According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (and other ancient healing traditions in Asia) vital energy flows through the twelve organs and completes one cycle every twenty-four hours. The Chinese Organ Clock shows the circadian flow of the vital energy Qi through various organ systems in relation to the time of day. Each organ has maximum energy for two hours. The organ has minimum energy (or lowest flow of Qi) 12 hours later.
So, the vital energy Qi flows clockwise through the 12 meridians over 24 hours and shifts between Yin (cold) and Yang (hot) energies. Living according to the clock can strengthen health. Small practices, such as walking and massage, can help achieve a healthy schedule.
Back in the Warring States Period (476-221 BC), the earliest foundational text of Chinese traditional medicine, “Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor,” sets out a guide to healthy living, not by prescribing medicine, but a way of life in tune with the universe and the body’s rhythms and cycles. That includes deep sleep.
|3 to 5 AM||4 AM||LUNG|
|5 to 7 AM||6 AM||LARGE INTESTINE|
|7 to 9 AM||8 AM||STOMACH|
|9 to 11 AM||10 AM||SPLEEN|
|11 to 1 PM||12 NOON||HEART|
|1 to 3 PM||2 PM||SMALL INTESTINE|
|3 to 5 PM||4 PM||URINARY BLADDER|
|5 to 7 PM||6 PM||KIDNEY|
|7 to 9 PM||8 PM||PERICARDIUM|
|9 to 11 PM||10 PM||TRIPLE WARMER Erwärmer|
|11 to 1 AM||0 MIDNIGHT||GALL BLADDER|
|1 to 3 AM||2 AM||LIVER|
From the chart it can be seen that the maximum energy flow through the liver is at 2 am. Therefore, the liver’s lowest corresponding energy flow is at 2 pm.
Chinese recognize 12 two-hour time units in a day the “12 earthly branches” – zi, chou, yin, mao, chen, si, wu, wei, shen, you, xu and hai.
In a day, the 12 meridians are rivers of energy that carry Qi through our bodies and the organ functions best when energy is focused there. Completing the activity, such as eating, at the right time, ensures that energy flows properly and the digestive system works at its best.
12 meridians are bilateral (both on the right and left). And 2 are midline on the body (front and back). There have been new meridians discovered which are called “Extra Meridians”.
Each meridian has a definite pathway on the body, and is divided into internal and external pathways.
The internal pathway begins at an organ. It traverses inside the body and is linked to the external pathway at the ‘starting’ acupuncture point.
The external pathway ends at the ‘terminal’ point and is then linked to another internal pathway leading back to the organ of origin. The whole meridian or pathway is a closed circuit and has a definite direction of flow. Since the whole meridian is a closed circuit, a point on the hand can cure a headache. Each meridian has a starting point and a terminal point. The terminal point of each meridian is connected to the starting point of another meridian through ‘connecting meridians’. No meridian exists as a separate circuit. They are all interconnected in the following sequence: lung, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, urinary bladder, kidney, pericardium, triple heater, gall bladder, and liver.
Let’s talk a little more about the terminal points of each meridian and about the time when the organs are at their peak.
Lung Meridian There are 11 acupuncture points on each side of the body belonging to this meridian. These points are mainly used for treatment of chronic cough, dyspnea, chest discomfort, sorethroat, fever, influenza, and for alleviating shoulder and arm pain.
Horary Clock Metal 3am – 5am Lungs (yin)
People should be in deep asleep during both chou and yin. The liver meridian is on duty at chou to dispel toxins and produce fresh new blood in liver, while lung meridian is on duty at yin to distribute the energy and blood produced by the liver to the organs. Both jobs can best be accomplished while people are fast asleep.
People who are restless and suffer insomnia may have over-active yang energy.
Exercises are recommended at that time to help soothe nerves and dispel overactive “fire” in the organs, said Dr Wang Wenjian of the internal medicine department at the Shanghai Chinese Clinic and Medicine House.
