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Understanding Meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine

acupuncture meridians

Meridians, or Jing Mai, defines a vessel system described in the Nei Jing (the oldest Chinese medicine book). So the word "Meridians" refers to the major longitudinal blood vessels on the body, 3 on each arm and leg, so we have a total of 12 called principal meridians. Those vessels interconnect the whole organism and transport "Qi" or blood, nutrients, and oxygen.

Traditional Chinese Medicine discovered and defined blood flow as fundamental substances flowing in the body a minimum of 1,500 years before the Europeans.

Due to the mistranslation of the Huang Di Nei Jing form Sulie de Mornat (French consul) in 1939, most Western countries people believe that Traditional Chinese medicine is based on esoteric and Energetic principles, but the reality is that it is based on strong physiology and anatomical structures knowledge, just as western medicine does.

The Significance of Meridians

经络 Jing luo or 經脈 Jing Mai are the terms used in "Yellow Eperor's Classic of Internal Medicine" (Huang Di Nei Jing), the oldest and most important book of Traditional Chinese medicine.

Jing Mai means blood vessel, and it is used in the Huang Di Nei Jing to define the blood circulation in the human body. This was written about 2200 years ago.

Chinese Meridians

This meridian theory is a fundamental component of Traditional Chinese medicine.

This whole theory was developed after millennia of clinical practice, involving a deep knowledge of Yin meridians, Yang meridians, and Acupuncture points that create a circulatory system that allows us to diagnose and treat almost any imbalance in the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM aims to improve the functions of the entire body through the stimulation of acupuncture meridians, herbal medicine, nutrition, qi gong, etc.

Once the body recovers its equilibrium, health comes back into our lives.

In TCM, the meridian system is the foundation of diagnosis and treatment. Practitioners believe that any disruptions or imbalances in the flow of qi through the meridians can lead to health issues and discomfort. By understanding the meridian system, TCM practitioners can identify the root causes of health problems and work to restore the balance of qi.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory

TCM is based on 3 foundational pillars

1- Ying-Yang and the Five Elements theory:

This is an analytic view to understand the natural laws of the Universe and the way they affect the human body. It is a way of explaining the four seasons: the day and night, the birth, life and death, etc.

We will dedicate a whole article to this topic in the future.

Chinese Medicine Book

2- Internal Organ Theory (Zang-Fu)

Zang refers to the Heart, Kidney, Spleen, Liver, and Lung.

Fu refers to the Gallbladder, Small intestine, Stomach, Large intestine, and Urinary bladder.

The Zang-Fu organs are located inside the body, but their physiological activities and pathological changes are reflected on the exterior of the body.

So, through external observation of the face, ears, tongue, pulse, etc., a Chinese medicine practitioner can diagnose what is happening inside our bodies.

3- The Meridians and Collaterals:

a) The Meridians form a complex channel network, linking all organs in the body.

The meridians are like a highway system that interconnects the organs to each other, to the surface of the organism, and to the environment. Thanks to these acupuncture meridians, the body works as a coherent and responsive unit and allows us to adapt to our environment.

b) The Meridians are pathways that promote the circulatory system, the peripheral nervous system where blood, oxygen, and information travels all around the organism

But the major meridians not only transport elements of healthy body functions, the primary meridians also may serve as channels where external pathogens enter into the organism. The Yang meridians are the first to get affected, and then if the disease enters deeper into the body, the Yin meridians will get affected as well.

c) The Meridians are a communication system between organs and between the exterior and interior of the organism. This meridians function allows us to adapt and avoid diseases.

Traditional Chinese medicine TCM considers the channels as parts of the main organs or Zang-Fu.

All the primary meridians are connected to acupuncture points, which can be used with diagnosis or treatment procedures.

The Pathways of the Twelve Major Meridians

There are 12 primary meridians in the body: 6 Yin meridians and 6 Yang meridians, plus another eight extraordinary meridians.

