Archive for the ‘Organs and Channels’ Category


Thursday, January 10th, 2008

The Liver is the yin aspect of the wood element in the body.  Compared to the Gall Bladder (the yang aspect of the wood element in the body) the Liver is solid.  This means that it is the yin aspect of a yang element.  The wood element is particularly concerned with growth and blockages to growth and so the need to take action.  Ideally we grow smoothly and easily – and are able to readily deal with any blocks to this process.

The Channel

The Liver channel flows from the inside of the foot up the inside of the leg, around the external genitalia and across the abdomen.


Traditionally the Liver is said to be in charge of “The free flow of qi”.  This means that we can move smoothly from seeing a vision and devising plans to implementing them.  It also applies at the daily level – combining a good balance of activity and rest and moving smoothly from one to the other.

Getting ‘Hyper’ and Getting ‘Stuck’

If you feel like you are on overdrive then this is a liver problem.  The traditional saying is that, “The Liver tends to excess”.  If you can’t sit still and rest and are always planning the next initiative this is a Liver imbalance.  Likewise if you feel you can’t get stuck and feel chronically frustrated and/or depressed this indicates a Liver imbalance.


The Liver stores blood.  This makes it of particular importance for the female cycle.  It also makes it important for sleep.  The blood is said to return to the Liver when we sleep.


Insomnia, where our head is racing and we are thinking furiously indicates a Liver problem.  Likewise any disturbance to a woman’s cycle may involve a Liver problem (in our culture, where we are asked to live by the clock rather than in accord with our bodily rhythms, this is not uncommon).

Tendons and Nails.

The Liver governs the tendons.  These are the parts of our bodies that provide flexibility.  People who are particularly of a Liver body shape are ‘string beans’ or a ‘bean pole’.  These people are usually tall and skinny.  They often surprise us by being able to work longer and harder than those with more prominent muscles.  This is because it is the tendons that are being used.  (They will also often walk with a clumping gait and (in men) have a prominent ‘Adam’s Apple’.)

If there is a Liver problem the nails will be not be healthy (they may be soft, withered, deformed or chipped).

The Eyes.

The Liver is important for our vision.  This is true of our physical eyes and for our vision of our lives and what is possible in the world.

Dry eyes, nightblindness or dryness of the eyes indicate a Liver imbalance.  Likewise, having no vision or being unable to plan is a Liver problem.

The Health of Your Liver.

  • Sleep

Do you go to sleep easily and wake refreshed?

Do you have a problem getting to sleep because you are still thinking?

  • Planning and Doing

Can you move smoothly from seeing your vision to taking action?

Does your day have a rhythm and flow to it?

For women: does your cycle flow smoothly and easily?

Gall Bladder

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

The Gall Bladder is the yang aspect of the wood element in the body.  As the yang organ it is hollow, compared to the Liver (the yin aspect of the wood element in the body) which is solid.

Curious or extraordinary

The Gall Bladder is slightly different to the other yang organs.  It manufactures bile (to assist with the digestion of fats) while the other yang organs don’t manufacture anything.  In the texts this is usually called ‘storing’, but this doesn’t make sense as the Bladder stores urine, so I have used the term ‘manufacture’, which I think is more accurate.  For this reason it is called “curious” or “extraordinary”.  (You may see in acupuncture textbooks reference to the “curious fu” or “extraordinary fu” which means the curious or extraordinary yang organs in the body.)

The Channel

The Gall Bladder channel runs up the side of the body – from the outside of the foot, up the outside of the leg and chest, the neck and side of the head to the outer end of the eyebrow.  Any problem along the course of the channel may indicate a problem with the Gall Bladder.


Along with the Liver the Gall Bladder is involved with our moving to action.  The Gall Bladder’s special role is initiating action.  When this is not working well we feel stuck.  (Try standing and then wavering side to side (from one Gall Bladder channel to the other).  When doing this it is impossible to take that first step to initiate action).

How is your Gall Bladder?

  • Fat Digestion.

Do you crave oily food?  Is an oily curry one of the joys of life?

Do you have trouble digesting fats?  Do they give you indigestion?

  • Moving smoothly into action.

Once you know what you want do you find it easy to go after it?

Does iniating comes easily to you?

Is initiating an effort for you?

The Triple Heater

Friday, December 21st, 2007

The Triple Heater is also called the Triple Warmer, the Triple Burner, or sometimes even, the Three Burning Spaces.  It is also sometimes known by its Chinese name Sanjiao.  It has no equivalent in modern western medicine.

The Triple Heater is part of the fire element in the human body.  The fire element is unique – it has two manifestations each of yin and yang – the other elements only have one manifestation each of yin and yang.  The Triple heater is part of the yang of the fire element in our bodies (the other is the Small Intestine).  The yin of the fire element in the human body is the Heart and Pericardium.

The Triple Heater is also different to the other organs and channels.  It is also used as a way to refer to different parts of the body.

