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The 12 Meridians of the Body Explained

The 12 Meridians of the Body Explained

The meridian system is a phrase that comes up often during acupuncture treatment. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that energy (also referred to as qi) flows throughout the body much like blood does. When this flow of energy becomes disrupted, symptoms and disease can occur. Acupuncture and other forms of Eastern medicine work to restore the flow of energy throughout the body using the meridian system. 

Meridians are channels that direct the flow of energy through specific pathways of the body. Think of it like a superhighway the energy in your body uses to move about your organ systems. Picture a body divided in half from top to bottom. Each side of the body is traversed by six meridians: three yin and three yang. Here are the 12 major meridians of the body and the function they perform.

Each meridian is assigned to what could be called a circuit, called an element. There are five elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. Here are how those five elements work in the meridian system:

  • Fire: Heart and small intestine meridian, circulation and three-fold warming meridian.
  • Earth: Stomach and spleen meridian.
  • Metal: Lung and colon meridian.
  • Water: Kidney and bladder meridian.
  • Wood: Liver and gallbladder meridian.

Lung (Arm Tai Yin, Metal Element): Regulates respiration and the intake of energy. 

Large Intestine (Arm Yang Ming, Metal Element): Extracts and processes water from waste material before expelling it from the body. 

Stomach (Leg Yang Ming, Earth Element): Digests and extracts energy from food and then distributes that energy through to the spleen and intestines.

Spleen (Leg Tai Yin, Earth Element): Distributes nutrients throughout the body, maintains muscle tone and regulates blood flow.

Heart (Arm Shao Yin, Fire Element): Circulates blood to all the organs in the body.

Small Intestine (Arm Tai Yang, Fire Element): Distributes nutrients throughout the body.

Bladder (Leg Tai Yang, Water Element): Removes liquid waste from the body.

Kidney (Leg Shao Yin, Water Element): Stores sexual energy, regulates the reproductive system, and produces blood and bone marrow.

Pericardium (Arm Jue Yin, Fire Element): The pericardium is an important part of the body and is the area that surrounds the heart, protecting it and removing excess energy. This meridian channel disperses energy throughout the body, thus preventing the heart from receiving too much energy.

Triple Warmer (Arm Shao Yang, Fire Element): Also called San Jiao controls the body and is not just responsible for a particular organ system. It helps to control metabolism and regulates heat, moisture, and body temperature.

Gallbladder (Leg Shao Yang, Wood Element): Stores and expels bile produced by the liver.

Liver (Leg Jue Yin, Wood Element): Circulates energy, regulates menstruation and the female reproductive system. It also maintains flexibility of the tendons and ligaments.

Your acupuncturist will conduct a thorough health history to determine the best treatment options to get your qi balanced and flowing properly. They will discuss your daily routine and habits and might suggest herbal supplements, changes to your diet and exercise routine as well as your acupuncture treatment options. 

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine look at the whole body and will work with you to get every system back to its optimal performance by addressing the root cause and not just your symptoms. If you are looking for a holistic and natural drug-free alternative to your health care, make an appointment today.

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