Ever wonder why your bowels want to evacuate at the same time
each morning? Do you wake up between 1 and 3 a.m. every night? What
does it all mean? As per usual in Traditional Chinese Medicine
(TCM), there's a reason for everything.
Check out the clock and see what there is to see.
Keep in mind that the "organs" in TCM are not exact equivalents
to the organs we know and love in the West. For example, if I say
you have Heart Fire, it doesn't necessarily mean that there is
actual heat stuck in the tissue of your pumper. In TCM the Heart
organ has more to do with the spirit -- shen -- than with the
So why should you use this chart if it doesn't mean what you
think it means? Well, it still has value in piecing together what
western medicine might deem "unrelated" signs and symptoms. In TCM,
we use them all, disparate as some may seem. Here's some help in
understanding the TCM organ clock in largely western
It's not all about you, either. The TCM organ clock is also
intimately related to the treatment your acupuncturist could
administer. Each time slot represents the time of day when its
corresponding organ is functioning -- or should be functioning --
at max capacity. You have the most Liver action happening between 1
and 3 a.m. If you've accumulated tons of drugs and alcohol for it
to cleanse, or if you've simply stagnated its qi with too much
stress in your life, then 1 and 3 a.m. is when your Liver is trying
to get you all straightened out. Talk to insomniacs who wake
frequently at this time -- they're usually quite stressed out.
Conversely, the timeslot opposite the organ of choice shows the
time of day when it is at its weakest. So, if you're supposed to
get a massage and conceive a child during the Pericardium's
timeslot of 7 and 9 p.m., then it could be inferred that 7 and 9
a.m., is the least effective time in which to engage in those
activities. Want to learn more about the functional organ systems
and their responsibilities by hour? Check them out at Naturopathic By Nature.
Too bad. Did you know it's
actually supposed to be clean when you wipe? Yes, a healthy poo is
so nicely formed that even your first swipe should be a
leave-no-trace expedition. Maybe that's how indigenous societies
have all seemed to get along fine without rolls of toilet paper in
Unfortunately, many people upon wiping discover a messy poo
situation. Perhaps you have to wipe a second time, or a third, or
-- gasp -- a fourth time. Maybe you never even feel clean, despite
seemingly endless wiping. Commercial products have actually adapted
in response to the commonality of the messy poo -- flushable wet
wipes for adults have hit the marketplace. Don't flush them,
though. Free tip.
So why, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, might an
individual produce a messy poo? Naturally, there are several
different potential trails of pathogenesis leading to a sticky,
unformed deposit. Let's just cover one of the most common diagnoses
- Spleen Qi Deficiency with Dampness. It's so common, yet so
What is Spleen Qi Deficiency?
Well, let's start with what Spleen Qi is and what it's supposed
to be doing when not deficient. The functional system
called "Spleen" in TCM is responsible for these things and
If your Spleen qi is strong, you are good to go. I likely will
not find you passed out in an alley, hemorrhaging and passing
uncomfortable gas. Luckily, life is not always so extreme, and
neither are pathologies. More often, modern American people are
simply suffering from a mild case of Spleen Qi Deficiency. What's
that look like?
Why is this happening to you? What did you ever do to deserve
messy poo and this horrid array of sad signs and symptoms? How did
your Spleen Qi become deficient? Like many things in TCM, there
could be many right answers, depending on the person. Likewise,
there are multiple ways to try to rectify the situation. There's
more than one way to skin a messy-poo cat.
Causes of Spleen Qi Deficiency
First, the causes. Think back. Which ones apply to you?
What can you do about it? Is there any hope for a one-wipe life?
Happily, the answer is yes. You can change your poo. Here are your
treatment strategies, of course individualized to each person's
exact manifestations of Spleen Qi Deficiency (and its partner, the
While the treatment strategies and principles seem few in
numbers, they are not necessarily simple to accomplish --
particularly once the dampness has accumulated. While acupuncture,
herbs, and anything else your acupuncturist does to you at the
visit will almost certainly help your condition improve, you also
need to make some changes at home for lasting results.
If all of this sounds too difficult, then just incorporate one
suggestion at a time. As always, please consult your favorite
acupuncture intern for more information on your individualized
pattern diagnosis and treatment plan. You don't want messy poo for
the rest of your life, do you?
