TCM: Five Major Organs and Some Useful Acupoints

Updated: Sep 30

Welcome to this article series on Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM). The aim of this series is to provide you with foundational and practical knowledge of TCM that you can use to improve your own health at home in daily life. The recommendations in this series are simple, accessible, and mostly free. After all, good health should be something that is accessible to everyone!


Here is a clickable table of contents for this series:

  1. Introduction and Foundation

  2. The Five Elements Profiles

  3. Food and Cooking

  4. The Five Major Organs

  5. The Nine Body Constitutions

  6. The Body Clock

  7. Common Treatments from a Practitioner

  8. My Experience with TCM

This article is Part 4: The Five Major Organs.

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The previous articles looked at foundational concepts of TCM such as yin yang, acupoints, the five elements, and food. This article builds on the five elements framework to talk about the five major organs in TCM:

  1. Liver

  2. Heart

  3. Spleen (and Stomach)

  4. Lungs

  5. Kidneys

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Each organ has different functions, along with linked emotions and flavors. This article will go into each organ one by one, talking about its function, symptoms of imbalance, and how to improve its health.

This article also mentions a few acupoints for each organ. Try pressing and massaging those acupoints on yourself, especially if you suspect you have problems in the relevant organ. If you massage an acupoint and feel pain, then there's a blockage there, and you should massage that point for about 5 to 10 minutes a day until the pain reduces. Usually, the pain would reduce within a week. After massaging acupoints that felt pain, you can apply a microwavable heat bag on it to provide extra heat therapy and help that point heal faster.


If there's no pain but you think you have a problem in that organ, try massaging areas around that point because you might not have located the point correctly. If there's no pain and you don't think there's a problem in that organ, then just move on.


Liver

Functions:

The liver detoxifies the body and regulates the movement of qi and in the body. The liver’s partner organ is the gallbladder, and together, they aid with digestion and processing nutrients.


In the five elements, wood controls earth. That means the liver controls the digestive organs. If there is a prolonged problem in the liver, then the digestive organs will be next to have a problem.


From an emotional perspective, a healthy liver promotes feelings of love and compassion. The liver is most damaged by stress, anger, frustration, and resentment. Since stress is so common in our modern society, most people’s livers are not as healthy as people in the past.


Symptoms of Imbalance:

  • Eye problems: red eyes, itchy eyes, dry eyes

  • Anger problems: getting disproportionately angry at small things, getting frustrated all the time

  • Bitter taste in mouth in the morning

  • No appetite

  • Insomnia

  • Too many dreams during sleep

  • Menstrual pains, PMS anger

Improving Liver Health:

  • Build peaceful emotions through activities like walking, meditation, and yoga. This is the most important thing for your liver!

  • Get enough sleep and rest

  • Avoid alcohol because it hurts the liver

  • Do gentle exercise instead of intense exercise because the liver has to send blood to repair damage done by intense exercise

  • Stop eating 2-3 hours before sleep

  • Stop eating when 80% full

  • Add some sour foods: Sour is the taste associated with the liver. If you don’t like the sour taste, it usually means you need it. Examples of sour foods include lemon, lime, oranges, tomatoes, pineapple, olives, pomegranate, and loquat.

  • Eat more green foods, especially dark leafy greens


Liver Meridian and Acupoints:

The liver meridian starts at the big toe and goes up long the inner leg to the chest.


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From the picture, we can see 14 major acupoints along the liver meridian. Not all the acupoints are easy to locate and massage yourself, but three really important acupoints that are also easy to locate are the Tai Chong, San Yin Jiao, and Qi Men.


Tai Chong (太冲)

The Tai Chong acupoint is a key point on the liver meridian. It is located where your big toe bone meets your second toe bone. Press and massage this spot on both feet.


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This acupoint helps with headache, dizziness, high blood pressure, nearsightedness and other eye problems, abnormal menstrual cycle, and numbness in hands.


San Yin Jiao (三阴交)

This acupoint connects the liver, spleen, and kidney meridians, so it is a very important point. You can locate above your ankle at a distance of the length of your four fingers as shown in the picture:

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This acupoint helps with qi flow to liver, spleen, and kidneys; menstruation; resolving dampness; and calming the mind.


Qi Men (期门)

This acupoint is located a bit under the nipple. You can start on the nipple and then go down slowly, rib by rib. You should find it within 3 ribs.

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This point helps with problems such as bloating, chest pains, vomiting, and inflammation in the digestive organs and liver.


Heart

Functions:

The heart is in charge of blood flow. In TCM, the heart is the king of all organs, meaning that other organs will sacrifice their energies for the heart to maintain its balance. The stomach and liver are two very important organs for the heart; any damage to those organs also hurt the heart. That means poor digestion, chronic stress, and excessive emotion hurt the heart.


The heart is linked to your tongue, face, and pulse. The heart is in balance if the tongue is a healthy red color, the face has a healthy complexion, and the pulse is strong.


Symptoms of Imbalance:

  • Tongue appears pale or dark purple or cracked

  • Face appears pale or overly red

  • Pulse is weak

  • Insomnia and difficulty sleeping

  • Poor blood circulation

  • Spontaneous dreaming

  • Excessive and vivid dreaming

  • Craving bitter foods


Improving Heart Health:

  • Find reasons to smile: joy is the nurturing emotion for the heart

  • Go for a slow and steady walk

  • Manage stress with relaxation activities such as meditation and yoga

  • Eat red foods: Red is the color associated with the heart under the 5 Elements Theory. Examples of red foods include toma