The 12 Meridians

Meridians (a definition)

The Meridians are directional pathways of the energy flow of Qi through the body, it could be said that the Qi flows through each different pathway(Meridians) in a peak flow at specific times during the day – in essence a 24 hour human body clock of qi flow.  To the experienced practitioner or TCM therapist this can be used for diagnosis.

There are 12 Organ Meridians and each is associated with an organ a time and an element (see 5 Element theory)

The twelve meridians are named according to their corresponding organs, limb positions and yin and yang properties. They include three arm yin meridians (lung, pericardium, heart), three arm yang meridians (large intestine, triple burner, small intestine), three leg yang meridians (stomach, gall bladder, bladder), and three leg yin meridians (spleen, liver, kidney). The triple burner and the pericardium do not refer to anatomical structures. They are functional units in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It should also be noted, the organs mentioned here have a much broader meaning in TCM then what is typically thought of their functions in western medicine. Since the twelve meridians make up the majority of the Meridian System, they are known as the regular or principal channels.

Name of the twelve Meridians
Arm/ Leg Yin/ Yang Three Yang/ Three Yin The Twelve Meridians
Arm Yin Tai Yin Lung Meridian
Shao Yin Heart Meridian
Jue Yin Pericardium Meridian
Yang Yang Ming Large Intestine Meridian
Tai Yang Small Intestine Meridian
Shao Yang Triple Burner Meridian
Leg Yin Tai Yin Spleen Meridian
Shao Yin Kidney Meridian
Jue Yin Liver Meridian
Yang Yang Ming Stomach Meridian
Tai Yang Bladder Meridian
Shao Yang Gall Bladder Meridian

Distribution of the twelve meridians in the body

The twelve Meridians have lateral and symmetrical distribution on the head, face, trunk and limbs. The six yin meridians are distributed on the inner side of the limbs and on the chest and abdomen. The six yang Meridians are distributed on the outer side of the limbs and on the head, face and trunk.

As shown in the diagram, the order and arrangement of the three yang meridians for both arms and legs are as follows: a) Yang Ming (meaning sunlight yang) has an anterior position. b) Shao Yang (meaning lesser yang) has a middle position. c) Tai Yang (meaning greater yang) has a posterior position. The three names have described the variation of yang qi (pronounced chee). They can also be interpreted as describing the variation of sunlight received. Since most animals’ backs receive the greatest amount of sunlight, the back or posterior region is usually named as the Tai Yang position. Similarly, the position of Shao Yang and Yang Ming are located at more anterior regions where less sunlight is received.

The order and arrangement of the three yin meridians are as follows: a) Tai Yin (meaning greater yin) has an anterior position. b) Jue Yin (meaning absolute yin) has a middle position. c) Shao Yin (meaning lesser yin) has a posterior position. Again, the three names have described the variation of yin Qi and the degree of darkness at that position. The following figure has illustrated the general distribution of Meridians on the limbs.

The twelve meridians follow specific time schedules and pathways. The Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) says, ” The three yins of the arm go from the organs to the hands. The three yangs of the arm go from the hands to the head. The three yangs of the legs go from the head to the feet. The three yins of the legs go from the feet to the abdomen.” Qi is continuously circulating through the meridians in a daily cycle. At certain times, both qi and blood have maximum flow in particular meridians which are outlined below.

Meridian Flow Chart (The Daily Qi Current of the 12-hour Division)

Arm Leg
Yin/Interior Yang/Exterior Yang/Exterior Yin/Interior
Arm Tai Yin
Lung Meridian
(3am – 5am)
Arm Yang Ming
Large Intestine Meridian
(5am – 7am )
Leg Yang Ming
Stomach
Meridian
(7am-9am)
Leg Tai Yin
Spleen Meridian
(9am-11am)
Arm Shao Yin
Heart Meridian
(11am-1pm)
Arm Tai Yang
Small Intestine Meridian
(1pm-3pm)
Leg Tai Yang
Bladder Meridian
(3pm-5pm)
Leg Shao Yin
Kidney Meridian
(5pm-7pm)
Arm Jue Yin
Pericardium Meridian
(7pm-9pm)
Arm Shao Yang
Triple Burner Meridian
(9pm-11pm)
Leg Shao Yang
Gall Bladder Meridian
(11pm-1am)
Leg Jue Yin
Liver Meridian
(1am-3am)

As shown in the above chart, qi is more prevalent in different meridians at different times. For example, from 3am to 5am, meridian qi mainly flows through the Lung Meridian and enters the Large Intestine Meridian at 5am-7am, and then the Stomach Meridian from 7am-9am. In this way, the meridian cycle is continuous as the qi flows through the body.

Exterior-Interior relationship in the meridian

As mentioned before, meridians are classified into yin meridians and yang meridians according to the yin or yang organs with which they are connected. TCM believes the interior belongs to yin and the exterior belongs to yang. Hence, yin organs are thought to have more internal functions and are called interior organs. The yang organs, on the other hand, are believed to have more external functions and are considered exterior organs. TCM analyzes the physiological function of the body based on the harmonious relationships between yin and yang organs. From these relationships, the interior and exterior relationship theory was developed

Lung Meridian

Meridian Flow: Toward the thumb from the inside edge of the front of the shoulder.

