Posts Tagged ‘meridian system’

Diagnosis – Part 2: Listening

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Listening 150x150 Diagnosis   Part 2: Listening

In Traditional Oriental Medicine, all of the practitioner’s senses are used during diagnosis in order to help determine patterns of imbalance which may be causing sickness and symptoms in a person’s health.

As previously seen in Part 1, visual diagnosis was the first of four diagnostic examination methods described in the earliest textbooks of acupuncture written 2,000 years ago.

The second method is that of listening diagnosis. Although it is probably the least commonly used of the four main methods, it can still provide valuable information especially in helping to determine a person’s constitution body type.

For example, one aspect of listening diagnosis is observing the predominant characteristics of someone’s normal speaking voice. According to the Five Phase theory of Traditional Oriental Medicine, certain vocal tones or types of speech correspond to particular organ systems:

  • Liver – brusque, commanding
  • Heart – muttering
  • Spleen-Pancreas – variable pitch, sing-song
  • Lung – whiny, entreating
  • Kidney – raspy, groaning

Most people have a mixture of all of these vocal qualities, but usually one or two tend to dominate their normal speech patterns and can provide insight into which organ systems might have a predisposition toward becoming imbalanced.

In addition, the way a person enunciates certain vowel or consonant sounds while speaking can also provide meaningful information about their natural body type.

Although never solely relied upon, listening diagnosis, when combined with the other diagnostic tools of Traditional Oriental Medicine, can be useful for determining patterns of weaknesses and imbalances in a person’s body which can then be strengthened and regulated through acupuncture and other treatment methods to help improve their health.

Diagnosis – Part 1: Looking

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Looking 150x150 Diagnosis   Part 1: Looking

Traditional Oriental Medicine is unique in that it is not just disease or sickness which is looked at during diagnosis, but also the underlying imbalances within a person’s body which may have contributed to the symptoms in the first place.

Looking, or visual diagnosis, is the first of four main diagnostic methods described in the earliest textbooks. For example, the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine), written over 2,000 years ago, mentions about observing both the patient’s colour as well as their Shin, or spirit.

This first aspect of visual diagnosis, that of looking at the colour of the patient, is a reference to observing various parts of the body but especially the face – in particular the area around the eyes, forehead, nose, and mouth.

According to the Five Phase theory of Traditional Oriental Medicine, certain colours correspond to particular organ systems:

  • Liver – blue/green
  • Heart – red
  • Spleen-Pancreas – yellow
  • Lung – white
  • Kidney – black

A predominance of one or more colours, often subtle to the untrained eye, can frequently be associated with a person’s constitutional tendency toward an imbalance in that corresponding organ or acupuncture meridian system. However, it can also be an indication of a more acute or advanced state of disease, for example in extreme cases the yellowish colour of jaundice or the dark, ashen complexion of a late-stage cancer patient.

In children, these underlying colours of skin tone are often more easily noted than in adults and in fact is one of the main diagnostic methods used in a specialized form of pediatric acupuncture known as Shonishin, especially when treating infants and younger children who might otherwise be unable to communicate their symptoms.

A second aspect of visual diagnosis is that of observing the patient’s Shin (sometimes translated as spirit, heart, or mind). This is most commonly done by paying attention to the person’s eyes and face – a certain amount of vitality, aliveness, sparkle, brightness, and strength of life force can be seen in a healthy person.

As a part of visual diagnosis, making note of the general physique, skeletal structure, muscle tone, and skin luster can also provide important information about a person’s overall vitality and health.

All of these visual observations are used, along with the other diagnostic methods of Traditional Oriental Medicine, to help determine patterns of weaknesses and imbalances in a person’s body.

Treatment, whether it is through acupuncture and moxibustion, shiatsu massage, herbal medicine, or other techniques, is then aimed to strengthen and regulate the various organ systems, to correct underlying imbalances, and to help enhance the body’s own healing abilities.

