For understanding the results of their analysis, it's necessary to be familiar with the basic beliefs adopted in traditional oriental medicine. In this article are set out these basic concepts. But if we usually focus on the Ayurvedic approach, in this case, the issue will be considered from the standpoint of traditional Chinese medicine.
Meridians are called energy channels through which vital energy circulates between the "organs". The term "organ" means the concept much wider than a physiological organ of the same name. Let us discuss this in more details, for this we turn to the book, which has become canonical for specialists of Oriental medicine — V. G. Vogralik "Fundamentals of Chinese medical method Zhen-chiu":
"According to the doctrine of traditional Chinese medicine , the human body has 5 main, and with them 12 significant "organs", ie, the structural and functional units combined in the concept of "organ" not so much because they're morphologically delineated and topographically bounded (as it is customary in our school of medicine), but because of common functional activity. This should be well understood".
So, when saying "organ" we mean "functional system".
The term "functional system" was introduced by Russian physiologist P. K. Anokhin. He realized that the traditional anatomical approach did not allow to explain the ability of organisms to maintain homeostasis, interact with the environment and adapt to it. Therefore he has proposed to shift the attention focus from the individual organs to the physiological functions. And has described the unified principles of structure of various functional systems.
Only perceiving organs adopted in traditional Oriental medicine like some prototypes of the modern functional systems we can realize all sagacity of ancient healers and the value of their systematic approach.
Let's consider five major organs, as they're described by V. G. Vogralik:
"The "heart" — the entire cardiovascular system with its function of blood circulation, closely related with mental human activity;
The "spleen" — the entire digestive system, which implements the function of meal intake and processing, absorption and using by the body, utilization of produced toxins;
The "kidneys" — the system of urine formation, total water-salt metabolism and excretion of the organism liquid waste, the entire humoral regulation (the endocrine glands);
The "lungs" — the entire respiratory system, which includes the skin;
The "liver" — with its most dynamic metabolic activity, central and autonomic nervous regulation of this activity and impact on the other organs".
Please note that in some cases there are very significant distinctions in the interpretation of organ functions in traditional Chinese medicine from the ideas, adopted in modern medicine. In particular, the "spleen" in traditional Chinese medicine is in charge of the entire digestive system, that is in care of the spleen, among the other organs of the digestive system are: the stomach, the small intestine, the colon, the liver, the gallbladder and the pancreas — the physiological organs which have given their names to the "organs" in traditional Chinese medicine. While the role of the spleen as a physiological organ is much more modest — fine purification of blood, removing of outdated blood cells and platelets, plus hemoglobin recycling.
It is important once and for all to share the concepts "morphological organ" and "organ in traditional Chinese medicine", otherwise we can not avoid the confusion in minds and, accordingly, incorrect interpretations of the diagnostic results.
It is also important to note that the activity of all "organs" is closely connected, while the same real organs (ie physiological organs) may be involved in the activity of various structural and functional systems, which are referred to as "organs" in traditional Chinese medicine.
As an example, I again quote the textbook of V. G. Vogralik:
"The excitation of the nervous system (the "liver") entails the increased blood circulation. This places high demands on the digestive tract, but is tempered by the excited state of the nervous system. Increase of digestion entails increased respiration, especially in the case of insufficiency of circulatory functions. Stimulation of lung functions and gas exchange in tissues increases activity of the entire humoral system and the kidneys. This, in turn, can support the excited state of the nervous system, but moderates the activity of the heart. The good respiratory function reduces the excitation of the nervous system".
In more details 12 functions are described in the annex at the end of this article.
And now we will proceed to the story of what "meridians" are.
For this here's a quote from the textbook of V. G. Vogralik:
"Since ancient times, Chinese doctors began to notice that when punctures in the specific points of the body, patients felt the special sensations like a current, heaviness, deep ache, flow of the "vital energy" in a certain direction, and in the future the strengthening of functions of certain organs. Irritation of some groups of points causes the motion of "energy" in one direction, the other — in the other. These paths of the "energy" motion from the periphery inward upon irritation of the corresponding points, however, in many cases, have also turned out the pathways of spreading (irradiation) of pain from inside to the periphery when the lesions of the relevant organs. In other words, the ways of connection of the body integuments with the internal organs are emerged. It was suggested that these "channels" are like the paths of "energy" movement, which interconnects the body integuments with the internal organs, and that by the impact on them, for example by Zhen-jeou method it's possible to affect the "energy", its movement and to change in right direction the functional state of the organs and organism as a whole".
It's very important to understand what kind of energy we're talking about.