The Triple Heater as Body Divisions.
The Upper Heater is above the diaphragm and so includes the heart and lungs.  The Middle Heater is from the diaphragm to the umbilicus (belly button) and so includes the stomach, spleen and liver.  The Lower Heater is from the umbilicus to bottom of the torso and so includes kidneys, bladder and intestines.  This division refers to the three processes of energy processing in our bodies – inspiration and exhalation (upper heater), digestion (middle heater) and elimination (lower heater).  In acupuncture you will see breathing difficulties sometimes called an “upper heater disorder” or a digestive upset called a “middle heater problem”.  (This will depend on the root cause of the problem referred to.)

The Triple Heater channel begins on the ring finger (the one closest to our little finger) near the outer boundary of lower part of the nail.  It then travels up the middle of the yang side of the arm (the outside with more hair on it) across the shoulder, up the neck around the ear and ends at the outside edge of the eyebrow.

The Organ
There is no physical structure that corresponds to the Triple Heater as there is with all the other organs.  It is a collection of functions.

The Functions
The Triple Heater distributes energy throughout the body.  One traditional description of the Triple Heater is “The Official in Charge of irrigation (or the waterways)”.  It sends the energy that is taken from the air, food and water we take in and sends it to the different parts of the body.

Like the other arm yang channels (the Small Intestine and the Colon) the points on the Triple Heater channel aren’t used much to treat the ‘organ’ (or in the case of the Triple Heater to effect its function).  The points are mostly used to treat local problems


Sunday, December 9th, 2007

The Pericardium (sometimes called the Heart Protector) is part of the fire element in the body.  The fire element is unusual – it has two manifestation each of yin and yang.  Unlike the other elements which have only one manifestation of yin and yang.  The fire element in the body manifests in the heart and pericardium (yin), and the Triple Heater (sometimes called Triple Warmer, Triple Burner or by its Chinese name Sanjiao) and Small Intestine (yang).

Organ and Channel.

The Pericardium is the membrane around the heart.  In western medicine it is fairly unimportant.  In acupuncture it is of major importance.

The channel runs from just outside the nipple down the inside of the arm (the side with less hair on it) to the tip of the middle finger.

Points along the channel (as with all the channels) are used to treat local problems.  With the Pericardium perhaps the best know example is usiing it to treat “tennis elbow”.
As the Pericardium is part of the fire element in the body it is affected by fire.  Because it is the membrane around the heart it can be used to treat the heart, especially problems associated with the ‘mental’ aspect of the heart (fainting. loss of speech, constant laughter).

A healthy pericardium means we can open and close our heart as we need to.

Checking the health of your Pericardium
Can you open your heart to others?  Or are you cold?
Can you close your heart to others?  Or do you get too hot (manic)?
Do you have hot palms when the weather isn’t very hot?
Do you have any pain along the inside of your arm?

Kidney #2

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

The kidney is the manifestation of the yin aspect of the water element in the body (the yang aspect of the water element in the body is the Bladder).  The kidney is more solid while the Bladder is more hollow.

The emotion associated with the kidney is fear.  If we are afraid we ‘go to water’.

The Kidney stores the vital fluid jing.  The jing is something like our constitution – what we are born with (some people are born healthier than others).  Any congenital problem, development or reproductive problem is a kidney disfunction.   Our constitution makes a contribution to digesting our food also – some people have delicate digestions from birth.  If you’ve had a bad chill on the kidneys you will know that it affects your appetite.

The kidney is in charge of the water in our bodies.  Primarily this means urination.  However disturbances in urination can lead to water retention (oedema) or dehydration.  There are also the usual disturbances such as frequent urination or waking many times during the night to urinate.

The curious concept of  ‘marrow’.  The marrow is the stuff in our bones (roughly the same as in modern western medicine).  However this is expanded in acunpuncture to include the contents of the spine and cranium.  Thus deformities of bones and problems with spine or brain are to do with the kidney in acupuncture.  The lower back (roughly where the kidneys are located), knees and feet are especially related to the kidney.  When we are very afraid our knees knock (it doesn’t only happen in cartoons) and we feel week in the lower back.

Three orifices.  Two down, one up.  The kidney is in charge of the ear, the urethra (and genitalia) and the anus.  As sexual vitality declines men (especially) will take a kidney tonic to assist them in this aspect of their lives.  Diarrhoea in the early morning (commonly known as ‘cock’s crow diarrhoea) is especially indicative of a kidney problem.  When we are afraid it can lead to one or both of our two lower orifices opening (to put it delicately).

The kidney has a role in our breathing, especially in inspiration.  Think of how you can battle for breath when you are afraid.

Finally, the kidney (our constitutional strength) also provides the fire of digestion.  Think of how your digestion shuts down when you are afraid.

Old age is easily seen to be the diminishment of jing and kidney energy (kidney qi).  Problems with bones, hearing, urination, diminishing vitality – especially sexual – is all part of old age.

Checking out the kidney function is your life.  If you have problems with one of the following see if it matches with other parts of the kidney’s function.

  •     Bones, especially feet, knees and lower back.
  •     Breathing, especially the in breath.
  •     Sexual vitality
  •     Fear
  •     Hearing (including listening).
  •     Digestion.

