Abimoxi: Fundamentals of Acupuncture

Chapter 1

Channels and Collaterals Theory

Introduction

The Theory of Channels and Collaterals is based on the practical experience of acupuncturists including the combined information on the results of treatment observed and passed on from teacher to student over centuries of practice. This experience forms the basis for the study of the channels (Jing1) and collaterals (Luo4) of the human body involving the physiology and pathology associated with the circling of life energy, chi. Chi underlies the theory, since it is understood to flow through the organs and digestive organs, which are connected through the relationship with the channels and collaterals.

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Jing and Luo are distinct in that Jing (channels) pass vertically as well as internally to externally within the body whereas Luo pass approximately perpendicularly from the channels. Jing form the main pathways, while Luo make up the branches and are, therefore, smaller than Jing. Jing and Luo function to connect the organs and digestive organs internally. Externally they connect to the limbs (arms and legs). In total, the channels and collaterals unite the human body into a completely integrated system. Thus, everything within the human body is connected. As such, one aspect of the body can influence the other, both in health and illness. The Jing and Luo provide passage for the chi and blood, nourishing the yin and yang, thereby maintaining a balance. The entire body works together in this manner through the Jing and Luo.

Overview

The twelve regular Jing, eight special Jing, and fifteen Luo connect with one another forming the Jing - Luo system. The twelve regular channels are divided into four groups. These include the Three Yang Channels of the Hands, Three Yin Channels of the Hands, Three Yang Channels of the Feet, and Three Yin Channels of the Feet. The specific channels within these groups are listed in the following table.

Three Yang Channels of the Hands

  • Yang2 Ming2 Large Intestine Channel of the Hands
  • Shao4 Yang2 Triple Heater Channel of the Hands
  • Tai4 Yang2 Small Intestine Channel of the Hands

Three Yin Channels of the Hands

  • Tai4 Yin1 Lung Channel of the Hands
  • Jue2 Yin1 Pericardium Channel of the Hands
  • Shao4 Yin1 Heart Channel of the Hands

Three Yang Channels of the Feet

  • Yang2 Ming2 Stomach Channel of the Feet
  • Shao4 Yang2 Gall Bladder Channel of the Feet
  • Tai4 Yang2 Urinary Bladder Channel of the Feet

Three Yin Channels of the Feet

  • Tai4 Yin1 Spleen Channel of the Feet
  • Jue2 Yin1 Liver Channel of the Feet
  • Shao4 Yin1 Kidney Channel of the Feet

When considering the sibling yin organ – yang digestive organ relationships, which include the lung-large intestine, stomach-spleen, heart-small intestine, urinary bladder-kidney, pericardium-triple heater, and gall bladder-liver, the pericardium-triple heater is not included. However, it is apparent that the channel relationships within Abimoxi include the channels associated with the pericardium and triple heater, specifically the Shao4 Yang2 Triple Heater Channel of the Hands and the Jue2 Yin1 Pericardium Channel of the Hands.

The eight special channels are comprised of the Zen, Du, Chong, Dai, Yin Wei, Yang Wei, Yin Chao, and Yang Chao channels. Fifteen collateral channels make up the Luo network and include fourteen collaterals plus the spleen special luo channel.

The Twelve Regular Channels

As mentioned above in the Overview section, the twelve regular channels are comprised of three yin channels of the hands (lung, pericardium, and heart), three yang channels of the hands (large intestine, triple heater, and small intestine), three yang channels of the feet (stomach, gall bladder, and urinary bladder), and three yin channels of the feet (spleen, liver, and kidney). These are the main channels of the Jing-Luo system and are, therefore, termed the regular jing.

The specific names of the twelve channels are derived according to the associated organs, limbs (hands, legs), and yin versus yang character of the organs. Each channel uses the organ name combined with the location of the channel passing through the hands or legs. The location refers to the inside, outside, front, back, or middle of the different limbs. The middle of the body can also refer to the special channels. The Theory of Yin and Yang is utilized to assist in the name specificity of the various channels for purposes of communication. In general, the yang channels are located on the outside, while the yin channels are located on the inside, making up the three yang and three yin of the hands and legs, totaling twelve channels. The middle location can refer to the special channels, Zen and Du. All of the channels combine with one another.

The San Yang (Yang Channels) of the hands and legs are aligned as yang ming in front (outside) of the hands and legs; shao yang in the middle; and tai yang is on the back. The San Yin (Yin Channels) of the hands and legs are aligned as tai yin in the front; jue yin in the middle; and shao yin on the back. The position changes only for the yin channels of the liver and the spleen. Here, the position changes above eight body inches from the ankle. Below this point the liver channel is in the front position; the spleen channel is in the middle position; and the kidney channel is in the back position. However, above eight body inches from the ankle, the spleen channel changes to the front position, while the liver channel reverts to the middle position. The kidney channel remains in the back position.

