Seattle Acupuncture – The San Jiao Meridian

The San Jiao meridian is the only meridian in Chinese medicine that isn’t associated with a western bodily organ. The function of this meridian is very controversial even to this day because everyone has a different idea of what part of the body the San Jiao meridian is describing. In my opinion the San Jiao is the meridian of the lymphatic system. Let me show you how I came to this conclusion.

The San Jiao meridian is identified by many names like the Triple Burner or the Triple Warmer. The San Jiao is broken into three parts, the Upper Burner, the Middle Burner and the Lower Burner (aka triple burner). It is said that the Upper burner is like a mist, the Middle burner is like a froth of bubbles and the lower burner is like a drainage ditch. What this means is that the Upper burner, which includes the lungs and heart, has the function of distributing the lung Qi and fluid. In other words, it takes the energy we gain from the air and moves it throughout the entire body (the circulatory system). The middle burner includes the spleen (aka the pancreas), the liver, and the stomach and its main function is to help in the fermentation of food (digestion process). And last, the lower burner includes the kidneys, the urinary bladder, the large intestine and the small intestine. Its main function is the separation of good, usable energy, from bad, unwanted energy. In Chinese medicine, this is called “separating the clear from the turbid,” or in other words, separating the nutrients our body needs from the garbage it will be getting rid of. As you can see the San Jiao meridian includes the entire body, the upper, the middle and the lower but the description of where the San Jiao is located seems to be elusive. How can some bodily function incorporate all of the organs and yet not be an organ? Let me tell you a little more about the functions of the San Jiao, in Chinese medicine, before we piece it all together.

The functions of the San Jiao meridian is to move your Yuan Qi, which is the energy that was given to you from your parents at birth, from the Kidneys to the rest of the organs. The San Jiao is also in charge of moving bodily fluid throughout the entire body and it regulates water metabolism. Now lets compare this description to the western medicine description of the lymphatic system.

In western medicine, the lymphatic system is a system of bodily fluid that circulates, without the help of the heart, around the entire body due to pressure systems within the cells (the function of water metabolism in Chinese medicine). Its function is to aid the immune system in destroying pathogens and removing waste (the Yuan Qi is the immune system given to you by your parents), it removes dead or cancerous cells (separating clear from turbid), and it works with the circulatory system to deliver oxygen and nutrients to cells (the triple burner). This description matches perfectly with the Chinese medicine function of the San Jiao.

The San Jiao meridian starts on the lateral corner of the ring finger nail. It moves up the forearm, up the triceps, across the trapezius muscle, around the ear and ends at the outside corner of the eye. The San Jiao is also called the Hand Shao Yang Meridian and it is paired with the Gall Bladder or the Foot Shao Yang Meridian. The San Jiao is considered a yang organ whose paired yin organ is the Pericardium. It is said that the San Jiao is the hinge for all of the yang organs due to the fact that it distributes the Yuan Qi (the energy from the Kidneys) everywhere. The time of the San Jiao is from 9-11pm and it is associated with wood and fire. The relationship between the San Jiao, the Gall Bladder and the Pericardium is very important. The Gall Bladder helps regulate the smooth movement of Qi throughout our body due to its very close relationship to the liver. The smooth function of the liver and gallbladder is impacted when we are dealing with strong emotions. The pericardium is the protector of the heart, which controls our mental abilities and our thoughts. This means that the San Jiao influences the body on a mental and emotional level. A more practical application of this can be shown through our immune system. When we are under emotional and mental stress, the integrity of our immune system is damaged, therefore we get sick more often. Below are some of the common acupuncture points on the San Jiao meridian and their functions.

SJ-3- commonly used for migraines or headaches.

SJ-4- the yuan source of the San Jiao, it helps regulates the meridian and put it back in balance.

SJ5- probably one of the most common points used in acupuncture. It is usually paired up with Gall Bladder 34 to make “the female four gates.” The female four gates are used to move stagnated Qi. This point is also the confluent point of the Yang Wei Mei which is one of the extraordinary channels in the body.

SJ-6- a very common point used for constipation

SJ 17- very common point used to unclog the ears and sinuses.

Below is link to learn more about the western lymphatic system.
The Lymphatic System

"I was delightfully surprised after my first acupuncture visit with Ben. I had never received acupuncture before and I honestly was quite nervous about it. The way in which Ben treated me was very warm and comforting. He allowed me to get over my own personal needle fears and try acupuncture. And I am so thankful that I did because it..."

~SH, Seattle, Wa

Ben Dorfman, E.A.M.P.

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