Shen – What is Shen in Eastern Medicine?

Shen describes the vitality of a person, which is seen when we look at the eyes, complexion and tongue. Eastern medicine practitioners look at the whole person to see what is happening with their spirit. Now within this broader term “spirit” or “shen” there are 5 aspects. To best treat the patient, the practitioner will look deeper into a person’s symptoms and behaviors to identify the affected aspect.

If a patient shows signs of excessive emotions, agitation, inability to make decisions or aggression then the “Hun” aspect of the spirit also called ethereal soul is beings affected. The Eastern medicine channels affected are the liver and gallbladder channels.

If a patient show signs of not being aware of sores on their body, inability to feel pain, grief or having breathing problems then the “Po” aspect or the corporal soul of person needs to be treated. The Eastern medicine channels affected are the lung and large intestines.

If a patient is lacking or forgetting daily activities, has excessive worry or pensiveness then the “YI” aspect or intellect of the person needs to be treated. The Eastern medicine channels affected are the spleen and stomach.
Now if a patient is lacking the will to do simple tasks, take medicine or seems frightened or in shock then the “Zhi” aspect or willpower needs to be treated. The Eastern medicine channels affected are the kidney and urinary bladder.
Lastly, there is an aspect of the mind which is also called the “Shen”. This aspect includes all the previous behaviors/symptoms but goes deeper into the spirit and is said to be present at the time of birth and last part of the spirit to leave at death. It addresses sleep, insight and emotions. The Eastern medicine channels affected are the heart, pericardium, small intestine and San Jiao.

As a practitioner I find it is always important to treat the whole person which includes the Shen.