The 24 Hour Clock

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Love it or hate it, Daylight Savings Time (DST) is here upon us. However, as critics point out, there seems to be some evidence that this sudden change in time can create various health problems associated with a disruption and stress to our natural circadian rhythm, including fatigue, sleeping difficulties, mood changes, and even an increase in traffic accidents.

Long before the western scientific discovery of circadian rhythm, did you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine also described a 24-hour cycle in the human body?

The following table lists the windows of time in which the various organs and their corresponding meridian pathways are the most active according to time acupuncture theory:

  • 3 am – 5 am Lung
  • 5 am – 7 am Large Intestine
  • 7 am – 9 am Stomach
  • 9 am – 11 am Spleen-Pancreas
  • 11 am – 1 pm Heart
  • 1 pm – 3 pm Small Intestine
  • 3 pm – 5 pm Bladder
  • 5 pm – 7 pm Kidney
  • 7 pm – 9 pm Pericardium
  • 9 pm – 11 pm Triple Burner
  • 11 pm – 1 am Gallbladder
  • 1 am – 3 am Liver

This information can be clinically valuable. For example, if someone is suffering from insomnia and tends to wake up at 3am every morning, often acupuncture points related to the Lung and Liver meridians can be useful for treatment.

For others, sometimes they experience an aggravation of symptoms at a specific time of day, such as always getting a headache late in the afternoon. Again, acupuncture points on the corresponding meridian pathways associated with that particular time of day can be used during acupuncture treatment to help the body regain balance and experience an improvement in symptoms.

Western medicine is becoming more aware of the influence that time of day has on various biological processes, something that Traditional Chinese Medicine has recognized for thousands of years.

The Other Side Of Healing

Monday, September 12th, 2011

What do martial arts have in common with the healing arts? In the traditional Japanese practice of KoKoDo (roughly translated as “Royal Pathway of Light”), they are in fact regarded as opposite sides of the same coin.

KoKoDo Shiatsu (“finger pressure”) massage deals with sickness, often regarded as a type of violence occurring inside the body, while KoKoDo JuJutsu (“gentle, yielding technique”) is a self-defense art to protect against violence and aggression, which is viewed as a type of sickness on the outside.

Many of the concepts and training methods used in KoKoDo are similar for both Shiatsu and JuJutsu, including:


In KoKoDo JuJutsu, the aim is to neutralize an assailant’s strength and aggression while at the same time avoid causing any unnecessary harm or injury. This is not accomplished through brute force against force, but rather by the efficient use of proper technique and non-resistance in order to cancel and neutralize the attack.

Restoring health is similar, in that a person’s body often tends to react negatively and fight against aggressive forces and stresses encountered in life, whether it be physical, emotional, or environmental. Shiatsu, along with other forms of Eastern medicine such as acupuncture and moxibustion, work to gently nurture and guide a person back into a healthier state of balance.


KoKoDo JuJutsu requires the complete abandonment of physical strength, relying instead on relaxation and the proper use and focus of the mind and body. On the other hand, these techniques actually create tension, fear, and stress in the assailant through the application of joint manipulations, throws, and pressure points, essentially “short circuiting” their body and neutralizing the attack.

In a similar but opposite way, KoKoDo Shiatsu identifies areas of tension and stress stored up within a person. By treating and releasing these areas of blockages of the meridian system, blood and energy circulation is improved and the natural healing process is enhanced, helping a person return to a state of calmness and wellbeing.


Cultivating an awareness of one’s surroundings is an important aspect of training in KoKoDo JuJutsu; by recognizing potential threats or dangers before they escalate, appropriate action can be taken and conflict can often be avoided.

KoKoDo Shiatsu can also create an increased state of awareness for a person and allow them to become more in touch with their own body and surrounding environment. By recognizing early signs of imbalance, more positive changes in health can be made.

