What is the Chinese Medicine Clock?

What is the Chinese Medicine Clock?

What is the Chinese Medicine clock?

The Chinese medicine organ clock takes 24 hours and divides our day into 12 two-hour intervals. Each interval represents a Qi (vital force) moving through a specific organ system, which comes from the Zang-Fu organ network and follows the 5 Elements of Chinese Medicine.

The Chinese medicine body clock is built upon the natural Yin-Yang ebb and flow of Qi and blood moving through the Zang-Fu organs.

During the day, our body follows the presence of the Sun, so it is mostly in a Yang state, and towards late-afternoon, the sun starts to descend and so body begins to enter a more Yin state. Read more about Yin-Yang balance here.

How is it used?

TCM practitioners use the Chinese medicine organ clock to identify possible patterns of disease based on symptoms experienced during certain times of the day. For example, if you're the type of person who wakes up from 3-5am each morning, you may have underlying grief or sadness that is affecting the lung condition. Similarly, pent up anger will affect the liver so you will feel particularly fired up during from 1-3am. The Chinese medicine body clock helps identify what are ways you may need to rebalance your yin and yang.

How can we use the Chinese Medicine clock to inform our daily lives?

During this 24 hour period, Qi and blood are continuously in an ebb-and-flow of storage or circulation - drawing inward then drawing outwards.

Qi and blood are stored in the Liver, who is responsible for holding and cleansing the blood so it's ready for a fresh new cycle to support your body for the next day. This is why ensuring your body is in deep sleep from 1-3am is important to make sure you have a fresh reserve to work with for the brand new day. Following this important interval, all activity for the next 12-hour - so from 3 a.m.-3pm focuses on transforming, digestion, transporting, and eliminating through the lungs, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, and small intestine.

By mid-afternoon, energy again moves inward to support internal organs associated with restoring and maintaining the system. The purpose is to move fluids and heat, as well as to filter and cleanse—by the pericardium, triple burner (coordinates water functions and temperature), bladder/kidneys and the liver.

Let's zoom-in on each 2 hour interval:

  • 1-3am is the most important for modern day humans - Liver time. It's when the body should deep asleep to ensure the Liver can focus on removing toxins from the blood and create fresh new blood is made. If you're one to wake up around this time, there may be excess Yang energy that makes it hard for your liver to detox leading to liver Qi stagnation which shows up as excess anger or frustration.
  • 3-5am is the time of the Lungs and definitely when the body should be asleep. If you are awoken during this time, you may have pent up grief or sadness. You can practice deep breathing exercises to sooth the lungs and keep your body warm to properly replenish your body with oxygen.
  • 5-7 am is when the Large Intestine is moving the bowels and packing up toxins from yesterday. It is also the best time to drink a lot of water to ensure you smooth passage of the stool (especially if you're the constipated or heated type!)
  • 7-9am is prime time for the Stomach so it is important to eat nourishing food during this time to optimize digestion and nutrient absorption. Warm meals that are high in nutrition (such as Jujube and Adzuki bean porridge). These ingredients help strengthen the blood and Qi. 
    Basically - think breakkkkkkfast! Don't skip it!
  • 9-11am is the time of the Spleen, who is responsible for transforming and transporting food and water. Enzymes are released to help digest food and release energy for the day ahead so this is an ideal time to focus or exercise. Do your most energy-required tasks at the start of the day, because your body is-the most fresh!
  • 11am- 1pm is the time of the Heart which will work to circulate Qi and blood throughout the body. This is also a good time to eat lunch and it is recommend to eat a warm cooked meal. Having a short nap after lunch is is also recommended during this time.
  • 1-3pm is Small Intestine time, when food eaten earlier will complete its digestion, so this is a good time to continue with tasks or complete an exercise.
  • 3-5pm is when the Bladder focuses on moving metabolic wastes into the kidney’s filtration system. This is the perfect time to read or drink a relaxing cup of tea to help your body with this detoxification process.
  • 5-7pm is when the Kidneys ensure blood is filtered and the body ensures that the Kidney essence is in check. This is the perfect time to eat a warm dinner, followed by light walking or stretching.
  • 7-9pm is the time of Circulation when nutrients are carried to the capillaries and to each cell. This is the perfect time to read. Avoid doing mental activities at this time.
  • 9-11pm is when the Triple Heater or endocrine system where the body’s homeostasis is adjusted and enzymes are replenished. It is recommended to sleep at this time so the body can conserve energy for the following day.
  • 11pm-1am is when the Gall Bladder and in order to wake feeling energized the body should be at rest. In Chinese medicine, this period of time is when yin energy fades and yang energy begins to grow. Yang energy helps you to keep active during the day and is stored when you are asleep.

By understanding that the chinese medicine clock has a specific Zang-Fu organ, we can choose to schedule our daily lives based on which organ has the optimal time for functioning. Bt doing this, we can be more mindful about when we're doing certain things and actually support our body in the process of their natural designated tasks.

What if I'm just an night owl?

Okay so we all know someone that just can't get up in the morning — sound familiar? Yes in TCM there's something to be said about that. To live in dissociation from the ways of nature is to very much create hardship for your body. Always listen to you body cues to serve as a guide to understanding how to apply self-care. Every day, week, month, season looks different for you - and that's ok. The first step, is simply to notice and listen.

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