Traditional Chinese Medicine dates back over 5,000 years ago and includes an extensive range of medical practices.
Living in harmony with all things is important in the Chinese approach to health and wellness.
While this is a broad topic, our focus is on various concepts of the Traditional Chinese Medicine model that are relevant to the application of CranioSacral Therapy.
Yin and Yang
The theory behind yin and yang states that wholeness is composed of the union of opposites. They are complementary and interdependent. Nothing is either all yin or all yang.
Look at the illustration of yin and yang. Each is an inseparable part of the whole, while each contains part of the other.
Yin is categorized as: passive, feminine, dark, still, negative, night, moon, intuitive, cold, contemplative, soft, left, back.
Yang is categorized as: active, masculine, light, movement, positive, day, sun, logical, hot, action, hard, right, front.
These are the organs of the body according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Zang are the solid organs or viscera of the body that are yin in nature: Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Liver Kidneys, and Pericardium. Fu are the hollow organs that are yang in nature: Small Intestine, Stomach, Large Intestine, Urinary Bladder, Gall Bladder, and San Jiao.
Together they form a Zang Fu pair. Each pair is connected via channels internally and externally together. This can have therapeutic importance in that a point on the fu channel may be used to treat a problem on its connected zang channel, and vice versa. They are also associated with the five element model.
Because they do differ from the anatomical organs, their names are capitalized. Their functions had little to do with what we now understand of their physiology. As well as physical functions, these organs are linked to emotional and spiritual factors.
The meridians are a complex web of pathways that are unique and central to Traditional Chinese Medicine.
These channels are linked to a specific organ or organ system making the organism a unified whole.
They serve as lines of communication among the organs and the body, provide adjust the ebb and flow of vital energy in the body, help maintain a balance of yin and yang, and provide warmth and nourishment for the whole body.
The twelve standard meridians run on the surface of the body. In addition to the major meridians there are eight extraordinary channels, called vessels. We will explore the twelve major meridians and the two most important secondary vessels.
- Conception Vessel
- Gall Bladder Meridian
- Governing Vessel
- Heart Meridian
- Kidney Meridian
- Large Intestine Meridian
- Liver Meridian
- Lung Meridian
- Pericardium Meridian
- Small Intestine Meridian
- Spleen Meridian
- Stomach Meridian
- Triple Warmer Meridian
- Urinary Bladder Meridian
Chief of Staff
The Meridian of Happiness
The General in Charge of Strategy
- Considered the second Heart of the body
- Laboratory for the entire metabolism
- Responsible for filtering, detoxifying, nourishing, replenishing, and storing Blood
- Regulates its release into the body as needed
- Associated with the female menstrual cycle
- Regulates the flow of vital energy
- Governs muscle tone
- Governs growth and development, drive and desires, ambitions and creativity.
- Called the “root of resistance to fatigue”
- Stores the “soul” – combination of mental activity, consciousness, determination, Po (vitality), and Hun (ethereal aspect of soul)
- Affected by grief, sorrow and by taking offense
- Health of the Liver is seen in the eyes and nails, and is reflected in the quality of the tendons
The Liver Meridian starts at the top of the big toe and travels up the leg to the pubic bone. It then circles the sexual organs, enters the lower abdomen, and travels upward to connect with the liver and gallbladder. It moves up to the lungs to connect with the Lung Meridian before curving around the mouth. It then splits and one branch goes up to each eye. The two disjointed branches finally meet at the forehead and travel over the top of the head.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are indicated for liver, gynecological and genital diseases. They are also recommended for symptoms along the meridian’s pathway.
Gall Bladder Meridian
The Meridian of Admiration
The General’s Adviser
- Paired with the Liver
- Reservoir for bile
- Controls Central Clearing Department
- secretes bile required to digest and metabolize fats and oils
- energy provides muscular strength and vitality
- Works with lymphatic system to clear toxic by-products of metabolism from the muscular system
- eliminates muscular aches and fatigue
- Ensures smooth flow of vital energy and Blood
- Connected to rage and anger
- Associated with decisiveness, activity, decision making, courage and initiative
The Gallbladder Meridian starts as two branches emerging from the outer corner of the eye. An external branch weaves around the face and ear before traveling to the hip. The other branch crosses the cheek and descends to the gallbladder to meet up with the other branch. This rejoined branch now runs down the lateral side of the thigh and lower leg and makes its way to the tip of the fourth toe. Another small branch separates from the meridian at this point and ends at the big toe, where it connects with the Liver Meridian.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are indicated for ailments of the eyes, ears, pharynx (throat), and lateral side of the head in addition to mental illness and fever. They are also recommended for symptoms along the meridian’s pathway.
