Understand Energy Flow in Chinese Medicine
The system of understanding the body according to a vital energy that feeds our organs and vital functions as well as our emotions and behavior is called "Enegie Flow or Qi". This has given rise to various systems of medical care, often in a family tradition passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years.
We have written this articel in order to teach you more about the basics of the energy flow ⚡.
Law of Yin and Yang
The vital energy must circulate everywhere in a harmonious way to guarantee health. If it is absent or blocked, it is a source of problems.
This global energy has a double polarity:
- On the one hand, it has positive, activating, warming and accelerating effects (it is Yang);
- On the other hand, it has negative effects of inhibition, braking, cooling (it is Yin).
☯ Both are essential, and our inner harmony and health depend on their balance.
Thus, for the body to be healthy, our energy must circulate everywhere, but Yin and Yang must also be balanced. Neither of them should dominate the other.
The 5 Elements and Emotions
Stranger for us Westerners, the correspondences between the 5 elements and emotions are no less relevant and subtle. The Chinese are keen observers, and so over the millennia they have established a whole series of correspondences, first objective and then symbolic, between the 5 elements and various aspects of the cosmos and nature.
According to the laws of relationships, planets, organs, vital functions, seasons, plants, minerals... all influence each other.
Thus, the color green strengthens the Liver and the color red strengthens the Heart. It is the same for flavors. This notion is very important in Chinese Energetics. Beyond the pleasant or unpleasant taste that a food may have, flavor is a means used to classify plants according to the quality of the action they exert on our vital energy. This concerns foods and, of course, medicinal plants ! 🍵
- For example: the bitter flavor, linked to the Fire element, to summer and to the Heart, has a stimulating effect on this organ. This is confirmed with coffee. But the interactions are often a little more complex because the same flavor can act on different organs: bitter tea regulates the Lung; bitter gentian the Stomach (aperitive); bitter artichoke the Liver (drainage)...
Moreover, depending on the energy of the plant (Yang or Yin), the same flavor will be stimulating or soothing for the same organ.
Each organ, just as it is linked to one of the 5 elements, is related to an emotion. This psychosomatic vision of man is at the center of the Chinese conception of life. Thus, for thousands of years, the Chinese have taught that the Liver is linked to anger, hence a two-way relationship: between the Liver and anger, and between anger and the Liver.
This double relationship can be expressed as follows:
- If the Liver is disturbed, the subject is angry, irritable
- If the subject is subjected to a situation of aggression, of frustration which makes him angry, his Liver will be disturbed
Let us add to this the notion of Yin and Yang: if a person is very angry, the energy of his Liver will be in excess (Yang). It is indeed a ground that each of us has, different from each other.
By the relation which exists with the character in all these ancient medicines, it is possible to know one's own ground if one knows one's character. In Chinese Energetics, as we have seen, the emotion is related to the organ, the organ is related to the emotion.
The 5 Organs and the Meridians
Under the control of each element is a main organ. And this organ is itself related to a viscera. The organs are Yin, they are full; the viscera are Yang, they are called "hollow organs" by the Chinese because they are only passage areas.
We are thus in the presence of 5 organ-viscera couples, which maintain an anatomical (they act together) and energetic (their meridians are linked) relationship.
- For the Wood element, the organ is the Liver: it purifies and stores blood. The associated viscera is the Gallbladder: it produces bile, a liquid that helps digestion.
- For the Fire element, the organ is the heart: it pumps the blood and is the conductor of all the organs. The associated viscera is the small intestine: it sorts the pure and the impure, and absorbs food.
- For the Earth element, the organ is the spleen and the pancreas: it extracts and processes water from food. The associated viscera is the stomach: it receives food and sorts substances.
- For the Metal element, the organ is the lung: it expels impurities and allows the exchange of vital gases. The associated viscera is the large intestine: it transports waste from the small intestine.
- For the Water element, the organ is the kidneys: it filters the blood plasma and ensures the detoxification of the body. The associated viscera is the bladder: it evacuates impure liquids.
The meridians are like electro-magnetic lines of force, which propagate the energy of the organ throughout the body, from the feet to the head, from the hands to the thorax. This explains certain remote manifestations of energy imbalances in an organ 🧠.
For example, an imbalance of the Liver energy, through the Liver meridian, can affect the eye, the genitals, the knee or the big toe. Only the Fire element has 2 pairs of meridians. The first pair, as for the other organs, associates the Heart meridian and the small intestine meridian. The second pair is deeper and more global: it associates two meridians called the Heart Master and the Dantians.
It is useful to know the path of the meridians of each element, even in a schematic way. This allows us to detect correspondences between certain somatic manifestations and the organ of origin whose energy is out of balance.
At the same time, it helps to choose the energetic elixir that will be the most effective in correcting this initial imbalance and restoring harmony to the organism.
🌲 Wood Element
The Liver meridian concerns : The big toe, the calf, the inner side of the knee, the thigh, the external genitalia, the veins, the hemorrhoidal plexuses and cavernous bodies, the genital glands, the hernial orifices, the digestion of fats, the hepatic metabolism, the immune tissues of the Liver, the defenses of the skin and mucous membranes, the muscles and their contractility, the rhythm of the heart, the top of the head, the memory, the eyes and sight, the face, the middle artery of the ear, the vestibule and balance.
The Gallbladder meridian concerns : Eyes, temporals, parietals, cerebral hemispheres, middle ear artery, vestibule, occiput, cerebellum, shoulders, flanks, psoas, pyramidal, external sciatic nerve, outer edge of thigh, outer edge of leg, 4th toe.
🔥 Fire Element
The Heart meridian concerns : Heart, blood circulation, red blood cells, eyeballs, jaws, tongue, language, alertness and sleep, emotions, armpit, inner arm and forearm, little finger, uterus.