The organs and sibling digestive organs are related to one another. The twelve channels associated with these organs and digestive organs also have a similar sibling relationship. These include the lung and large intestine channels, stomach and spleen channels, heart and small intestine channels, urinary bladder and kidney channels, pericardium and triple heater channels, and the liver and gall bladder channels. These form the sibling channel relationships. The yin channels belong to the yin organs and yang channels belong to the digestive (yang) organs. The sibling yin and yang channels are connected to each other, thus connecting the organs via the channels. The sibling relationship provides a physiologic connection as well as a connection with respect to illness or disease. As such, an illness can pass from an organ or organ channel to the sibling channel and sibling organ. In health, beneficial nutrition can transfer via this pathway, however, during illness, the pathology can pass via this pathway as well. The illness can transfer from the organ to its channel, into the sibling channel, then to the sibling organ.

The twelve channels traverse the body in the following manner. The three hand yin channels form a pathway from the chest to the inside of the fingers of the hands. The three hand yang channels pass from the outside of the hands to the head. The three yang channels of the feet travel from the head to the feet. The three yin channels of the feet form a pathway from the feet to the abdomen. The yin channels and yang channels connect to each other in the limbs (hands and feet). The yang channels connect to each other on the head and face, and the yin channels connect to each other on the chest. Because of these connections a continuous circulation system is established connecting the twelve channels through the hands and feet, linking the yin and yang as well as the exterior and interior of the body.

The Eight Special Channels

The eight special channels are not related to organs or digestive organs. Neither is there a sibling relationship. The eight channels include the Zen, Du, Chong, Dai, Yin Wei, Yang Wei, Yin Chao, and Yang Chao.

The Zen, Du, and Chong channels originate at the uterus and exit at the Huei4 Yin1. The Huei4 Yin1 is located midway between the anus and genitals. These three channels are also referred to as those with one root and three branches. The Zen channel travels along the centerline of the torso (abdomen and chest) ending at the point lying midline between the lower lip and chin. The Du channel travels up the center of the back along the spinal column, over the head, and onto the face. The Chong Mai (channel) travels along the Shao Yin Kidney channel to the mouth. The Dai channel starts at the bottom of the ribs and circles around the waist. The Yin Wei begins at the inside of the calf of the legs, traveling along the inside of the legs to the throat, connecting to the Zen channel in the throat. The Yang Wei begins at the outside of the ankles, traveling along the outside of the legs, to the neck where it connects to the Du channel. The Yin Chao starts at the inside of the ankles, traveling with the Shao Yin Kidney channel up to the inside corner of the eyes, where it meets with the Yang Chao channel. The Yang Chao channel starts at the outside of the ankles, traveling with the Tai Yang Urinary Bladder channel, to the inside corner of the eyes, where it meets the Yin Chao channel. It then travels along with the Tai Yang Urinary Bladder channel upward, meeting with the Shao Yang Gall Bladder channel of the feet at the back of the head.

As the eight special channels travel between the regular channels, two functions are fulfilled. These include bridging the twelve regular channels together and storage and release of chi and blood to the twelve regular channels as required.

The function of connecting or bridging each of the twelve regular channels together involves adjustment of chi and blood. The Du channel serves as the ocean of the yang channels. The Du channel adjusts the chi function of the yang channels. The Zen channel acts as the ocean of the yin channels, adjusting the yin channel chi function of the entire body. The Chong channel possesses a relationship with the Zen and Du Channel. Here, the stomach channel (a post-birth channel) and the kidney channel (a pre-birth channel) are involved, lending to the terms “the ocean of the twelve channels” and “the ocean of the blood.” It can store chi and blood of the twelve channels. The Dai channel controls the yin and yang leg channels since it forms a circle, combining them. The Yin Wei and Yang Wei control the interior and exterior of the entire body. The Yin Chao and Yang Chao control the exercise capacity of the lower body as well as the ability to sleep.

The eight special channels possess the ability to store and nourish chi and blood to the twelve channels. When blood and chi within the twelve channels are in excess, the eight special channels store the overflow. On the other hand when the body is weak, requiring chi and blood, the eight special channels release the stored chi and blood when needed, thus nourishing the body.

Of the eight special channels only the Zen and Du channels include acupoints. Thus, including the twelve regular channels, fourteen channels in total include acupoints that form pathways. The pathways are the foundation for acupuncture treatment and entry of herbals into the channels for treatment.

The Luo Mai

The fifteen collateral channels are comprised of fourteen pure Luo channels plus the Special Spleen Luo channel. Twelve Luo channels are located in the hands and legs below the elbows and knees. These function as bridges connecting the sibling channels. The Zen Luo channel at the Jiu1 Wei3 point spreads out to the entire abdominal area. Needling this point will clear abdominal complaints. The Du Luo channel at the Cheng2 Chiang2 point spreads out over the head and back. The Special Spleen Luo channel at the Da4 Bao1 point spreads out to the chest and the ribs. Needling these points provides similar benefit to the respective areas as occurs when needling the Jiu1 Wei3 point.