Minister of Dykes and Dredges
The Meridian of Hope
- Paired with the Pericardium
- Governs the relationship between all the various organs
- Regulates and Distributes source vital energy
- Embodies all hormone glands
- Responsible for the movement and Transformation of various solids and fluids throughout the system
- Production and Circulation of nourishing energy and protective energy
- Associated with impatience and intense activity
It is not a single self-contained organ, but rather a functional energy system involved in regulating the activities of other organs.
It is composed of three parts, known as ‘burners’, each associated with one of the body’s three main cavities: thorax, abdomen, and pelvis.
Sometimes called the Triple Warmer Organ because the three body cavities are intended to control the body temperatures.
The Upper, which relates to the chest above the diaphragm. It controls the intake of air, food, and fluids. It harmonizes the functions of Heart and Lungs, governs respiration, and regulates the distribution of protective energy to the body’s external surfaces.
The Middle, which relates to the area between the diaphragm and navel. It controls digestion by harmonizing the functions of Stomach, Spleen, and Pancreas. It is responsible for extracting nourishing energy from food and fluids and distributing it via the meridian system to the Lungs and other parts of the body.
The Lower, which is located below the navel. It is responsible for separating the pure from the impure products of digestion, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating solid and liquid wastes. It harmonizes the functions of liver, kidney, bladder, and large and small intestines and also regulates sexual and reproductive functions.
The Triple Burner is not represented by a physical organ. Rather, it is important because of its job, which is to circulate liquid energy throughout the organs. It begins at the tip of the ring finger and flows over the shoulder to the chest cavity. Atop it, it splits into two branches. One branch travels through the middle and lower parts of the body, uniting the upper, middle and lower burners. The other runs externally up the side of the neck, circling the face to finally meet the Gallbladder Meridian at the outer ends of the eyebrow.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are recommended for ailments of the ears, eyes, chest, pharynx (throat), and the side of the head as well as certain febrile conditions. They are also indicated for symptoms along this meridian’s pathway.
The Meridian of Relaxation, Generosity and Renunciation
Least important of the Zang organs.
Sometimes it is considered a subset of the Small Intestine.
- Encloses and Protects the Heart – assists the Heart in controlling excessive energy
- Regulates circulation in the major blood vessels that run in and out of the Heart
- Provides physical protection to the Heart
- Protects the Heart from damage and disruption by excessive emotional energies generated by the other organs
- Associated with the libido
- Reflects perceiving life as a pressure
- Health of the Pericardium is reflected in the Heart
The Pericardium Meridian starts near the heart, where it divides into two branches. One emerges from the lower chest area to reach the armpit before reversing down the arm to end at the tip of the middle finger. The other branch takes the same path but stops at the ring finger, where it meets the Triple Burner.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are used for heart, chest, and peptic diseases as well as mental illness. They are also indicated for symptoms manifested along the meridian’s pathway.
Minister of the Mill
The Meridian of Content and Calmness
- Paired with the Spleen
- Responsible for providing the entire system with postnatal energy from the digestion of food and fluids
- Produces digestive juices
- Health of the Stomach is reflected in the digestive process
- Spleen and Stomach are very closely associated – the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably
- Associated with annoyance
The Stomach Meridian emerges from the end of the Large Intestine Meridian just under the eyes. It then goes around the nose to encircle the bridge of the nose, simultaneously going down around the mouth and up each cheek to the forehead. It then travels from the lower jaw through the neck to the sternum, where it divides into two branches. One branch passes down the chest, belly, and groin, and continues down each leg, ending at the tip of the second toe.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are indicated for certain gastroenteric diseases, toothaches and mental illnesses. Conditions that affect areas through which the meridian passes such as the head, face, eyes, nose and mouth can also benefit from stimulation of the acupuncture points along this meridian.
Minister of the Granary
The Meridian of Confidence
In Chinese medicine, the function of the Spleen organ-energy system includes the Pancreas.
- Provide digestive enzymes and energy
- Controls extraction and assimilation of nutrients from food and fluids
- Represents the composition of the blood and the lymphatic fluid as well as their toxin and waste loads, particularly waste in form of proteins
- Keeps blood in the vessels
- Coordinate with the kidneys to control fluid balance throughout the system
- Controls muscle development – responsible for building strong limbs and well-developed muscles
- Controls the limbs and flesh
- Linked to the mouth and appetite
- Nurturing qualities
- Responsible for analytical thinking, memory, cognition, intelligence, and ideas.
