Organ Clock in Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is based on the idea that a healthy body is one in which the Qi flows harmoniously through the meridians that run through it.
Six of these meridians correspond to organs, six others to the entrails associated with them. 🕰️ This circulation takes place over a 24-hour cycle (12 x 2 hours) and always in the same order.
This process is called the circadian rhythm.
During 2 hours, the Qi is at its peak in a given meridian (and at its lowest in the one opposite it on the clock). For example, between 9 and 11 am, the energy is at its highest in the spleen meridian; on the contrary, it is at its lowest in the triple warmer meridian. This phenomenon is called an energy tide.
Traditionally, we consider that the beginning of the cycle starts at 3 o'clock, with the Lung meridian.
Organ 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 .
These functional circuits are referred to in Chinese as "Zang Fu". There are 6 Yin organs and 6 Yang organs ☯.
In order to avoid disharmony, TCM offers a whole range of measures for those seeking advice. The concept of the Chinese biological clock is one of them as an effective way to structure daily life in a way that is compatible with nature and your own biorhythm.
Flow of Qi
Qi supplies the whole body, physically and mentally, with vital energy. Movement, digestion but also thought, feeling and sensory perception are the expression of Qi.
Qi is a rhythmic movement of ebb and flow. It does not circulate in an invariable way in the organs and meridians, but knows periods of full and empty energy. The organ is then said to be "at high tide" or "at low tide".
According to a circadian cycle, a large amount of Qi flows for two hours through a specific meridian and its corresponding organ. This high energy flow then returns to the next meridian and organ again for a period of two hours.
Thus, the "Lung hour" is followed by the "Large Intestine hour", then the Qi spreads its maximum energy ⚡ in the stomach, etc. Conversely, there are two-hour periods during which the Qi flows weakly in a meridian and its organ.
This minimal activity, or resting phase, begins exactly 12 hours after a phase of high activity. During this period, the organ should be disturbed as little as possible.
When the Qi is blocked due to some disharmony or deficiency and cannot flow freely, stagnates or even escapes, pain or discomfort may occur. This results in physical as well as psychological disorders.
For traditional Chinese medicine, illness always indicates the presence of an imbalance, such as an excess of Yin or an excess of Yang, which consequently causes disharmony.
The Organ Clock in Chinese Medicine
It clearly indicates where the flow of our energy is every two hours.
If we pay attention to these periods, take advantage of the flow of activity, and also follow the quiet times, we will do a lot for our well-being and health.
If you organize your day in a harmonious way by referring to the organ clock and if you spot an imbalance in your life at an early stage, you will be able to regain your former health and well-being thanks to timely, non-aggressive and rebalancing care, without even having to resort to drugs or chemicals.
The organ clock makes it possible to better detect, diagnose and evaluate physical and psychological illnesses. A pain that appears at a specific time of the day refers to a specific organ. It is interesting to note that the organ timetables, determined according to the flow of Qi, largely coincide with current scientific knowledge about the processes that take place in our body according to the circadian rhythm.
Knowing the rhythm of the flow of Qi in your body can help you maintain your health and/or better understand its dysfunctions. By observing this clock, we can see that our body is not programmed to accommodate our modern life habits. For example, many of us practice sports after our work day 🏋️♀️, that is to say most often between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., a time slot in the kidney meridian that calls for calmness.
The clock can also enlighten us on the dysfunctions of our body. A symptom (or insomnia) which always occurs at the same time is likely to correspond to an attack on the meridian concerned by this time slot.
Thus, waking up every night at 2 am can indicate that your liver is struggling to perform its physical functions (depurative and digestive). But you should not forget that in Chinese medicine, each organ is associated with an emotion: anger for the liver, or sadness for the lung.
Hours of the Body Clock in Chinese Medicine
Here is a detailed list of the function of each time slot.
3 am - 5 am: Lung
It receives the energy flow at its first point (zhong fu) located in the subclavicular fossa.
At their peak of activity, the lungs are in charge of the protection of the organism but also of the diffusion of the Qi in it. It is a phase of internalization, favored by sleep. This is the reason why it is also the time when an accident on the road or at work is most likely to occur.
