Meridian System


The Meridian System (Jing Luo / Jing Mai)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the meridian system (Jing luo) is considered to be a complex network of channels and vessels in which Qi, Bloodand Essenceflow

Jing in its simplified translation stands for pathway/ meridian/channelthat denotes some linear extent as that of a vessel.

The meaning of Luo can be limited to “small branch, collateral”,that is to say,

Jing are the main trunks of the JingLuo system, running longitudinally and interiorly in the body, on the other hand.
Luoare the branching network of the main vessels (Jing) that run transversally and superficially, connecting main vessels among each other and to the Internal Organs.

Jing is also combined with the term Mai (Jing Mai):
Mai,in Chinese, reflects thevascular systemas well aspulse, namely the rhythmic and pulsating motion, thus.
Mai, embracesthe recurring flow of Qi and Blood in blood vessels.

Anatomically, a meridian cannot be imagined just as a restricted, embanked and clear path, as that of a flow of blood in vessels, lymph in the lymphatic vessels or electrical current in the nervous system, but rather as aninfiniteextent thatembracesseveral tissues and organs at different levels, simultaneously.
Indeed, there is an adage in teaching acupuncture that “[while inserting a needle] you can miss an acupuncture point, but you do not miss a meridian”.

Differing theories exist regarding the depth at which the various channels circulate within the body.
There has never been an absolute consensus of the detailed pathways of the meridians, however, there is an agreement on the general direction of the energy flow by the personal experience of countless practitioners of Qi Gong, acupuncture, and martial arts.

Modern research suggests the connective tissue properas an appropriate anatomical and physiological equivalent of Jing luoin TEAM, were:
The flow of Meridian Qi represents (=)biochemical/bioelectrical signaling of the connective tissue
Qiitself = sum of all energetic phenomena of an organism.
(e.g. cellular respiration, anabolism catabolism, movement, chemical and electrical signaling, information exchange).
Blockage of Qi (pain)= alteredcomposition of a connective tissuematrix leading to altered signal transduction.

Functions of the Meridians

Besides the circulation and regulation of Qi, Blood and Essence, Jing luo:

irrigate the whole organism on the surface (Exterior) and deep inside the body (Interior),
* regulate Ying-Yang balance,
* protect the body from internal and external pathogenic factors,
* reflect the pathological processes that occur internally in the body,
* serve as signaling network for therapeutic effect of de Qi, thus, enabling to treat areas locally as well as distally.

The meridians also enable the spread of diseases

Reflection of any disorder may therefore manifest along the meridian pathways.
Disorders can affect the meridians themselves (where Internal Organs are not affected) or meridians can become an external manifestation of Internal Organs’ disorders (e.g. skin rash or discoloration along the meridianpathway may represent Liver disorder, etc.).
That is why, in TEAM, an examination of the meridians pathways as well as systematization of various symptoms manifesting along the course of the meridians is a valuable source in establishing diagnosis.

Organization of the Meridians

Twelve Primary Channels (Jing Zheng)
jing = “pathway”, zheng = “upright, straight, direct, mainly”

Jing luo can be presented as multidimensional and intricatesignaling network by mastering itsorganization one can appreciate the logic behind the healing mechanism that is attributed to this system

The main outlay of Jing Luocan be presented as follows:
There are Twelve Primary Channels and Eight Extraordinary Vessels (EV)

Twelve Primary Channels (Jing Zheng):
Here, jing = “pathway”, zheng = “upright, straight, direct, mainly”):

Have their own acupuncture points (309 in total)
Connect to the 12 Internal Organs (Zangfu):
* Six Zang (Yin) organs: heart, pericardium, lung, spleen/pancreas, liver, kidney
* Six Fu ( Yang) organs: small intestine, triple burner/energizer, large intestine , stomach, gall bladder, urinary bladder
Always start or terminate in the extremities(arms and legs)
Run longitudinally and bilaterally: in left and right extremities or in left and right sagittal plane (sides of the torso)
Connect Interior (Internal Organs and tissues) to the Exterior (most external layers of the body (called cutaneous regions (see below) )
Circulate Blood and Qi, namely Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi) in the Interior and the Defensive Qi, (Wei Qi)in the Exterior of the body
* E.g. it is the Ying Qithat is activated whenever a needle is inserted in acupuncture point
Their naming and the organization is based on the:
* Extremities they run through (hand or feet)
* Polarity they represent (yin or yang)
* Type of the Internal Organ they connect to (Zang or Fu):
** thus there are in total 12 Primary Channels:
*** six Yin meridians (m.) :Heart m., Pericardium m., Lung m, Spleen m., Liver m., Kidney m.
*** six Yang meridians: Small Intestine m., Triple Burnerm.,Large Intestine m., Stomach m., Gall Bladder m., Urinary Bladder m.
*** three Yin meridians of hand are: Heart m., Pericardium m., Lung m
*** three Yinmeridians of feet are: Spleen m., Liver m., Kidney m.
*** three Yang meridians of hand are: Small Intestine m., Triple Burner/Energizer m., Large Intestine m.
*** three Yinmeridians of feet are: Stomach m., Gall Bladder m., Urinary Bladder