When one of these occurs for you, or someone else, check if any of the others may be present as well.  Most likely at least one of them will be.

The Kidney #1

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

The kidney is the yin manifestation of the water element in the body.  Being the yin aspect of the water element the kidney is more solid than the bladder, which is the yang aspect of the water element in the body.

The Channel.

The kidney channel begins on the sole of the foot – the only acupuncture channel to do so.  The point where the channel begins (Ki-1) is behind the ball of the big toe and towards the centre.  You will probably feel a kind of hollow.
It then crosses the arch of your foot, crosses behind the ankle and then continues up the inside of the leg and onto the torso.  It finishes just below the clavicle (collar bone).
Any signs or symptoms along the course of the channel may indicate a kidney problem.  With all of the acupuncture channels any sign or symptom along its course may indicate a problem for that channel.  This gets complicated on the torso especially: which means that other ways of diagnosing are also used.

The Organ.

Vital Fluid
The kidney stores one of the vital fluids, called “jing”.  This is often translated “essence”, but there are other translations also.  This is something like what we mean when we talk about our ‘constitution’.  It is the bank of energy we are born with.

Experiencing Your Kidney

If you get up during the night, do you walk on a cold surface?  If so, do you then feel the need to urinate?  (For instance if you walk across cold tiles to get back to bed, by the time you have done so, do you feel the need to urinate again?)
Try walking on a cold surface as normal.  Then find a way to walk on it without kidney-1 making contact with the cold (by scrunching up your toes walk on your heels and toes or just by walking on your heels).  Does this feel different?  If so, how?
Do you have any signs or symptoms along the course of the channel.  Eg pain or skin outbreaks or discolouration?

Organs and Channels

Monday, September 24th, 2007

If someone has heard of acupuncture there are probably two things they know.  Firstly, that it involves having pins stuck in you.  Secondly, that it has something to do with lines that go all over the body.  These are both entirely correct.

Those lines illustrate what are called meridians or channels.  I prefer to call  them channels.  Firstly, because we don’t use ‘meridian’ in normal conversation and so few people know what it means.  Secondly, because ‘channel’ gives a pretty good idea of what they are thought of as doing in acupuncture.  As the irrigation channels on a farm supply water to different parts of the farm; so the channels in our bodies supply vital fluids to the parts of our bodies.  We will go into these vital fluids in great detail later (the one that people who have heard of acupuncture will have heard of is called ‘qi’ – or ‘chi’.  There are five in total: qi, blood, jing, shen, jin-ye).

What is less known is that acupuncture also, like western medicine, has names for the different organs in our bodies (heart, liver and so on).

In acupuncture there are twelve organs and two channels associated with each organ.  These channels travel the same route on the left and right hand sides of the body (they are symmetrical).


Most of the acupuncture organs share the same names as the western body structures.  These are:

large intestine
small intestine
pericardium (sort of)
spleen (sort of)

The acupuncture organ the spleen probably includes what western medicine calls the pancreas (in some texts you will find it called the spleen-pancreas).  The pericardium in acupuncture surrounds and protects the heart.  In western medicine the heart is surround by the pericardiac sac but this has nothing like the importance of the organ in acunpuncture.

There is one acupuncture organ which has no equivalent in western medicine:

the Triple Heater (sometimes called the Triple Burner, Triple Warmer or the Three Burning Spaces).

Where acupuncture is vastly different to western medicine is in what the organs do.  We will go into this in detail as we go through each organ in turn.  However, one way in which all the organs in acupuncture are different to their western functions is that they are associated with an emotion.  This is without parallel in modern western medicine (though there are similar ideas in some kinds of bodywork and psychotherapy).  Another major difference is that the yin organs (kidney. liver, heart, spleen and lung) are said to store or regulate the vital fluids.  This too is unparalleled in modern western medicine.


The channels carry the vital fluids to different parts of the body.  It is along different points on the channels that the acupuncture pins are put.

In my opinion we are a long way from understanding how it is that acupuncture works.  We are fortunate that in the last couple of decades technology has reached the stage where we can watch the body’s functions in real time – through various types of scanners.  This technology is just beginning to be used to study how acupuncture works.  (Most acupuncture research is still just devoted to comparing outcomes of acupuncture with other forms of treatment.  This amounts to my pin versus your pill.  Not exactly exciting or laying the foundations for extending the effectiveness of acupuncture).
It is very likely that our nerves are involved in how acupuncture works – the channels mostly follow the same pathways as the major western nerve pathways.  (However, some of the major points do not lie on these pathways.)  An idea of my own is that acupuncture probably involves what western medicine calls the hormones as well.  (This is just my idea.)

If you learn shiatsu, especially zen shiatsu you will learn to fell these channels and whether they are full or empty.  This is an excellent way to learn where they are and is a wonderful way of treatment too.  (Unfortunately the zen shiatsu channels are somewhat different to the acupuncture channels.)

The channel is named after the organ where it begins.