Or maybe I should say, "qi-qi-qi-chia!" Lately, my life has been
full of chia seeds. I'm reading about them, I'm seeing recipes
posted like hot cakes on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. I'm taken back
to little ceramic sheep with scantily placed green sprouts growing
on my dresser. I never could get a full coat on one of those
Recently though, I've looked at the chia seed in a new light.
I've upgraded from the packet at the toy store to the organic bag
from my friendly neighborhood grocer. Why? I have ulterior,
Traditional Chinese Medicine, motives.
What are the properties of these delicious, plump little seeds?
What can they do for me? Why do I bother messing with these
slippery little things that will 100% certainly get stuck in my
teeth for hours? We know from the western world that chia seeds are
anti-inflammatory and are recommended for adrenal fatigue. They
contain zinc and magnesium, antioxidants, and omega 3s. Its name
even means "strength," so it's no wonder the people "are loving it"
Chia? Qi? Strength? Energy? Am I seeing a connection to
Traditional Chinese Medicine here? I think yes. I'd love to give
you the name of Salvia hispanica in Chinese, but I
can't. It's not in the TCM materia medica, because this
seed is native to the Americas, not to Asia. What I can do is piece
together the bits of insight on the TCM properties, actions, and
indications of chia seeds based on the years of usage in patients
and the similarities to related plants.
Chia seeds come from a sage plant in the mint family. Thus, we
infer that they are cooling in temperature. They are seeds, so we
see them with lubricating properties, particularly in the Large
Intestine. As a qi (energy) tonic, we know they enter the Kidney
and tonify Kidney qi. The cooling nature also lends itself to a
nourishing of Kidney yin as well.
In other words, it's all coming together. The western world's
adrenal fatigue is akin to TCM's Kidney deficiency. When TCM
lubricates the intestine, it's like an American doctor recommending
more fiber. The chia seed is doing it all, no matter how we phrase
Here's how I'm taking my chia seeds:
Substitute anything you have a personal problem with. Add all
ingredients into blender and mix well. Pour into small glasses and
Enjoy the gelatinous texture in your mouth. Pick gooey chia
seeds out of teeth for several hours. Top with fruit if you're so
inclined. You're welcome.
Water and fire must be balanced. Their corresponding organ
systems in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) must be balanced,
too. What happens if Heart and Kidney are not properly harmonized?
You don't even want to know. Well, if you do, then read on.
Here are some common Fire-Water imbalances, how they manifest,
and how we harmonize them:
1. Yin Deficiency with Empty Heat
What is it?
When Water is low, due to anything from congenital deficiency,
long-term illnesses, overwork, etc., it cannot nourish the organ
systems of the body. Because the Kidney controls water metabolism
for the body, if it runs dry, then the rest of the body starts
shriveling up. The Heart, symbolizing the Fire element, appears
abundant by comparison, as heat signs appear in the body.
dry mouth, red cheekbones, heat sensation in chest,
palms, and soles, dry stool, scanty darker urine, rapid pulse, red
tongue with no coat.
How to Harmonize:
Nourish yin, clear empty heat. Points may include KD3,
KD6, LU9, LV3, SP3, SP6, PC7, HRT8.
2. Heart Fire Blazing
What is it?
When the watery, cold, refreshing part of the Water element
(Kidney) runs dry, things start heating up - in a bad way. Heart
Fire gets the word that it has free reign on the body, and before
long it goes crazy. Raging crazy.
Think "everything from pattern #1, plus" insomnia, heart
palpitations, dizziness, and tinnitus. Maybe you'll have crazy
vivid dreams, too, which can range from fun to terrifying. Your
tongue is likely quite red with a yellow coat, with red prickles or
a red tip. Your pulse is probably full and rapid.
How to Harmonize:
Nourish yin, sedate Heart fire, calm the Shen (spirit). Points may
include: "everything from pattern #1, plus" HRT9, PC8, PC6.
3. Kidney Yang Deficiency with Water
What is it?
While patterns #1 and #2 were conditions of too much Fire element
and not enough Water, pattern #3 is exactly the opposite. Too much
Water. You're flooding inside your own body. When there's not
enough Fire to warm the body and burn off excess Water, then you
just start packing on the water, particularly below the waist.