One should sit in bed with warm clothes around the shoulders. Take one or two deep breaths and exhale to get rid of foul qi. Rub the hands together until they are warm, then rub the wings of the nose around 35 times while covering the eyes with a warm palm. Move the ears back and forth 35 times; cover the ears with the hands, leaving fingers at the back of the head; pound the back of the head with middle fingers 25 times. Stretch arms wide at each side. Swallow saliva three times, imaging it flowing down to the navel. Try to go to sleep.
Large Intestine Meridian There are 20 bilateral points on this meridian. These points are mainly used for treatment of abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, fever and also symptoms arising from the head and neck region such as toothache, eptistaxis, sorethroat, or rhinitis.
Horary Clock Metal 5am – 7am Colon (yang)
When the lung meridian finishes its job of distributing energy and blood to the organs from 3am to 5am, the large intestine takes over. This means one should get up, go to the toilet and move the bowels at this time. Wear appropriate clothes so guard against invading pathogenic energies.
In addition to answering nature’s call, during these two hours one should sit next to a window in the light, drink a cup of warm water rather than tea and comb the hair and head repeatedly. This helps dispel pathogenic energies in the body and clear the eyesight and the mind. Time to wash.
Stomach Meridian There are 45 bilateral point on this meridian. These points can be used for stomach ache, vomiting, sorethroat, knee pain, ascites, epistaxis, abdominal extension, hyperpyrexia, and facial palsy.
Horary Clock Earth 7am – 9am Stomach (yang)
Now it’s time for breakfast at chen since the stomach meridian is active. Eat warm foods, such as congee, take a little rest and take 50-60 steps slowly. Rubbing the stomach and belly while walking helps improve digestion.
With sufficient yang energy from food, the spleen then turns the nutrition into energy and leaves no extra fat to accumulate (if one doesn’t overeat at breakfast).
Spleen Meridian This meridian has 21 bilateral points. Spleen points can be used for, indigestion, malabsorption, anemia, general malaise, vomiting, ulcer pain, abdominal distension, and pain in the lower extremities.
Horary Clock Earth 9am – 11pm Spleen (yin)
Blood and energy flow to the spleen meridian at si to support metabolism, conversion of nutrients into blood and energy and send them to muscles. These two hours are prime time for working since healthy spleen can finish the job. And the energy and blood distributed by the spleen will support activity.
Heart Meridian The heart meridian has 9 bilateral points. The points on the heart meridian can be used for treatment of, chest pain, palpitation, jaundice, and arm pain.
Horary Clock Fire 11am – 1pm Heart (yin)
Lunchtime. A balanced, nutritious lunch is important. It should be warm and filling and should not contain raw or hard foods, according to Dr Wang. Lunch shouldn’t be too big. Take a slow walk after lunch and rub the stomach and lower back to get the spleen and kidney active. Drinking a little tea and taking a half hour’s nap is recommended.
Small Intestine Meridian This meridian has 19 bilateral points. These points can be used for treatment of, neck and shoulder pain, lower abdominal pain, sore throat, and symptoms of the ear such as tinnitus and hearing loss.
Horary Clock Fire 1pm – 3pm Small Intestine (yang)
After lunch and a nap (no more than an hour), it is time for more activity, as the small intestine works to separate and distribute digested nutrients.
Urinary Bladder Meridian There are 67 bilateral points on this meridian. Some of the points on this meridian can treat, dysuria, incontinence of urine, soreness of the eyes, headache, backache, runny nose, loin and leg pain, and general malaise.
Horary Clock Water 3pm – 5pm Urinary Bladder (yang)
These are prime hours of the day for work and study. It’s when the bladder meridian goes to work. There are two bladder meridians, one on each side of the spine and running from foot to the head and the brain. Since energy and blood flow actively into the brain during shen, it is a good time for efficient work.
Drinking afternoon tea is advised. The bladder meridian also is a major toxin-expelling channel and handles toxins dispelled by other meridians. Drinking extra water promotes detoxification as toxins are passed in urine.
Kidney Meridian There are 27 bilateral points on this meridian. These point can be used to treat, kidney problems, constipation, loin pain, and diarrhea.
Horary Clock Water 5pm – 7pm Kidneys (yin)
The kidneys start to store “essence” as the kidney meridian takes its turn. This is the best time for kidney-reinforcing therapy.