- Stores Yi – intention, willpower, determination, or an awareness of the possibilities that are open to us to make changes in our lives
- Sensitive to pensiveness, worry, or over-thinking – dwelling too much on a particular problem, or concentrating too hard for too long
- Associated with pondering over problems, obsession with thoughts
- Health of Spleen is seen in the lips and is reflected by the tone and condition of muscle tissue
The Spleen Meridian starts at the big toe and moves along the inside of the foot, crossing at the inner ankle. It then continues to climb until it ends at the armpit. One branch leaves the abdomen and runs inside the body to the spleen, linking with the stomach and the heart.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are indicated for peptic, gynecological and genital diseases. They are also indicated for symptoms along the meridian.
King of the Organs
The Meridian of Forgiveness
- Rules all of the Zang-Fu organs
- Governs the blood circulation and distribution
- Commands all of the organs and viscera
- Dominates sleep
- Controls all life processes associated with the soul and emotions
- Controls mental activities such as processing, perception and mental health
- Stores Shen – the body’s spirit
- Sensitive to over-exuberance, over-excitement, agitation, panic and sudden fear
- Associated with long-term memory, thinking, emotions, intimacy, cognition, intelligence, and ideas
- Health of Heart is seen in the complexion and tongue and reflected in the taste buds
The Heart Meridian starts in the heart and consists of three branches. One goes to the small intestine. Another runs upward past the tongue toward the eyes. The third branch crosses the chest to travel down the arm, ending at the inside top of the little finger, where it connects with the Small Intestine Meridian.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are indicated for heart, chest and mental problems. They are also indicated for symptoms along the meridian.
Small Intestine Meridian
Minister of Reception
The Meridian of Joy
- Paired with the Heart
- Related to the sinuses
- Receives and Contains Water and Food – absorbs pure part and distributes to entire body & impure part goes to Large Intestine
- Separates the pure from the impure, including foods, fluids, thoughts, and beliefs
- Controls the more basic emotions
- Influences mental clarity, judgment, and powers of discernment
- Associated with digesting emotional and mental demands and pressures
The Small Intestine Meridian begins in the outside tip of the little finger and goes up the arm to the back of the shoulder. At the intersection of the Bladder Meridian, it diverges into two branches. One branch moves internally through the heart and stomach to settle in the small intestine. The other branch travels externally around the cheeks on the face, passing through the eye and ear. A short branch off the cheek links the meridian to the inner corner of the eye, where it connects with the Bladder Meridian.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are indicated for diseases of the head, neck, ear, eyes and pharynx (throat), as well as certain febrile conditions and mental illnesses. These acupuncture points are also recommended for symptoms associated with the meridian’s pathway.
Urinary Bladder Meridian
Minister of the Reservoir
The Meridian of Peace and Harmony
- Paired with the Kidney
- Represents the entire pelvic area including prostate, uterus, testicles and ovaries and therefore also the sexuality.
- Stores and Discharges turbid materials away from the body
- Related to the functions and balance of the autonomous nervous system
- Associated with resisting change, basic negative attitude
- Health of the Urinary Bladder is reflected in the urinary activity
The Urinary Bladder Meridian begins its journey at the inside edge of each eye and travels over the top of the head (where it visits the brain) to the back of the neck. Here it splits into two parts. One (the inner branch) travels into the base of the neck and moves down, parallel with the spine. At the bottom, it reaches into the bladder. The other moves across the back of the shoulder and then runs downward alongside the inner branch. The two branches move through the buttocks and join at the knees. Each meridian now continues down the back of the lower leg, circles the outer ankle, and finally ends at the tip of the little toe, where it connects with (but is not the start of) the Kidney Meridian.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are indicated for diseases in the head, neck, eyes, back, groin and lower limbs as well as certain and mental illnesses. They are also recommended for symptoms along the meridian pathway.