Here's a brief overview of these twelve major meridians, each one with its own acupuncture points:

1. Lung Meridian (LU)

The Lung Meridian of Hand-Taiyin governs respiratory health and plays a role in the immune system. It starts from the chest and runs down the inner arm to the thumb.

A branch emerges from the acupuncture point Lu 7 and links to the LI channel in the tip of the index at the Li 1 point.

2. Large Intestine Meridian (LI)

The Large Intestine Meridian of Hand_yangming is linked to digestion and elimination. It runs from the index finger up the arm to the face. At the acupuncture point LI 20, it connects to the Stomach meridian.

3. Stomach Meridian (ST)

Stomach Meridian

The Stomach Meridian of Foot-Yangming influences digestion and energy levels. It travels from the face down to the chest and abdomen to the thigh and ends up on the lateral side of the tip of the 2nd toe, St45. From St42, it connects to the Spleen meridian.

4. Spleen Meridian (SP)

The Spleen Meridian of Foot-Taiyin is associated with digestion and blood circulation. It runs from the big toe up the inner leg to the chest. It connects with the Stomach organ, and from there, a branch goes to the tongue, where it connects with the Heart meridian.

5. Heart Meridian (HT)

The Heart Meridian of Hand-Shaoyin governs emotional well-being and circulation. It extends from the chest down the inner arm to the little finger. It has branches that connect to the eyes, the lungs, and the small intestine.

6. Small Intestine Meridian (SI)

The Small Intestine Meridian of Hand-Taiyang plays a role in digestion and nutrient absorption. It runs from the little finger up the arm to the face.

The small intestine meridian connects to the Bladder meridian at the inner canthus of the eye.

7. Bladder Meridian (BL)

Bladder meridian

The Bladder Meridian of Foot-Taiyang is linked to urinary function and waste elimination. It follows a long path from the occiput to the sacrum and then down the legs until the outer corner of the little toe. It connects with the Kidney.

8. Kidney Meridian (KI)

The Kidney Meridian of Foot-Shaoyin is vital for reproductive health and energy levels. It starts from the foot, travels up the inner leg, and curves around the abdomen.

It connects to the Lung and from there to the Pericardium.

Pericardium Meridian

9. Pericardium Meridian (PC)

The Pericardium Meridian of Hand-Jueyin influences heart health and emotional balance. It runs from the chest down the arm to the middle finger.

A branch from the center of the pal runs to the ring finger to connect with the Triple burner meridian.

10. Triple Burner Meridian (TB)

The Triple Burner Meridian of Hand-Shaoyang regulates body temperature and metabolism. It follows a unique path that affects multiple organs.

Some branches connect to the eyes and ears. At the outer corner of the eye, it connects with the Gallbladder meridian.

11. Gallbladder Meridian (GB)

The Gallbladder Meridian of Foot-Shaoyang is associated with digestion and decision-making. It runs from the head down the sides of the body to the foot.

It connects to the Liver channel from the GB 41 meridian points towards the big toe.

12. Liver Meridian (LR)

The Liver Meridian of Foot-Jueyin influences detoxification and emotional health. It travels from the foot up the leg to the chest.

The Liver channel runs through the genitals and stomach and connects with the Lung, where the circadian rhythm starts again.

Balancing Meridians for Health

TCM practitioners use various techniques to balance the flow of qi in the meridians. Acupuncture, for instance, involves inserting fine needles into specific points along the meridians to stimulate the flow of blood and promote healing through the stimulus of the nerve system. Herbal remedies, dietary changes, bodywork, and lifestyle modifications are also used to address imbalances in the meridian system.


Traditional Chinese Medicine has a history of almost 4,000 years.

Most of the public believes it is an energetic and esoteric discipline, but it actually is based on anatomical and physiological studies, just like Western medicine.

The Meridians are an essential part of the theory and practice of Chinese Medicine.

They are used to treat the whole body through acupuncture points, and also they are used as a diagnosis method.

To learn more about acupuncture treatments, visit our page about Acupuncture.


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