The Twelve Organs of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Updated: Jun 16

The Twelve Organs of Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Spleen and Stomach

The spleen (and pancreas)are associated with the digestive system, the blood and lymph, and the energy of the center and the quality in the mind of 'holding'. The stomach is responsible for encasing food during one of the initial stages of digestion. The spleen and stomach are very important for digestion and pathologies associated with the spleen and stomach often involve digestive problems, described as a physical quality like “dampness of the spleen”.

Lung and Large Intestine

The lungs and large intestines both gather and disperse- a mental quality. The large intestine gathers water from the chyme (the pulpy acidic fluid which passes from the stomach to the small intestine, consisting of gastric juices and partly digested food) and releases stool. The lungs gather fresh air and release what the body does not need in the form of carbon dioxide). The lungs are very important for the gathering of chi from the air.

Kidney and Bladder

The kidneys are associated with the reproductive system and one’s constitutional energy, in addition to their well-known function of filtering blood and creating urine. Many alternative therapies focus on “cleansing the kidneys”, but in Shiatsu Oriental medicine, the kidneys are nourished in order to promote health and longevity.

Liver and Gall Bladder

The liver works very hard to filter the blood, constantly breaking down toxins and nutrients. It often becomes overworked and stagnant, creating liver heat. The gall bladder stores and releases bile, which is produced by the liver in order to eliminate cholesterol and produce a substance that will emulsify fats in digestion.

Heart and Small Intestine

The heart and small intestine disperse nutrients throughout the body. The heart works very hard and is damaged by yin and susceptible to heat. The small intestine relates to digestion.

Heart Governor and Triple Heater

The heart governor is associated with circulation. The triple heater is the metabolism of the body and chi. The three burners are the three energy centers of the body- the lower abdomen (the place of the hara), the upper abdomen, and the chest.

The heart governor is also known as the “heart constrictor” or the “pericardium”.

Meridians and Tsubos:

Conception Vessel and Governing Vessel

The conception vessel (CV) travels from the point just in front of the anus (CV1) to the mouth.

The governing vessel (GV) travels from the mouth, up over the head, down the back, and to the point just in front of the anus.

CV3, CV4, and other points in the lower abdomen are treated for menstrual problems.

Several bo points are located along the conception vessel (see below). CV3 is the bladder bo point, CV4 is small intestine, CV5 is triple heater, CV12 is stomach, CV14 is heart, and CV17 is heart governor.

GV20 is an important point that corresponds with the crown chakra.

Spleen and Stomach

The spleen meridian (SP) travels from the big toe, up the inside of the leg, to the abdomen.

The stomach meridian (ST) travels from just below the eye, down the front of the body, and branches before the 2nd and 3rd toes.

SP6 (“three yin meeting point”) is a very important point for menstrual problems and other problems relating to the spleen energy. SP10 is also important.

ST36 is an important point for fatigue and stomach energy in general.

Lung and Large Intestine

The lung meridian (LU) travels from the chest to the thumb.

The large intestine meridian (LI) travels from the index finger to the nostrils.

LG1, LG2, LG10, and LG11 are all especially important for treating lung diseases.

LI4 is important for constipation and other large intestine imbalances, and for headaches.

LI20 helps to open the sinuses and lungs.

Kidney and Bladder

The kidney meridian (KI) starts behind the ball of the foot (KD1, “bubbling spring”), travels up the leg, up in front of the torso and along the sternum.

The bladder meridian (BL) starts at the inside corners of the eyes, travels up over the head and down the neck, divides into two branches that run down the sides of the spine and back of the legs, reconnects at the knees, continues down the back of the legs, along the dises of the feet, to the pinky toe.

KD1 is a very important point for kidney problems and fatigue. KD3, KD5, KD8, and KD 10 are also very important.

The bladder points along the spine, called Yu points, are very important (see below). BL13 corresponds to the lungs, BL14 to the heart governor, BL15 to the heart, BL16 to the governing vessel, BL17 to blood, BL18 to the liver, BL19 to the gall bladder, BL20 to the spleen, BL21 to the stomach, BL22 to the triple burner, BL23 to the kidneys, BL24 to chi, BL25 to the large intestine, BL27 to the small intestines, and BL28 to the bladder.

BL1, BL2, BL36, BL40, and BL67 are also important points.

Liver and Gall Bladder

The liver meridian (LI) starts at the big toes and travels up the shin and inside of the leg to the abdomen.

The gall bladder meridian (GB) starts at the temples, zig-zags down the sides of the head and body, and continues down the sides of the legs to the fourth toes.

LV2 and LV3 are important points.

GB1, GB2, GB20, GB21, GB30, GB34, GB40, and GB44 are important points. GB20 and GB21 are important for stiff neck, wind invasions, and sinus congestion; and are contraindicated for pregnancy.

Heart and Small Intestine

The heart meridian (HT) starts in the armpits and travels to the little finger.

The small intestine meridian (SI) starts at the little finger and travels up the back of the arm, over the scapula, and to the area in front of the ear.

HT1 is an important point for shoulder problems.

SI3, SI10, SI11, SI14, and SI19 are important points. SI10 and SI11 are very good for shoulder and upper back discomfort.

Heart Governor and Triple Heater

The heart governor meridian (HG) starts parallel to the nipple and runs along the arm to the middle finger.

The triple heater meridian starts on the back of the ring finger and travels along the arm, up over the ear, to the end of the eyebrow.

HG1 and HG8 are important points for the heart and circulation.

TH17, TH21, and TH23 are important points. Be careful treating TH17.

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