Companion Organ:
Large Intestine

EFT Point: THUMB

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Compassion, good survival instinct, instinct and intuition, free will, individuality, positive outlook, endurance.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Sorrow, resentment, worry, anguish, claustrophobia, inflexibility (both body and mind), pessimism, nostalgia.
Large Intestine Meridian

Meridian Flow: Beginning either side of the nostrils running across the shoulder and down the arm to the index finger.

Companion Organ:
Lung

EFT Point: INDEX FINGER

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Compassion, good survival instinct, instinct and intuition, free will, individuality, positive outlook, endurance. As per the lung and metal element.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Sorrow, resentment, worry, coughing, anguish, claustrophobia, inflexibility (both body and mind), pessimism, nostalgia. Stubbornness, holding on.
Stomach Meridian

Meridian Flow: From under the eye up and around the side of the face – then down the torso ending in the second toe.

Companion Organ:
Spleen (and pancreas)

EFT Point: UNDER EYE

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Stable centred emotions, confidence, good taste, an understanding of appropriate behaviour, a sense of trust, considered thought and action.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Anxiety, worry, skepticism, poor confidence. feelings of suspicion or mistrust.
Spleen Meridian

Meridian Flow: From the big toe, up the inside of the leg, toward the shoulder and down to finish on the side under the arm

Companion Organ:
Stomach

EFT Point: UNDER ARM

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Reasoning abilities, memory, a clear thought process, honest introspection, opinion, loyalty, willpower, sense of satisfaction/achievement, ideas & creativity, expressing sympathy.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Worry, poor concentration, forgetful-ness, cloudy thought process, vacillation, addiction, attachment, obsession, gluttony, jealousy, self-pity, strong concern about opinions of others, stubbornness, vanity.
Heart Meridian

Meridian Flow: From under the arm-pit down the arm to the back of the little finger (towards the ring finger)

Companion Organ:
Small Intestine

EFT Point: LITTLE FINGER

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Tranquillity, gentleness, emotional balance, spirit, love, integrity, optimism, emotional and spiritual growth, zest for life, control of thoughts and senses, conscience, wisdom.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
The heart is the ruler of all emotions. Hysteria, erratic behaviour, alternating joy and melancholy, dullness, yearning for love, jealousy, sorrow.
Small Intestine Meridian

Meridian Flow: From the end of the little finger up the outside of the arm, over the shoulder ending in front of the ear.

Companion Organ:
Heart

EFT Point: KC (side of hand)

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Memory, ability in making decisions, clarity of thought.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Forgetfulness, indecision, unclear thought process. Restlessness and difficulty in expressing emotions.
Bladder Meridian

Meridian Flow: Begins at the corner of the eye, continues over head, down back and legs, ending on small toe.

Companion Organ:
Kidney

EFT Point: EYEBROW

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Caution, restraint, determination, will power, ambition.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Fear, lack of confidence, nervous-ness, fear of being submerged or overwhelmed, strained nerves, hypersensitivity (both physical and emotional).
Kidney Meridian

Meridian Flow: Begins in the centre of the sole of the foot, travels up in-side leg to collar bone.

Companion Organ:
Bladder

EFT Point: COLLARBONE

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Restraint, humility, organisational skills, will power, ability to concentrate, good imagination, ideas, self-preservation, zest for living, ability to control the mind and avoid unwise action, determination, respect and reverence, courage, confidence, sense of security.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Fear, hesitancy, no zest for life, poor willpower, guilt, nervousness, lack of confidence, depression, trembling, would rather run from situations than deal with them.
Pericardium Meridian

Meridian Flow: From the chest down the arm to the middle finger.

Companion Organ:
Triple Warmer

EFT Point: MIDDLE FINGER

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Love, happiness, contentment, warmth and concern in relationships, enthusiasm.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Sadness, sorrow, grief, self– absorption, coldness, lack of concern, poor relations with others, lack of enthusiasm. Poor sleep habits, hysteria, hysterical or cackling laughter, abnormal emotional responses, hyper-sensitivity.
Triple Warmer Meridian

Meridian Flow: From the ring finger up the back of the arm, over the shoulder ending above and to the outside of the eye.

Companion Organ:
Pericardium

EFT Point: GAMUT

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Sociable nature, ability to work well in groups, platonic friendships, personal warmth, sense of humour, liking for others.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Unsociable nature, standoffish, lack of humour, prefers isolation to group co-operation, poor decision making abilities, forgetfulness, rambling thoughts.
Liver Meridian

Meridian Flow: From the inside corner of the big toe, up the inner side of the leg across to above the waist ending under the chest.

Companion Organ:
Gall Bladder

EFT Point: UNDER BREAST

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Drive, planning and starting skills, endurance, good reflexes, perseverance, spiritual enquiry and maintenance, quick and clear intellect, agreeable disposition, organizational abilities, ambition, patience, sense of well-being.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Anger, depression, impatience, short temper, hatred, jealousy, self-insistence, insecurity, attachment to strong opinions (even when wrong), power-hungry, over ambitious, con-trolling, cursing and shouting.
Gall Bladder Meridian

Meridian Flow: From the outside of the eye around the ear up and forward over the head before doubling back to travel down the body ending in the fourth toe.

Companion Organ:
Liver

EFT Point: SIDE OF EYE

Psychological Qualities of Balance:
Good decision making abilities, impetus, inspiration behind decisions.
Psychological Qualities of Imbalance:
Irritability, rage, bitterness, constant sadness. Anger of the sort that leads to irrational or hasty decisions. Allergies.