For more information about the art of KoKoDo, please visit Hombu Jikimon Sadohana Dojo

Losing Touch

Monday, January 24th, 2011

With an ever increasing reliance on diagnostic technology for medical imaging and testing, some Western medical doctors are realizing that an important part of their medicine is missing: human touch.

Fortunately, these practitioners are promoting a return to a more hands on approach for diagnosis and treatment, skills that have long been valued in the Eastern systems of healthcare.

Palpation, or examining by touch, is still 1 of the 4 main methods of diagnosis used in Traditional Japanese acupuncture (particularly the styles collectively known as Keiraku Chiryo, or Meridian Therapy).

As part of palpation diagnosis, areas of the body, especially the abdomen, back, and extremities, are examined during acupuncture and shiatsu treatment for various changes including:

  • tenderness and pain
  • tension and areas of hardness
  • slackness and areas of weakness
  • temperature differences
  • skin moisture or dryness
  • other palpatory findings

These changes often correspond to specific acupuncture points or meridian pathways, and provide guidance to the acupuncturist during treatments.

It is interesting to note that even for health conditions that are primarily emotional, such as anxiety or depression, the body will still manifest specific patterns that can be physically observed through the sense of touch.

As our society becomes more and more technologically based, Traditional Oriental Medicine wisely reminds us of the importance and value of human touch in our lives.

Sports Injuries – An Eastern Perspective

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

A downside with playing sports or engaging in other physical activities can be the occasional injury, whether it’s spraining your ankle while out hiking, separating your shoulder making that diving catch, or finally getting out and playing that round of golf only to feel pain in your sprained lower back the next day.

Fortunately, the Eastern medical approach can be very useful in the treatment of these kinds of injuries and pain, allowing us to recover faster and get back to our activities.

In order to better follow this approach, it’s useful to understand how Traditional Chinese Medicine views health and injury in terms of the acupuncture meridian system.

Because much of ancient China was an agricultural society, many of the concepts pertaining to this meridian system were traditionally described as being like a network of irrigation channels providing water and nutrients to the surrounding farmland.

In a similar way, the acupuncture meridians of the body can be thought of as an interconnected system of pathways bringing energy, blood, and nourishment to every area of the body, both internally to the organs and externally to the bones, tendons, muscles, connective tissue, and skin.

With injuries such as sprains, strains, fractures, or other similar trauma, these meridians can also get damaged, with their flow becoming impeded.

In Eastern medicine, physical traumatic injuries can usually be classified under the 2 general categories know as “Energy Stagnation” and “Blood Stasis“, although in real life, most injuries tend to have aspects of both. (more…)

The Heart System – An Eastern Perspective

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Heart disease, including high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke, is one of the leading causes of illness and death in North America and is a major focus in Western Medicine.

Eastern Medicine also places great emphasis on the Heart system and in fact describes it as being like the Emperor of the body – all of the other organ systems are there to work for and support the health of the Heart, as without healthy blood and energy circulation disease soon follows.

The Heart is vitally important in Traditional Oriental Medicine, not only for proper circulation but also for mental and emotional well-being. The Spirit, or Shen as it’s known in Chinese, is regarded as literally residing inside the physical heart.

Many everyday expressions in the English language also demonstrate this close connection between the Heart and Spirit:

  • to express heart-felt appreciation for something
  • to have a heart-to-heart talk with a friend
  • to have your heart set on something
  • to love someone with all of your heart
  • to die of a broken heart

All of these expressions convey a deep sense of meaning that reaches into the inner core of a person. (more…)

The Lung System – An Eastern Perspective

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Traditional Oriental Medicine views the Lung system as being part of the respiratory process, bringing in fresh air and energy from our surroundings and distributing this throughout the entire body. Besides the actual lung organ, Eastern medicine also includes the throat and vocal cords, nasal passages, and sinuses.

