TCM Organ Qi Cycle: Our Body Clock

Have you ever found yourself waking up at the same time every night and left wondering why? Or have you ever felt sluggish by 3pm and started searching for the nearest coffee shop to keep you afloat? This could be your organs trying to grab your attention. 

In traditional Chinese medicine theres a theory that each organ is related to specific times on the clock when they are functioning optimally and hold the most energy. A foreign idea for us here in the West but a very understandable concept once explained. There are 12 organ systems, 2 being accessory systems represented by this clock. Each organ as I have previously discussed are associated with an emotional symptom and this clock is the explanation for the symptoms that arise when the organ is out of balance. 


Here is a brief breakdown of each organ, their corresponding times and how the physical and emotional imbalances may arise. 

3 am - 5 am : Lung; The lung is responsible for moving the qi through the meridians and the entire body and maintaining the immune system. It is related to the emotion grief. You may find yourself waking up at this time if you are experiencing great grief or sorrow. If you lungs are imbalanced it manifests as asthma, coughing, wheezing, it also is shown in those who get sick easily.  

5 am - 7 am: Large Intestine; The best time for a bowel movement. Waking up at this time with indigestion can be a sign that whatever you ate the night before should be avoided or removed from your diet. This is the organ associated with 'letting go' in the literal and figurative sense. A sure sign of imbalance is shown in those who experience frequent constipation, dry stools, skin rash and having that feeling of being emotionally 'stuck'. 

7 am - 9 am: Stomach; The stomach's job is to digest and breakdown food, making this the most ideal time to eat a healthy, hearty breakfast. Those with stomach issues are usually very empathic and hypersensitive to their surroundings. A stomach Qi dysfunction may cause mental anxiety, bad breath and acid reflux.

9 am - 11 am: Spleen; The spleen extracts nutrients from food, transforms it into energy and transports it to every organ. This is the most optimal time to support your spleen by having a cup of (ginger) tea. Ginger is known to help support digestion making this the best time to have a cup or two. (My first ginger tea plug for the blog; if you follow me on Instagram you know how much I push the benefits of having a cup of ginger tea if you haven't you will now.) Some other foods that help support the spleen are: cinnamon, dates and sweet potato.

11 am - 1 pm: Heart; Having a siesta (nap) at this time is not too bad of an idea. In TCM this is the best time to relax and enjoy your lunch. The heart has an aversion to anything too heating both in the emotional and physical sense so avoiding stress, caffeine and doing high intensity exercise is a must. An imbalance of this organ can lead to palpitations, shortness of breathe and cold hands  and feet. 

1 pm - 3 pm: Small Intestine; Responsible for the separation of clear and turbid fluid, the small stomach transports these to the proper organs (clear to the bladder and turbid to the large intestine). This is the time when most of our feelings of dehydration begin. When imbalanced the symptoms manifest as bloating with gas or vomiting. 

3 pm - 5 pm: Urinary Bladder; The time of day most of us go searching for that midday pick-me-up especially if you are not properly hydrated. The bladder, along with its paired organ the kidney, are nourished by salty foods so this is a great time for a cup of miso soup to help strengthen these organs. If imbalanced, there is a likely chance you will experience burning when urinating, yeast infection or urinary inconsistence. 

5 pm - 7 pm: Kidneys; The kidneys are responsible for healthy reproduction, development and growth. Having a small healthy meal is essential for supporting this organ. This is the organ that houses our "essence" or "life force" making it so important to your general health. Some symptoms of imbalance show up as a lowered libido, lower back pain or even premature graying. 

7 pm - 9 pm: Pericardium; One of the accessory organs I mentioned earlier. The pericardium is the double-walled fluid filled sac around the heart which helps protect it from eternal jerk or shock. This is the best time to retreat and begin the "going to bed process." Meditation, yoga, stretching or cuddling are all gentle ways to ease into sleep mode.

9 pm - 11 pm: San Jiao (Triple Burner); The second of the two accessory systems the San Jiao is energetic without a physical organ. It embodies the upper, middle and lower parts of the human body. At this time it is best to start heading for bed, getting to bed earlier in the winter (hibernation period) and staying up a little later in the summer. 

11 pm - 1 am: Gallbladder; This organ system stores and excretes bile and is said to be the center of decision making and self-esteem. If you are not in bed by this time you are consuming your gallbladders energy store which can lead to digestion difficulties, poor judgement and even a lowered self-esteem. 

1 am - 3 am: Liver; If you have repressed anger or resentment you may find yourself consistently waking up night after night at this very time. The liver governs and stores blood. Not sleeping during this time can effect everyone's liver especially for females because of the importance of blood for menstruation (even for those of you going through menopause). Some symptoms that manifest due to an imbalance in the liver are anemia, irregular menstruation, headache and chronic fatigue. 

What times do you feel your body out of wack? Do you find yourself getting up at the same time every night? Start paying attention to the different signs your body is trying to show you, then leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you all!