The small intestine meridian concerns : The little finger, ulnar side of the forearm and posterior side of the arm, scapula, temporomandibular joint, ear, eyelids, alertness and sleep, epiphysis, small intestine, immunity, lactation, uterus, ovaries and their secretion, childbirth, ureter, external genitalia.
The master meridian of the heart concerns : Middle finger, palm, wrist, carpal tunnel, median nerve, elbow, armpit, chest, eyes, head, capillary microcirculation, alertness, mood, tongue, heart plexus, emotionality, sexual arousal, blood circulation in the chest, lower abdomen, uterus. The path of this meridian explains the hyperemotivity associated with sexual blockages, violent spasms of the uterus, vascular disorders of the hands (icy or moist extremities) or carpal tunnel syndrome.
The Three Dantians meridian involves : The ring finger, the wrist, the elbow, the shoulder, the mandibular and maxillary joint, the cheek, the middle ear and its artery, the temporal lobe, the eye, the regulation of body fluids, as well as all phenomena of edema, water retention, anuria or incontinence. Some people present in an inexplicable way by the usual criteria of western medicine, ear whistling, Meniere's vertigo, associated variously with diffuse joint pains, stiffness of the arms and shoulder, difficulty in resisting sudden changes of climate, water retention under the eyelids and ankles, temporal migraines, facial and ocular neuralgia...
🌱 Earth Element
The spleen and pancreas meridian concerns : The big toe, the calf, the inner thigh, the genitals and fertility, all the abdominal viscera and in particular the pancreas and digestive juices, the intestines, digestion, appetite, the feeling of hunger, the taste of sugar, the lymphatic system, the ganglia, the spleen and the diaphragm, immunity, thorax and lungs, mouth, lips and cheeks, tongue and taste, salivary glands (parotid and submaxillary), armpits and ribs, collagen and connective tissue, circulation of interstitial fluids, nutrition of the muscles of the four limbs.
The stomach meridian concerns : The lower jaw, temporomandibular joint, forehead, maxillary sinuses, neck, carotids and aorta, circulation of large arteries, femoral and tibial arteries, clavicles, nipples, abdominal muscles, hernial orifices, stomach, digestion, appetite, feeling of hunger, taste for sugar, front of the thigh and leg, crural nerve, instep and 2nd toe.
🧲 Metal Element
The Lung meridian concerns : Chest, neck, vocal cords, voice, pharynx, head, hair, nose, sinuses, arm and forearm, thumb, outer side of radius, skin, colon.
The large intestine meridian concerns : Index finger, forearm and arm, shoulder, neck, upper jaw, nose, thorax, lung and colon, skin.
💧 Water Element
The Kidney meridian concerns : Sole of the foot, back of calf, thigh, rectum, urethra, genitals, adrenal gland, genital glands, sexual appetite and potency, kidneys, bladder, bones, bone marrow, red blood cells, spinal cord, brain, tonsils, inner ear, hearing, teeth, vital energy, immunity.
The bladder meridian concerns : Inner corner of the eye, sinuses, skull, brain, meninges, concentration, sleep-wake cycle, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, spinal cord, sciatic nerve, bladder, urethra, lactation, childbirth, urinary elimination, bone system, adrenal and genital hormones.
Law of The 5 Elements
The Chinese needed 5 symbolic elements to classify all the phenomena of nature in a coherent way in their eyes. These symbolic elements are linked to 5 seasons, 5 organs and 5 fundamental emotions, always in the same system of perfect harmony.
A way of reminding us, always, that we are not separated from the nature in which we live, on the contrary, since it lives deep inside us! In other words, there is an intimate relationship between a season, the energy of the organ that corresponds to it, and that of the states of mind that are linked to it.
This already gives us indications on the care to be given to each organ, on the moment to act to maintain its balance, and consequently on the choice of the energetic elixirs useful for each person in each season.
The 5 elements are not only linked to each other, they are also linked according to the laws of generation and opposition, specific to Chinese Energetics in general and to acupuncture in particular.
The creation cycle is easy to understand. Everyone knows that spring precedes summer, which gives way to late summer which precedes fall, and so on. In the same way, the 5 elements generate or feed the next element:
Wood generates Fire (wood burns and becomes fire): Wood is the mother of Fire, and Fire is the son of Wood.
Fire generates Earth (ashes become fertilizer and enrich the earth): Fire is the mother of Earth and Earth is the son of Fire.
Earth generates Metal (earth produces metals): Earth is the mother of Metal and Metal is the son of Earth.
Metal generates Water (metal can liquefy): Metal is the mother of Water and Water is the son of Metal.
Water generates Wood (trees need water for their growth): Water is the mother of Wood; Wood is the son of Water.
This principle also applies to the organs: the Liver communicates its energy to the Heart; the Heart in turn communicates its energy to the Spleen, which then gives energy to the Lung, the Lung to the Kidney and the Kidney to the Liver.
The overcoming cycle (or law of control) has another basis. Each organ has control over another organ, and each organ is able to control the organ that has control over it. This double system of control allows the energies of the 5 organs to be stabilized ⚖️.
Therefore, when we treat an imbalance, we rebalance the whole system by touching only one organ.
Wood covers Earth = LIVER controls RATE
Earth dries the Water = The RATE controls the KIDNEY
Water extinguishes the Fire = the KIDNEY controls the HEART
Fire melts the Metal = HEART controls the LUNG
Metal slices Wood = LUNG controls LIVER
Read next: Organ Clock in Chinese Medicine. Organ in Chinese medicine are not limited to a simple anatomical character. Rather, they should be considered as "organic spheres", circuits of activity that encompass the physical, mental and emotional planes, and are always linked to other functional circuits, i.e. other organs.