An asthma attack, a cough or insomnia that would regularly occur in this time slot would indicate a disturbance of the lung meridian. Let us remember that in traditional Chinese medicine, a pathology can be due to a physical cause but also to an emotional cause and that in the case of the lungs, it is sadness which can influence 😪.
5 am - 7 am: Large Intestine
It receives the energy flow in its 4th point (he gu), located on the hand, between the thumb and the index finger, along the 2nd metacarpal.
Its role is to evacuate organic matter which has not been assimilated by our body during the digestive process. This time slot is therefore the one that corresponds to the evacuation of stools. The disturbances of this process (constipation, diarrhea...) are obviously linked to this meridian.
In traditional Chinese medicine, a pathology can be due to a fullness (an excess) or on the contrary to a void (a lack) of Qi. This is the case here of constipation (which corresponds to a fullness) and diarrhea (which manifests a void).
⚠️ Attention: this is also the time when the energy of the kidney is at its lowest, so sexual relations should be avoided.
7 am - 9 am: Stomach
It receives the energy flow in its 1st point (cheng qi) located under the eye.
This is the time to eat the largest meal of the day because the body is at its maximum digestive capacity. "Skipping breakfast is therefore a mistake which can in the long run lead to gastritis, but also to disorders of the small intestine and biliary secretion.
We also understand that, conversely, a heavy dinner eaten between 7pm and 9pm (when the energy is at its lowest in the stomach meridian) is unsuitable for our body.
Note: the stomach likes warmth, it facilitates its digestive work; cover it up (even if only with a T-shirt) and do not hesitate to accompany your breakfast (usually a cold meal) with a hot drink.
This time slot also marks the resumption of standing after a night's sleep, and of activity which is accompanied by an acceleration of the heart rate at a time when the pericardial meridian (or master heart) is at low tide, increasing the risk of myocardial infarction. Beware of morning jogging, therefore 🏃♂️.
9 am - 11 am: Spleen
It receives the energy flow in its 1st point (yin bai) located at the internal angle of the big toe nail.
The role of the spleen, at its peak of activity, is to transform ingested food into Qi and to transport this Qi to the heart (which produces blood), the lung (where it mixes with the Qi of the air absorbed by breathing) and the muscles.
If this process is not carried out correctly, symptoms such as general muscle weakness, a lack of energy felt, but also edemas of the lower limbs will appear. Its role is also to maintain blood in the vessels: bruises that appear easily are therefore an indication of a weakness of this meridian.
On the psychic level, the spleen is responsible for concentration and memorization within the framework of learning: the best time to study or to revise one's exams is therefore this one !
11 am - 1 pm: Heart
It receives the energy flow in its first point (ji quan) located in the hollow of the armpit.
It is responsible for the production and circulation of blood, but also for the mental balance. The emotion which corresponds to it is joy (if the meridian is harmonious) of which euphoria (fullness) or on the contrary neurasthenia (emptiness) are the pathological aspects.
Beware of excessive heat in this time slot: therefore, do not expose yourself to the sun for long periods of time ☀️.
1 pm - 3 pm: Small Intestine
It receives the energetic flow in its 1st point (shao ze) situated at the internal ungual angle of the little finger.
It is in charge of the separation of pure elements (directed to the spleen and the pancreas) from impure elements (directed to the large intestine and the bladder) among what is ingested. The midday meal must therefore be completed before this time, otherwise the food may stagnate (bloating) or be poorly assimilated (anemia...).
This discriminatory faculty also applies on the psychic level; this is why, if this meridian is disturbed, one is subject to a certain mental confusion, a lack of discernment.
3 pm - 5 pm: Bladder
It receives the energy flow in its first point (jing ming) located at the internal angle of the eye.
Its role is to evacuate impure liquids from the body, previously sorted by the small intestine.
Therefore, avoid retention of urine in this niche. Enuresis, incontinence and all urination disorders are attributable to it. It also manages other body fluids such as tears, perspiration...
This meridian is also extremely permeable to feelings of insecurity and suspicion 🤔.