Things are not warming and moving around the body. Circulation of
fluids has been impaired.
Edema, scanty urine, low back pain, cold limbs, excessive white
vaginal discharge, infertility. Swelling, even pitting edema, could
be found in the legs. Your pulse is likely deep, weak, and slow.
Your tongue is pale and swollen, moist with a white coat.
How to Harmonize:
Tonify Kidney Yang, Warm Ming Men, drain dampness. Points may
include: KD3, KD7, SP9, SP6, UB10, DU4, UB23, SJ5, CV9, LU7.
Do these sound serious? They can be. The good news is that
acupuncture, along with the other branches and modalities of
Traditional Chinese Medicine (herbs, dietary therapy, tui na, qi
gong, moxa) can be very effective for rebalancing and harmonizing
Water and Fire. You don't want to be too cold, but you don't want
to be too hot, either. You want to be juuuust right.
One in four American couples struggle with infertility. Of those
women who either cannot get pregnant after 12 months of trying or
who cannot carry a baby to term, around 45% seek medical
assistance. A study at the University of Maryland School of
Medicine indicates that acupuncture may increase the success of IVF
therapy by as much as 65%, but how is it working?
Dr. David Bai and Dr. Linda Xu summarize that acupuncture has
been shown to:
That's the western world's attempt to explain an ancient Chinese
practice. Now let's put it into our Traditional Chinese Medicine
(TCM) terminology. Infertility can be caused by a variety of
disharmonies in the body of the woman, the man, or both. Generally
speaking, it can usually be traced to some sort of deficiency,
stasis, or heat condition. That's too general for me. I need more
Kidney Yang Deficiency, Ren and Chong Disharmony, Jing
Deficiency, Kidney & Liver Yin Deficiency, Spleen Blood
Deficiency, Spleen Qi Deficiency, Heart/Liver Blood Deficiency,
Damp Retention, Phlegm Accumulation, Blood Stasis, Qi Stagnation,
Heat in the Blood, and the list goes on seemingly indefinitely as
you combine the abovementioned patterns in a horrid and
unsatisfactory mix and match fashion.
Think that's a lot of patterns? Well, there's a lot of infertile
couples out there. This array of options lends itself to several
western presentations of infertility. It also explains why one
treatment strategy, whether it be an herb, an exercise, or an
acupuncture point prescription, can't work for everyone. There are
indeed acupuncture points and herbal formulas that address each and
every one of those patterns of disharmony, but each patient can
expect a unique treatment strategy based on his or her
While acupuncture appears to give the same result as Clomid (a
50% success rate for producing an egg in a given cycle), it also
has a two-fold added bonus. First, acupuncture has no negative
side-effects. Secondly, acupuncture will almost always produce
seemingly unrelated positive benefits on health and wellness. Going
in for irregular menstrual cycles? You'll probably also sleep
better. Going in for low sperm count? You'll probably also feel
relief from your chronic lower back pain.
Many patients seeking acupuncture assistance for infertility
will also be given herbs to assist in the balancing and overall
wellness. These two modalities in combination often produce better
results than either one alone, similar to the way that patients
receiving acupuncture with IVF have better results than those
undergoing IVF alone. No matter the high efficacy of TCM in
infertility cases overall, it's still not magic. If you've ruptured
a fallopian tube or lost an ovary and are working with only one,
it's still harder to conceive. If there's a structural issue, it's
more difficult for TCM to help; in these cases, surgical repair
might be indicated.
What's the conclusion? If you're struggling with infertility,
give acupuncture (and herbs) a try! You could experience the
improved menstrual regularity, ovulation, and conception that many
others have. In the background, odds favor improved balance in
other aspects of wellness from bowel movements to sleep quality.
Our tip, as always, is to seek out a Licensed Acupuncturist to
ensure you are working with someone who has been through the most
rigorous and complete education and practical programs for
Traditional Chinese Medicine in its entirety, rather than a
provider from another field who has "added on" some hours in
acupuncture training. Happy needling!
Further Reading: Treating Infertility with Traditional Chinese
Medicine (Infertility Awareness Association of Canada)
• So What Is Chinese Medicine?
• Jabbing Nerves with Needles
• Mission in Nicaragua
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