run in the body as:

1) Primary channels (jingzheng):

Have external and internal pathways.
* It is on the external pathway where acupuncture points are distributed.
Function as communication means between the Interior and Exterior of the body.
* This way, for example, the Liver organ, Zucommunicates with the Exterior via Liver channel,Zu (JueJin) Jingluo.

2) Divergent channels (jingbie)
Reinforce the circulation of and communication between the primary channels in the Interior of the body

3) Sinew channels(jingjin):
Mainly represent the muscles, sinewsandli gaments located along the pathways of the primary channels.
Their function to distribute Qi and Blood over the surface of the Body and to integrate muscles, sinews and ligaments with the joints.
Have no connection to the Internal Organs.
Cover larger areas on the of the body, which primary channels or divergent channel cannot reach.
Under pathological conditions manifest as so called Ashi points (painful or trigger points).

4) luo-connecting vessels (luomai):
Always branch as smaller collaterals off the primary channels.
Always begin at the extremities (arms or legs) at a specific luo acupuncture point.
Also have even smaller branches sunluo (grandchild vessels):
* Are vertical branches that cover the surface of the body (in the skin) and the Internal Organs.
* Branch further into more superficial fuluo:
** Divide again into horizontal branches xueluo (a blood network vessel).
Fill in the space between muscles and skin, Cou Li space.
Through them Essenceof Internal Organs is transported to main channels then through main channels to the whole body.
Their main function is to:
* To distribute Qi and Blood over the surface of the body and the Internal Organs.
* Connect Zang (Yin) organ with the related Fu (Yang organ), thus forming clinically important in TEAMsix organ pairs:
** Heart – Small Intestine, Lung – Large Intestine, Spleen (pancreas) – Stomach.
** Liver – Gall Bladder, Kidney - Bladder, Pericardium - Triple Burner (connective tissue properequivalent).
Are important in clinical practice ←
Their luo acupuncture points are used to strengthen the therapeutic affect of needling of the affected paired organ.
* Lung-Qi deficiency the point on lung meridian Lu-9Taiyuan is needled together with luo point on Large Intestine meridian LI-6 Pianli:luo p. which would reinforce the Lu-9 action.
Serve as entrance forExternal pathogenic factors (e.g. Cold, Dampness).
Serve as important indication of Qi and Blood stasis in a primary channel or Internal Organs, manifesting on xueluo as skin discolorations, spider veins, seborrheic keratosis, etc.
Can be accessed through superficial needling techniques as well as skin-sensitizing techniques (e.g. plum blossom needling, blood letting, cupping Gua Sha, moxibustion).
* “new diseases are located in the Primary Channels, old (chronic diseases) lodge in the luo-connecting channels”.

5) Cutaneous zones (pi bu) (pi = skin)
Are not channels per se, but rather areas that form the most superficial cover of the primary channels.
Represent the oldest tissue in the body (alongside the 8 extraordinary vessels) which developed from ectoderm.
Circulate Qi and Blood, especially defensive Qi (Wei Qi) to the skin.
Regulate opening/closing of pores, thus strengthening body defences.
Are important in clinical practice ←
Serves as a diagnostic tool for Qi and/or Blood disorders in the primary channels or the Internal Organs, manifesting as abnormal skin sensations, lesions, painful conditions.
* A pale-whitish discoloration may indicate blood deficiency, brown – heat or blood stasis, etc.

Qi and Blood circulates in the 12 Primary Channels in a tidal flow, passing through every oneof them in 24 hours, alternating from Yin to Yang polarity.