Physiologic Function of the Channels

Channels are connected to the organs, digestive organs, and the extremities. The channels function in all of these areas. While the organs, digestive organs, bones, tendons, and other tissues possess specific physiologic activity, they also work together coordinating the exterior and interior, upper and lower aspects of the body with the associated organs and tissues. This type of coordination relies upon the integrated network provided mainly through the channel system. The twelve regular channels, the luo bridges, and the eight special channels connect the exterior and interior aspects of the body as well as the upper and lower portions, including the organs and digestive organs. This network allows the entire body to be complete and function as one unit.

Channels provide a conduit through which the chi and blood flow and nourish the body, as well as protecting the exterior against attack and preserving the appropriate functioning of the body. The human organs require chi and blood for nourishment to function properly. Chi and blood accomplishes this function by maintaining life essence, but rely upon the channels for transportation to the whole body. This mechanism involves yin chi (nutrition) and wei chi. When yin chi is strong, essence can be stored effectively in the five organs. The five organs, in turn, support the digestive organs and sustain proper digestive activity. Yin chi travels in the channels while wei chi travels on the surface of the skin. Together yin chi and wei chi spread out to protect the entire body, sustaining and supporting the various activities and functions.

Application of Channel Theory

Pathology

In pathology, channels can act as conduits for the passage of external influences within the body that cause illness (eg. evil chi). For example, with a weakened immune system, exterior pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses, can enter the body then utilize the channels as pathways within the body. For instance, as exterior bacteria attack the skin, the organisms penetrate deep into the body to the organs from the surface. As the bacteria attacks superficially (wei level), fever, aversion to cold, headache, and body aches are observed. Because the lung controls the wei level, the lung channel thereby offers an entrance for exterior pathogens to enter the lung causing cough, asthma, and chest congestion, and chest pain, which are considered typical lung associated symptoms. Channels are also the bridge from the organs to the digestive organs, therefore illness can be transferred to the sibling organs in this manner. The agents of infectious diseases use the channels as bridges to the other organs. For example, heart-heat can move into the small intestines, the sibling organ, via the channel. Liver syndromes can invade the stomach, a non-sibling organ, by crossing channels. Illnesses of the stomach can influence the spleen, the sibling organ. Organ and digestive organ illnesses can transfer via the channels causing additional problems in other associated organs. Symptoms within the internal organs can pass through the channels to other areas. For instance, pain within an internal organ can transfer to the surface or other area within the body via the channels (referred pain). Liver disease can result in rib cage pain via this mechanism. Kidney disease can lead to pain in the waist through this mechanism as well. Similarly heart-fire can cause mouth and tongue ulcers; and stomach and large intestine heat can cause gum inflammation and pain.

Diagnosis

Because the channels provide pathways to the organs a channel is able to demonstrate symptoms of illness within the associated organ. Therefore, observing the location of symptoms occurring along a particular channel pathway can identify an organ with illness. For example, headache at the top of the head is related to the liver since the liver channel travels to the top of the head. The chest, rib cage, and lower abdomen are located along the path of the liver channel as well. Rib cage pain therefore reflects an illness within the liver. Knowledge of the channel pathway and location of symptoms provides insight into status of organs with respect to disease.

Treatment

Acupuncture is the treatment modality that utilizes points along channels, referred to as acupoints. Acupoints along channels offer a major mechanism for treatment. When stimulated these points release channel chi that flows back to the organ, adjusting organ chi and blood, promoting re-healing of the body. The choice of acupoints is dependent upon identification of the channels and organs that have been affected by the illness. For example, in treating abdominal pain Zhu2 San1 Li3, located on the yang ming stomach channel, is included. Specifically, the treatment of stomach pain includes both the Zhu2 San1 Li3 and Liang2 Chiu1 points. Similarly, in treating lower back pain the Wei3 Zhong1 point is included, which is located on the foot tai yang urine bladder channel. In treating headache the Lie4 Chue1 point on the tai yin hand lung channel is stimulated. Facial pain or other illnesses associated with the face generally include the He2 Gu3 point, located along the yang ming large intestine channel. Pain involving the rib cage includes the Yang2 Ling2 Chuan2 and Tai4 Chong1 points in the treatment. The treatment of swollen, red, and painful eyes includes the Tai4 Yang2 point, and the treatment of sore throat will include the Shao4 Shang1 point. The underlying concept in all of these treatments involves identification of the associated channel first, then choice of the specific points.

In summary, the channels, including the twelve regular and eight special channels, follow specific pathways. The channel pathways pass through the respective organs. Therefore, treatment of the internal organs can be accomplished by way of the acupoints along the pathway of the organ channels.

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