Meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine: What Are They?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of the main methods of treatment is that of acupuncture. For those of you who have considered, or are currently utilizing this form of eastern treatment, you’ve probably come accross the term “Meridians”. But what are Meridians? And how do they relate to acupuncture? Let’s dive in.
You will often hear the term Meridians described as channels, highways, roads, or pathways. However, they all amount to the same thing, which is that they are vessels that carry, hold, or transport Qi, blood, and body fluids through and around the body. It is important to note that meridians are not physically found in the body in the way our nervous system would be, but rather they are a network of energy distribution.
The Twelve Primary Meridians in TCM
There are twelve main, or primary Meridians, as well as eight extra Meridians, fifteen collateral's, twelve bypass collateral's, twelve tendon collateral's, twelve skin areas and innumerable micro-collateral's, superficial collateral's and blood collateral's. But for now, we will only be discussing the main twelve.
The traditional Chinese practitioner must be as exceedingly knowledgeable of Meridians in addition to the anatomy, and the physiological make-up of the human body. Knowledge of the Meridians will allow a TCM practitioner to access the flow of Qi energy, and in turn facilitate healing in the body.
Each of the twelve main Meridians retains a Yin-Yang property, and duly corresponds to a particular kind of Qi energy. To better understand this concept, we visualize that crossing through our limbs are six Yin channels, and six Yang channels.
Yin Channels (Meridians)
There are three Yin channels (Meridians) in the arms, and three in the legs. Yin channels are located on the anterior and medial (front and inside) of the areas of the body they run through.
Yang Channels (Meridians)
There are also three Yang channels in the arms, and three in the legs. Yang channels however, are located on the posterior and lateral (back and outside) of the areas in the body they run through.
Every Meridian that we have talked about corresponds with a particular organ. Here, when we say 'organ', we do not mean a specific anatomical organ in the body, but rather a larger, more encompassing function in the body. For example, the Leg Shao Yin corresponds to the Kidney, but when we speak of the Kidney Meridian we are talking about urinary health, memory loss, low energy, sexual dysfunctions, and affectation of the reproductive process.
Moreover, each Meridian is a Yin Yang pair, this means that each Yin organ is paired with its corresponding Yang Organ. For example, the Yin Lung organ corresponds with the Yang large intestine. Because of these pairs between Yin and Yang, if there is illness, or a stagnation of Qi in the Stomach Meridian (Yang), it can be treated by use of certain acupoints in the communicating pair, which in this case would be the Spleen Meridian (Yin).
Arm Tai Yin channel corresponds to the Lung
Leg Tai Yin channel corresponds to the Spleen
Arm Shao Yin channel corresponds to the Heart
Leg Shao Yin corresponds to the Kidney
Arm Jue Yin corresponds to the Pericardium
Leg Jue Yin corresponds to the Liver
Arm Yang Ming corresponds to the Large Intestine
Leg Yang Ming corresponds to the Stomach
Arm Tai Yang corresponds to the Small Intestine
Leg Tai Yang corresponds to the Bladder
Arm Shao Yang corresponds to the San Jiao
Leg Shao Yang Channel corresponds to the Gall Bladder
How do Meridians relate to Acupuncture?
So if Meridians are the energy pathways of Qi that run through the body, how does acupuncture relate to them?
Dotted along the Meridians are hundreds of individual acupuncture points, or 'acupoints'. By virtue of these pathways, the acupoints affect the nervous system and brain functions, as well as the endocrine, digestive, reproductive, musculo-skeletal and cardiovascular systems.
When Qi flows freely through your energy pathways, the body is balanced and healthy, but if the energy becomes blocked, stagnated or weakened, it can result in physical, mental or emotional ill health. In order to restore balance in the body, your TCM practitioner will stimulate the acupuncture points that will counteract that imbalance (by inserting a needle). In other words, if you have stagnant Qi, specific points will be chosen to stimulate it. If the Qi is too cold, points will be chosen to warm it. If it is weak, certain points will strengthen it. If it is blocked, it will be unblocked, and so on and so forth. In this way, acupuncture can effectively re-balance the your body's energy system, restore health, or prevent the development of disease.
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