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What is a Meridian in Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Blog > Wellness

Within traditional Chinese medicine and also acupuncture, there is a very different way of healing various things, which is through invisible pathways or channels that cross the body; these points are known as meridians in Chinese medicine. Tradition says that our vital energy flows through the meridians and that if for some reason its flow is interrupted, it can cause disease. In acupuncture and acupressure, these meridians are used to fix the points to be stimulated. Moxibustion is also used to aid the rushing flow of energy. Within the meridians, there are more than 300 pressure and acupuncture points.

Meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Circadian rythms of the main meridians of the body & organs according to traditional chinese medicine

The number of meridians that Chinese medicine has determined is 20 in total, 12 being the main or regular ones. These regular canals correspond to an organ and run throughout the body ending in a hand or foot. In Chinese medicine, organs that do not have an empty cavity are called “yin” organs (here, we can find the heart, spleen, kidneys, liver, and lungs). On the other hand, organs with an empty cavity are named “yang” organs (here are the stomach, bladder, gallbladder, and large and small intestines.) There are yin and yang meridians. The yin ones are those that are linked to some yin organ, and the yang is linked to yang organs. Another important difference is that the yin ones run inside the limbs, and the yang run outside.

Meridian’s Routes

Body meridian system vector illustration

Traditional Chinese medicine tells us that vital energy goes from the chest and along the yin meridians of the heart, lung, and pericardium and runs to the hands. In the hands, it connects with three yang meridians, which are the small intestine, large intestine, and San jiao, and run to the head. In the head, they connect with three other yang meridians, which are the gallbladder, stomach, and bladder, and run to the feet. Finally, in the feet, they connect with three yin meridians corresponding to the kidney, spleen, and liver, returning to the chest. Meridians that are not regular are not linked to any organ. These have the function of storing vital energy and blood to support the main energy paths, they also make additional connections between the 12, and it is said that the essence of the person circulates here. 

12 Main Meridian Routes – The 12 main meridians:

  1. Lung (Taiyin)
  2. Heart (Shaoyin)
  3. Pericardium (Jueyin)
  4. Triple Burner (Shaoyang)
  5. Small Intestine (Taiyang)
  6. Large Intestine (Yangming)
  7. Spleen (Taiyin)
  8. Kidney (Shaoyin)
  9. Liver (Jueyin)
  10. Gallbladder (Shaoyang)
  11. Bladder (Taiyang)
  12. Stomach (Yangming)

Names of the Meridians – To the 12 main ones are added the secondary ones called:

  1. Du Mai, which remedies pain and stiffness in the spine, hemorrhoids, and genitourinary disorders, along with feverish complaints.
  2. Ren Mai, deals with the signs associated with the urinary and reproductive system. These include irregular periods or other disorders such as hiccups or diarrhea. It also feeds the body and strengthens it; it can strengthen the kidney and treat infertility and gynecological dysfunctions.

Extraordinary Meridians – The four extraordinary meridians are as follows:

  1. Sea of Blood or Chon Mai.
  2. The meridian of the waist or Dai Mai.
  3. The Yin meridian of mobility or Yin Qiao Mai.
  4. Yang Qiao Mai or Yang meridian of mobility.


Woman getting acupuncture on her back, a popular traditional chinese medicine

Acupressure and acupuncture are techniques that arise from the meridian theory in traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture exposes that when a person suffers a health problem, the flow of vital energy in the body suffers a lot of damage. This energy travels through 14 points that are located on the meridians. In these points, needles are inserted to change electrical impulses so that the energy and the flow are regularized. Points can also be incentivized through acupressure, moxibustion, cupping, electroacupuncture, and microblading. The needles are placed in the outermost shell of the skin, which is why they do not cause pain, although many people think they do. It is customary for the needles to be single-use to assist the passage of energy better.

Acupuncture Benefits
Acupuncture therapy infographic

The acupuncture technique is used to strengthen the immune system and also to treat different disorders. Even the WHO stated that 43 disorders can be managed through acupuncture, including respiratory, urological, and gynecological problems, neurological, rheumatological, dermatological, digestive, psychological problems, and more. Besides, it has been reported that it has positive effects is asthenia, varicose veins, obesity, cellulite, and others.

Advantages and Contraindications
Acupuncture word cloud concept

The acupuncture system improves in the body and evolves; that is why treating something with acupuncture requires several sessions to get better. In order for the treatment to work, it must be followed in its entirety as prescribed; if for some reason it is stopped, it can significantly affect the improvement time. Despite all this, it is known that each person has a different recovery process, and it is not correct to pressure anyone. The main advantages of acupuncture in the meridians are beneficial for health since it first oxygenates and detoxifies the body. It also improves blood pressure and strengthens the immune system. It is also known to balance the nervous system and cause relaxation in the muscles. A tiny bruise may appear in the area where the needles are placed (which is the outermost layer of the skin); however, this is not a sign of concern and tends to disappear in a few days.

When to avoid the traditional chinese medicine of acupuncture

A professional will use sterile needles to minimize risks. On the other hand, not all people are compatible with the application of this technique. In the following cases, insecurities can arise. That is why it is not recommended:

  • Wear a pacemaker because the small electrical impulses from the needles can interfere with their function.
  • Pregnant women
  • If you have bleeding dysfunctions.

So acupuncture point knowledge is part of an ancient Chinese tradition. Only properly trained professionals with sufficient experience will be able to make correct diagnoses and avoid complexities in treatments.

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