions cannot be controlled at will. This can be seen more clearly with young children, whose kidneys are not yet fully developed, with bedwetting episodes at night, and even pants wetting during the day when exposed to a very frightful situation.  As children grow up, the kidney will eventually develop to be stronger. However, if the bedwetting is persistent as they grow up, it means their kidneys are weakened for one reason or another and treatments become necessary. Adults can experience the same symptoms under the same circumstances when their kidneys are weak. Treatments should be focused on strengthening of the kidney and relaxing of mind at the same time.