Monday, October 29, 2012

The Concept of Qi in Acupuncture

We acupuncture practitioners speak of "energy" flowing through the meridians. It is worth examining this concept further. The word "energy" is translated from Eastern literature from "qi" or "ki" but does not convey the real concept of the term. A better term is "life force". Bluntly speaking, if qi does not flow in the organism then the organism is in fact not alive. It is dead! Hence the suggested term is more appropriate, as if life force does not flow, life does not exist.

So, as life force flows along the meridians that can be charted on the human body. These charts have literally existed for thousands of years. They have mainly developed as people have used trial an error methods using sharpened implements on themselves and others to try to sort out various ailments. As men have a keen ability to invent and use abstract concepts, empirically based theories have developed around acupuncture. These help them to get a deeper understanding of different points along the meridians that help improve the flow of life force. The resulting improvement in health then feeds back into the theories, refining and improving their usefulness.

The meridians have now been divided into pairs and each pair being assigned to an element. There are five elements - Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. These elements have characteristics that effect our physiological, mental and emotional state. Constitutional weakness in at least one of these elements tend to exist in us and this give rise to various pathological states when the element is in distress. The acupuncture practitioner will diagnose the blockages and imbalance in the life force and treat the relevant points on the meridians. The resulting improvement will boost the natural healing ability of the body.

There are twelve main meridians that are named after the various body organs. These are shown with element associated with each pair.


Large Intestine


Gall Bladder

Small Intestine
Triple Burner

The two other meridians are the Ren and Du and these are not related to the elements, or more accurately, their function will affect all five elements. Hence they are not listed under any particular one.

The elements are also associated with the seasons as the meridian's energy characteristics vary with the changes in the surrounding natural environment. This means that the constitutionally weak element will, if distressed, will cause the person to experience problems with their health and well-being during the seasonal change. Here are the correspondences:

Metal - Autumn

Water - Winter

Wood - Spring

Fire - Summer (Early Summer)

Earth - Late Summer

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