"The Chinese doctrine" of "vital energy " — "Qi" . The functional state in which at any given moment there is a person and which is like the resultant of all life processes in him, we call vitality. We say that one man has good vitality, he is full of energy, energy boils in him, the other differs by weakened vitality, prostration, loss of energy; the first, so to speak, is full of "vitality", the second is lacking it. We are talking about the muscle, nerve and another tones, the power and energy of muscle contraction, the heart activity, the liver, kidneys, nervous system, etc. All of this is based on a certain direction and tension of metabolism in organs and organism as a whole. This notion of viability, vitality, vital energy or life force the Chinese doctors had already expressed many thousands of years ago by the word "Qi" (in Japanese — "Qi", in Sanskrit - "Prana").
"Qi" in our understanding is an integral function of the entire activity of the organism, its energy, tone and vitality. Every organ, every system of organs has its own "Qi" as the expression of exchange and function at any given moment. The resultant of all these "Qi" is "Qi" of the organism.
G. Bachmann says: "Energy is outside matter and only available to theological analysis". We must emphasize that the Chinese themselves do not share this view, and by the concept of "vital energy" (Qi) they express the noticed objective reality and objective necessity of the living organisms existence. We, of course, fully share this view. Recently the problem of bioenergy is broadly set by A. Szent-Gyorgyi, the Nobel Prize winner in 1937 for his works in biochemistry (A. Szent-Gyorgyi. Bioenergy. M. 1960)».
An "organ" is a functional system.
Meridian — the path of energy movement from the "organ" to the body integument.
Vital energy — the integral indicator of all life processes in the body.Annex to the article
1. "Lungs". Include the actual lungs as well as integuments, central and peripheral nervous systems. That is the "Lungs" mean the system that manages the gas and water exchange of the organism with the external environment. Herewith, the lungs as a physical organ implement the oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, as well as the allocation of liquid. And the substantial part of the water-salt metabolism regulation implements through the perspiration on the surface of the integuments. Also protection against external environment influences depends on the integuments. To manage such a complex and extensive system providing the contact with external environment and filtering of various processes of the organism and environment, the concept "Lungs" includes the central and peripheral nervous systems. We mean only some of the functions of the nervous system — managing of interaction processes of the organism and external environment. (We must remember that we are talking about classification based not on morphological, but on a functional attribute. Accordingly, the nervous system is included in all 12 "organs", but each time we mean various functional tasks performed by the nervous system.)
2. "Colon". Responsible for transporting wastes of vital activity and digestion, and also plays the significant role in the water absorption. The "Colon" is the paired organ for the "Lungs". When normal Qi circulation in the "Lungs" the colon functions properly, it ensures good emptying. Impaired Qi circulation in the "Lungs" causes difficulties in the bowel movement. When the state of overflow and heat of the large intestine arises, which is accompanied by constipation, the state also may occur when Qi of the lungs cease to go down, causing shortness of breath.
3. "Spleen". Functions of the "Spleen" as a functional system include managing of all the processes of food digestion and moisture assimilation and their transporting through the body, as well as control of blood and muscles. Naturally, such a broad functions go well beyond the spleen as a physiological organ. This is already mentioned in the beginning of the article. Under the control of blood mainly the deterrence function of blood flow is meant. When this function impaired various bleedings may occur. Connection with the muscles and the functioning of the limbs appears from the function of transporting nutrients to them. If nutrients come to the muscles, they retain elasticity and strength, and when violations of the transporting nutrients the muscles weaken.
4. "Stomach". Manages food intake and digestion. This is the paired organ for the "Spleen". To understand the difference between the role of the "Spleen" as a ruler of the digestive processes and the "Stomach", you need to take into account that the "Spleen" is an "Yin" organ and the "Stomach" — a "Yang" one. Proceeding from the dialectical principle the digestive process is divided into two parts: "Yang" processes of grinding food and digestion — the function of the "Stomach", and "Yin" processes of nutrients assimilation — the function of the "Spleen". The maintenance of the balance between these two processes provides qualitative digestion.
5. "Heart". Responsible for the blood transporting. But the task of the "Heart" is not limited by this. According to the concepts adopted in traditional Chinese medicine, the "Heart" has the predominating role in managing of many mental and psychological functions which in modern Western medicine are considered belonging to the field of the central nervous system activity. (By the way, in many European languages “heartiness” and "soulfulness" are the synonyms, connection between the heart and mental qualities can be traced in traditions of many cultures. Herewith the division of physiological and psychological processes — the fate of modern medicine, but in traditional Chinese medicine the physical and mental processes are considered holistically and through the circulation of vital energy in the body.) Another function of the "Heart" — sweating. In Chinese medicine there is a rule: "Blood and sweat have the same origin." "The lack of sweat means no blood, the lack of blood means no sweat. And when excessive sweating the expenditure of blood occurs". In particular, when diseases there are the signs of heartquake and heart rhythm disturbance, if it has been allocated too much sweat and thus has been spent too much blood.