In addition, the skin and mucous membranes are also regarded as an extension of the Lung system. This connection is commonly seen in children who suffer from asthma or allergies and may later on develop skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Treatment is aimed at strengthening the health and functioning of the lungs, resulting in improvement of both the asthma and the skin.

In Eastern medicine, the Lung system is responsible for circulating “Defensive Energy” which travels along the surface of the skin, regulating the body temperature while also protecting the person from outside diseases. It is similar in concept to the immune system, and it is interesting to note that Western medicine views the skin barrier and mucous membranes as an important defense against infectious diseases, something recognized in China well over 2,000 years ago. (more…)

The Spleen-Pancreas System – An Eastern Perspective

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Spleen-Pancreas system (also commonly just referred to as the Spleen) encompasses all the other organs of digestion, including the stomach and small & large intestine.

Eastern medical theory describes the Spleen as being like the Earth – just as the earth provides food for our nourishment, so the digestive system produces the energy and nourishment needed by the rest of our bodies. Because of this, it plays a central role in our overall health – if we have a strong and healthy Spleen system, we usually have a greater ability to recover from sickness. This effect can easily be seen in serious cases such as the late stages of cancer – once the person’s appetite and digestion deteriorates, the rest of their health often rapidly follows.

According to Eastern medicine, the Spleen is also important in controlling how fluids are distributed throughout the body. Symptoms such as abdominal bloating, fluid retention, edema, and heaviness of the body are all signs of an imbalance in the Spleen system and its inability to properly regulate the fluids. (more…)

The Liver System – An Eastern Perspective

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Traditional Oriental Medicine always views the physical organs, along with their corresponding energy meridian pathways, as an integrated whole. Because of this, when Eastern medicine talks about an organ, it is referring to the entire system which often includes other associated parts of the body, not just the local area of the physical organ.

Emotions in general are said to be controlled by the Liver system, but in particular, anger and frustration are closely related to the Liver.

In the case of an angry, irritable person, the Liver energy is too active and is described as a Fire that rises up towards the top of the body. The normal direction of Liver energy flow, upwards and outwards, has been taken to an extreme, and this can clearly be seen as their voice becomes loud, their body movements become agitated, their blood pressure rises as blood rushes upwards to their head, their face turns red and the eyes become bloodshot, and veins in the forehead become distended.

At the other extreme of the emotional spectrum would be someone who suffers from depression. Instead of the Liver energy travelling upwards and outwards, it begins to stagnate and turn inwards on itself, causing symptoms such as pent-up emotions, frustration, depression, and an inability to express feelings.  (more…)

The Kidney System – An Eastern Perspective

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

In Traditional Oriental Medicine, the understanding of the organs is different than that of Western medicine. The physical organs, along with their corresponding energetic meridian pathways are never regarded as independent systems but instead, are always viewed in relation to the rest of the body.

Probably the easiest way to get some insight into Eastern medicine is to look at the extremes of both a young infant and an elderly person, and how similar their characteristics are. In the case of the child, the Kidney system is still in development while for the older person, a weakening Kidney function is just a progression of the natural aging process:

  • bald / balding
  • no teeth / loosing teeth
  • bed-wetting / incontinent
  • weak back & legs / hunched back
  • soft bones & open fontanel / brittle bones
  • undeveloped memory / poor memory
  • undeveloped reproductive organs / declining sexual function

As can be seen from just this brief list, the Eastern view of the Kidney system involves many other parts of the body as well:

  • urinary system
  • reproductive system
  • hormones
  • growth & development
  • bones & marrow, especially the spine
  • brain function & memory

According to Traditional Oriental Medicine, the Kidney is also in charge of controlling the Fluid metabolism throughout the body and could be thought of as the coolant system that prevents things from overheating. For example, a condition commonly treated with acupuncture is the typical menopausal woman where the Kidney system is not doing its job of cooling the body. As a result, this extra heat rises up and collects towards the top of the body, producing symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, shoulder pain, and insomnia. (more…)