5 pm - 7 pm: Kidney
It receives the energy flow in its 1st point (yong quan) located under the arch of the foot.
It is responsible for sexual activity and reproduction. It is therefore the ideal moment for a cuddle! But this meridian also manages the reserves of Qi (the one we inherited from our parents, the one that comes from the air and food) of our organism, from which the other meridians draw when needed.
Asthenia (general tiredness) is therefore a sign of kidney disturbance. And if it is empty, waking up between 5 and 7 am (time of its low tide) will be extremely painful for you.
Let us note in passing that it is this meridian which is in the first line to manage stress via the secretion of adrenalin and cortisol by the adrenal glands.
7 pm - 9 pm: Pericardium
It receives the energetic flow in its 1st point (tian chi) located on the chest, one fingerbreadth away from the nipple.
Its role is to transmit to the whole body the orders of the heart of which it is, in a way, the spokesman. On the physical level, it protects the energy of the heart. On the mental and psychic level, it ensures the fluidity of reasoning and manages our relationship with others.
During this time, a good walk after dinner will relieve your heart by helping the digestive function and preparing a restful night's sleep 🛌.
9 pm - 11 pm: Triple Warmer
It receives the energy flow in its first point (guan chong) located at the inner nail angle of the ring finger.
Unlike the other meridians, it has no physical form since no organ of this name exists in our body, but it groups together a certain number of physiological functions.
According to Chinese medicine, the body is divided into three sections called "dantian". The upper dantian controls breathing, the middle dantian controls digestion and the lower dantian controls elimination.
The Triple Warmer is the combination of these dantians and is responsible for harmonizing these three sections of the body. It controls the atmosphere in which all the viscera work; for example, it regulates the internal heat of our organism.
👉 Learn more about the three dantians also called The Three Treasures of Chinese Medicine.
Let us note, in passing, that chilliness is a symptom of emptiness of the triple warmer. Its other disturbances translate into a blockage of Qi and/or body fluids (on the physical level); into a need for security and/or an excess of caution (on the psychic and emotional level)
Given the versatility of this meridian, this is a good time to put the body to rest.
11 pm - 1 am: Gallbladder
It receives the energy flow in its 1st point (tong zi liao) located at the external angle of the eye.
Its role is the secretion, storage and release of bile in the digestive system; it thus helps the functions of the stomach and the spleen. Note: it is the Liver that provides the Qi necessary for the secretion of Bile.
In case of pathology, if the Liver Qi is blocked and if the Bile does not flow properly, the functions of the stomach and the spleen are disturbed leading for example to nausea, vomiting or burping. On the psychic level, the gallbladder controls our ability to make decisions.
A difficulty in falling asleep during this period should alert us to the state of this meridian.
1 am - 3 am: Liver
It receives the energy flow in its 2nd point (xing jian) located on the foot, between the 1st and 2nd metatarsal.
The liver stores and detoxifies the blood. On the one hand, it regulates the volume of blood according to the physical activity. When the body is at rest, the blood returns to the liver, when the body is active, the blood goes to the muscles 💪.
The appearance of cramps or spasms (especially in this time slot) which indicate that the muscle is poorly irrigated by blood is therefore a sign of dysfunction of this meridian. On the other hand, this function of the liver directly impacts the woman's menstruation.
Thus, if the Liver Qi is blocked, this can lead to blood stagnation which results in painful, scanty periods, and in the most serious cases, amenorrhea (absence of periods).
Finally, another frequent sign of disturbance of this meridian is insomnia occurring at this time of the night, restless sleep, nightmares... On the psychic and emotional level, anger, inability to organize our life or mental rigidity are all traits of a failing liver.
Becoming aware of the energy tide process and your body's internal clock gives you the opportunity to better understand how it works and thus, to learn to respect its needs.
From there, you can look at your symptoms as a guide to the path to follow to regain or maintain your health, 🧐 keeping in mind this ultimate observation: symptoms of Qi emptiness improve when the meridians enter a phase of energetic culmination, while fullness-type disorders improve during their period of minimal activity.