6. "Small intestine". According to the views of Chinese medicine, "small intestine" manages "the intake and transformation of substances". It takes nutrients from the stomach, transforms them, implementing simultaneously the separation of transparent and turbid substances. The transparent part (nourishing substance) is absorbed and passed through the spleen, distributed throughout the body, exercising its nutrition. The turbid part goes into the large intestine. The remaining from the metabolic processes watery digestive juice goes down to the bladder.
The "Heart" and the "Small intestine" are the paired organs. The Heart meridian comes from the heart and goes to the small intestine. The Small intestine meridian comes out of it and is connected to the heart. This inner connection performs the movement of the Fire element. Disorders in circulation of Fire leads to a pathological states. For example, when moving down Fire of the heart to the small intestine it evaporates the body fluid in it. This leads to infrequent urination and pinkish, with hot vapors urine. And motion of the "heat of the small intestine" to the heart can "singe" him. In this case the patient gets the state of excitation, rashes and blisters in the mouth and on the tongue.
7. "Bladder". Refers to the number of organs responsible for the exchange of fluids. The "Bladder" is the paired organ of the "Kidneys". The important function of the "Bladder" is "evaporation", which depends on the strength or weakness of Qi of the "Kidneys". Qi of the "Kidneys" helps the "Bladder" when urinating, ie in controlling the opening and closing of the "Bladder".
8. "Kidneys". According to the views of Chinese medicine, the function of the "Kidneys" is, first of all, in the production of the bone marrow, brain and spinal cord. The "Kidneys manages bones and at the same time are a source of conception and growth. They manage the sexual function and are responsible for the water exchange. According to Chinese medicine, retention and excretion of urine depends not only on the bladder, but also on the kidneys as the related to the process dense body. When enough Qi of the "Kidneys" the "Bladder" is fully capable to hold urine, normally open and close. This is the condition of the normal water exchange in the body. With a lack of Qi of the "Kidneys" the "Bladder" loses the ability to hold urine. The function of opening and closing of the bladder is disrupted, urinating goes out of control, there is too copious excretion of urine or urinary incontinence.
9. "Pericardium". Physically represents the outer shell of the heart. The "Pericardium" encloses the heart from the other organs of the chest. But apart from the protective function of the heart, on representations of Chinese medicine, it is responsible for the circulation of blood through the blood vessels. Together with the "Heart" the "Pericardium" has an impact on the central nervous system, affects the activity of intelligence and mental state.
10. "Triple Heater". The concept "Triple Heater" includes the upper, lower and middle heaters. The "Upper Heater" is located above the diaphragm and covers the dense organs of heart and lungs. The "Middle Heater" lies in the upper abdomen about on the height of the stomach, includes the dense organ of spleen and the hollow organ of stomach. The "Lower Heater" is below the navel in the lower abdomen, includes the both dense organs — liver and kidneys — and the hollow organs: small intestine, large intestine and bladder. The "Triple Heater" controls the operation of all internal organs, and if you try to draw a parallel with the functional systems from the perspective of modern medicine, the most appropriate option is the endocrine system. Although, of course, it will only be the physiological concordance, not including the completeness of representations about energy circulation, adopted in traditional Chinese medicine.
11. "Gallbladder". According to the concepts of Chinese medicine, it has a dual purpose — accumulation of bile and its secretion to the digestive tract. Qi of the "Gallbladder" is in conjunction with the mental state of a person. Mental illness and psychosomatic disorders such as insomnia, excessive intensity of dreams, palpitations, etc., in Chinese medicine are often treated through the gallbladder. The "Gallbladder" is closely connected with the "Stomach" and "Spleen", supporting them in performing their function of digestion.
12. "Liver". According to the concepts of Chinese medicine, it performs the following functions:
1. Accumulation and regulation of blood.
2. Transport and excretion of various substances from the body.
3. Managing of the tendons.
During the Tang dynasty Chinese doctor Wang Bin wrote in the comment to the book "Su-wen": "The liver accumulates blood and the heart transports it. When a person moves, the blood is sent to the vessels. If a person is at rest, the blood flows back to the liver".
A major function of the blood such as filtering, according to Chinese representations, is explained by the "love of the liver to the order".
Disturbance of the "Liver" functions is manifested primarily in two areas — the psyche and digestion. In Chinese medicine, there is a rule according to which the person's mental state is controlled not only by the heart, but is in the close connection with Qi of the "Liver." Disruption of the "Liver" functions leads to depressions. As the Chinese consider, "the liver loves order, she does not like sorrow and grief", "strong anger is harmful to the liver."
Another feature of the "Liver" is the managing of the tendons. This is due to the fact that the tendons feed on the blood, which accumulates in the liver. With the shortage of blood in the liver the nutrition of tendons is not provided.