It’s time for dinner but not too much. A little wine is good to activate blood circulation, according to Dr Wang, but don’t get drunk.
Pericardium Meridian There are 9 points on this meridian. These points can be used to treat, chest pain, palpitation, arm pain and drowsiness.
Horary Clock Fire 7pm – 9pm Pericardium (yin)
The pericardium is the fluid-filled sac that surrounds the heart and the roots of the major blood vessels. It contains channels of blood and energy. When it is activated at wu, it dispels all the pathogenic energy around the heart to protect it.
At this time it’s advised to soak the feet in hot water, which can help dispel pathogenic heat and damp and activate the blood.
This is a good time for a bit of reading, says Dr Wang, but not too much lest it hurt the eyes. It’s also not advisable to “think” too deeply at wu, since too much mental activity causes excessive fire-heat ascending and deficient kidney yin, resulting in heart-kidney imbalance and possible sexual dysfunction. Massaging yong quan point (the arch of foot) in both feet can help nourish kidney energy.
Triple Heater Meridian This meridian has 23 bilateral points. Points on this meridian can be used to treat, hearing loss, mastoiditis, headache, sore throat, abdominal distension, dysuria, ascites, and incontinence of urine.
Horary Clock Fire 9pm – 11pm Triple Heater (yang)
Gall Bladder Meridian There are 44 bilateral points on this meridian. These points can be used to treat, symptoms of the head and chest, and for paralysis of the lower extremities.
Horary Clock Wood 11am – 1pm Gall Bladder (yang)
Zi is the darkest hour when strong yin energy starts to fade and yang energy begins to grow. Sufficient yang energy is crucial for people to stay active during the day, and it should be well-stored at the right time. Since sleep is the best way to store yang energy, it is best to be at deep sleep at zi, which means you should go to sleep at hai. People should not go outdoors from hai through zi.
To fall asleep, Dr Wang suggests lying on one side, with one bent leg lying on the other. One should also be calm and think of nothing. Only when the heart sleeps (thinks nothing) can deep sleep be enjoyed.
Hai is also considered the best time of the day for getting pregnant, when yin and yang are in balance in the body and in the universe, according to Qu Limin, author of the popular book “Twelve Hours and Health Maintenance.” She says it’s based on the daily schedule for health in the “Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor,” the foundational TCM text.
After spending time dining and talking with family and friends, one tends to be in a good mood, so it’s time to feed the body with joy, says Qu. The Chinese character (pictograph) for hai itself pictures a man’s arm cradling a woman’s belly. The universe and the body area ready for new life.
In zi, you should be fast asleep.
Liver Meridian There are 14 bilateral points on this meridian. The points on the liver meridian cna be used to treat, abdominal pain, loin pain, uterine bleeding, hernia, and retention of urine.
Horary Clock Wood 1am – 3am Liver (yin)
The Liver is important in detoxifying body toxins and according to TCM, it also detoxifies our emotions. The emotion linked most strongly to the Liver is Anger, although frustration, bitterness and resentment are closely linked to it too. It’s a good idea to be asleep at these hours to allow maximal energy to be diverted for detoxification. This explains why an early night’s sleep is congruent with a healthy body and mind.
Interestingly, if you find yourself waking up at 1am-3am during Liver time, or in the event that you’re still awake, if you feel a change in state at these hours, it may be linked to latent anger or frustration which are overwhelming the Liver as it tries to detoxify these emotions at these hours.
Governing Meridian There are 28 points running midline down the back on this meridian. The point on this meridian can be used to treat symptoms arising from the neck and posterior trunk area, cervical syndrome, and mental disorders.
Conception Meridian There are 24 points running midline down the front of the body. Acupuncture points on this meridian are mainy used for treatment problems of the genital-urinary system such dysuria and enuresis, dysmnorrhea, and genital pain such as hernia.
The Governing Meridian and the Conception Meridian are connected through the tongue which acts as a switch. The circuit is connected when the tip of the tongue touches the point where the gums meet the front two teeth. Siu Lim Tao, the first Wing Chun form is performed using this principle.
Reference: Wing Chun Kwoon, TRADITIONAL WING CHUN ACADEMY , Chinese Acupuncture
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