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Education series: Meet the family - the 12 channels and their officials

In Chinese medicine, each of the twelve primary meridians of the body manifests an organ or official within the body, which carries out the function of the channel in question. According to Chinese medical theories of embryology, the first things to form are the channels, and then the physical manifestations of these energies come through in the tissues and organs of the body.

Each organ carries out functions on a body, mind, and spirit level. For example, the Lungs, Fei in Chinese, are the official of the breath, and they maintain rhythms in the body. In the mind, they govern the emotion of grief, and the capacity to let go of that which is no longer needed, holding on to only that which is truly important, like the cells of the lungs hold on to oxygen but let go of carbon dioxide and other wastes. Spiritually the lungs connect us to the heavens - as we breathe in fresh air, fresh Qi, we are nourished by heaven, while at the same time the lungs house the Po, the bodily spirit, which is with us for the duration of our lives and leaves us with our last breath. This returns us to the ideas of Chinese philosophy - through the concept of Yin and Yang. Indeed, Chinese medicine is simply applied Chinese philosophy, in the same way that Western medicine is applied chemistry and biology.

The twelve organs and channels are:

-Heart: the emperor, the seat of the mind and spirits

-Small intestine: the sorter of the pure from the impure

-Bladder: the reservoir

-Kidney: the generator

-Pericardium: the heart protector

-Triple heater: the social hostess, who regulates the climates of the cavities of the body and helps the other officials communicate clearly with one another

-Gall Bladder: the decision maker

-Liver: the planner

-Lung: the prime minister of the breath

-Large intestine: the eliminator

-Stomach: the transformer of foods and fluids

-Spleen: the transporter of blood and qi

In the coming weeks, we will explore each of these in more detail, and connect the officials back to the philosophies of the five elements and of Yin and Yang.

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