This, for example, the flow of Qi in the Large Intestine (yang) meridian is strongest between 05.00 and 07.00, in the Stomach meridian (yang)it is strongest between 07.00 and 09.00, in Spleen meridian (yin) it is strongest between 09.00 and 11.00, etc.
Conversely, the flow of Qi and Blood in the meridians is weakest at the hours that are opposite to the strongest flow.
– By way of example, the flow of Qiand Bloodin the Large Intestine meridian is weakest between 17.00 and 19.00, in the Stomach meridian it is weakest between 19.00 and 21.00, and in the Spleen meridian it is weakest between 21.00 and 23.00.
Implying the principle of the tidal flow of Qi and Blood to medical practice, it is strongly not recommended to eat when Qi and Blood flow is weakest in the stomachand spleen/ pancreas meridians, that is between 19.00 and 23.00.
The strongest flow of Qi in a particular meridian of an affected organ is the time whenthis meridian can be treated with the best therapeutic affect.

Eight Extraordinary Vessels, EV (Qi Jing Ba Mai)

qi = extraordinary, miraculous, strange; jing = channel, meridian; ba = eight; mai = vessel.

EV are considered the deepest and earliest structures that develop during the embryonic phase

They derive directly or indirectly from the space between the Kidneys and are called extraordinary since they:
Are not connected to the Internal Organs.
Are not restrained by the main channels system.
Do not have Exterior-Interior relationship.
Do not have their own acupuncture points (except for two vessels:Du Mai (28 points) + Ren Mai (24 points)):
These two channels do not flow in the extremities, but in the centre of the body, in the back and in the front, accordingly.

EV flow through points of the Primary Channels (jingzheng)

As a result, each EVinfluences more than one PrimaryChannel and can be accessed by needling points on the primary channels.

EV regulate all human activity by:

Balancing the flow of Qi, Blood, Essence and Yin-Yang activity
Serving as reservoirs (in relation to the primary channels, which are compared to rivers) of Qi, Blood, and Yin Yang (energy totality) →
Absorbing overflow of excess energy from the primary channels or transfer the energy to the channels when These are in deficiency
Integrating the Internal Organs with all other structures in the body, namely with:
* Six Extraordinary Yang Organs: brain, marrow, bones, uterus, gall bladder, blood vessels.
* Yin and Yang channels themselves.
* Four Seas: Sea of Qi (chest); Sea of Blood; Sea of Marrow (brain); Sea of od (stomach).
* Fat Tissue (Gao).
* Membranes (Huan).

EV circulate Essence (Jing):

Exists in the human body in the form of:Postnatal Essence, Prenatal Essence and Kidney Essence.
Plays an extremely important role in human physiology.
Is a hereditary energy that makes each individual unique and is the basis for constitutional make-up of an individual, general vitality and resistance to pathogenic factors.
Wei Qi draws its strength from and has its root in Kidney-Essence.
Determines growth, reproduc¬tion, development, sexual maturation and decline, conception, pregnancy, ageing.
Also controls production of Marrow, growth and development of spinal cord, brain and bones, teeth and hair.
Control life cycles: 7-year cycles in women, 8-year cycles in men its natural decline during our lifetime leads to the natural decline of sexual energy, fertility and ageing process.

The names of EV represent the character of functions they convey:

Du Mai, Governing Vessel:
Is also called the Sea of Yang channels:

Ren Mai, Conception/Directing Vessel
Is the Sea of Ying channels.

Chong Mai, Penetrating Vessel:
Is the Sea of Blood and Sea of the Twelve Channels.

Dai Mai, Girdle Vessel:
Runs horizontally along the lumbar region like a belt, bind together all the vessels preventing them from being misaligned.

Yin Qiao Mai, Yin Stepping Vessel:
Also called 'Yin Heel Vessel' since it originates from heels.

Yang Qiao Mai, Yang Stepping Vessel:
Is the1st line of defence in reservoir system to absorb Yang excessesin the head.

Yin Wei Mai, Yin Linking Vessel
Connects all Yin channels,nourishes Blood and Yin,and is used to treat headachesand mental-emotional problems.

Yang Wei Mai, Yang Linking Vessel
Links all Yang channels, runs on the sides of the body, terminate in the ear, and is used to treat, problems that affect the sides of the body, intermittent fevers, alternation of fever/chills and Ear problems.

The central position of EV in human physiology gave a rise to separate acupuncture school that treat human body by employing exclusively, those points that are related to the Eight Extraordinary Vessels(and not involving the points that pertain to the Internal Organs).