Minister of Power
The Meridian of Sexual Confidence
Root of Life
Includes the adrenal glands – These glands sit like hats on top of the kidneys and secrete a wide range of essential hormones that regulate metabolism, excretion, immunity, sexual potency and fertility
Also includes what the Chinese call the ‘external kidneys’: the gonads – Control sexual and reproductive functions and provide the body’s prime source of sexual vitality
- Maintains and Processes body fluids – send “clear fluid”, which circulates through the organs and tissues upwards & send “turbid fluid”, which is transformed into sweat and urine downward
- Coordinate respiration with the Lungs – especially during inhalation
- Control the bones of the entire body and the development of bone marrow that spreads along the spinal cord to the brain
- Rules the bones, teeth, and adrenal glands
- Responsible for the muscles as well as for the connective tissue
- Regulate the body’s acid-alkaline balance (pH)
- Control short-term memory and store data
- Provide the capacity and drive for strength, skill and hard work
- Residence of yin and yang
- Seat of courage and willpower
- Store Jing – vital essence that affects energy and the aging processes
- Sensitive to chronic fear, especially when cause is not addressed
- Associated with wilfulness and stubbornness
- Health of the Kidneys are seen in the head hair and reflected in the ears (sense of hearing)
The Kidney Meridian initiates between the long bones of the second and third toes, near the sole of the foot. It travels the inside of the leg, entering the body near the base of the spine. At the kidneys, it splits into two branches. These pass through the chest and intersect at the Pericardium meridian and from there, journey to the base of the tongue. (A small branch divides at the lungs to link with the heart and the pericardium.)
Acupuncture points in this meridian are used for gynecological, genital, kidney, lung, and pharynx (throat) diseases. They are also indicated for symptoms associated with the pathway of the meridian.
The Meridian of Humility
Represents the bronchi, the immune system, allergies and the skin.
- Control respiration and vital energy
- Help to repel invading evils
- Transportation and distribution of nutrients and water, the secretion of sweat and the excretion of urine
- Assist the Heart with the circulation of blood
- Connected with the nose and the sense of smell
- Control the skin (exterior of the body)
- Sensitive to changes in the environment such wind, dampness and coldness
- Responsible for Self-protection and Self-preservation
- Sensitive to emotional feelings and turmoil, such as disappointment, sadness, grief, despair, anxiety, shame, and sorrow
- Store Po – vitality, more associated with the physical side of concentration
- Associated with communication problems
- Health of the Lungs is seen on the skin and in the body hair
The Lung Meridian begins at the Triple Burner near the navel, runs inside the chest, and surfaces in front of the shoulder. Here it branches out from the armpits to run down the medial aspect of the upper arms and crosses at the crease of the elbows. It continues until it splits into two more branches, one flowing to the tips of the thumbs and the other to the ends of the index fingers. One branch runs from the chest to the large intestine.
Acupuncture points in the Lung Meridian are indicated for throat, chest and lung ailments and for other symptoms that are presented along the meridian’s pathway.
Large Intestine Meridian
Minister of Transportation
The Meridian of Self-Esteem
- Paired with the Lungs
- Transports and Transforms food – absorbs the residue of water and turns the rest into waste
- Rules elimination and communicates with the lungs to regulate the transportation function of the body
- Health of the Large Intestine is reflected in stools
The Large Intestine Meridian starts in the tip of each index finger and rises along the lateral side of the forearm and the anterior side of the upper arm to reach the highest points in the shoulder. here it diverges into two branches. One travels internally into the lungs, diaphragm, and large intestine. The other flows externally, passing the neck and cheek to enter the lower teeth and gums, and then on to the other end of the nose.
Acupuncture points in this meridian are indicated for diseases affecting the head, face, pharynx (throat), febrile conditions and other symptoms along the meridian pathway.
The Governing and Conception Vessels
The Governing and Conception Vessels are the main rivers of the body’s Yin and Yang energies. They are polar aspects of the body, perfectly complementary, like midnight and midday. They are responsible for the formation of the holoblastic cleavage and the first cellar division of the fertilized ovum in embryological development.
The Governing and Conception Vessels each have two energy flows on the anterior and posterior vertical midline of the body. Each vessel’s pathway is complete, being composed of an ascending energetic flow and a descending energetic flow. The duality of these two medial lines joins at the extremities (the head and perineum), forming one complete circle of energetic current.
Both vessels are superimposed on each other, with the energy of the Governing Vessel being predominant up the back and inferior down the front (behind the Conception Vessel); the energy of the Conception Vessel is predominant up the front and inferior down the back (behind the Governing Vessel).
Sea of the Yang Meridians
The Governor Vessel starts at the perineum and travels to the coccyx before making its way to the back of the head. Flowing over the head, it then travels down the front of the face to stop at the canines in the upper jaw.
Sea of the Yin Meridians
The Conception Vessel runs down the front of the body, starting just below the eyes. It circles around the mouth to the chest and abdomen before landing at the perineum.