TCM Organ Clock

Forgiveness on the Beachside Blog

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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the body from a very different perspective than allopathic medicine, and the organ systems don't always line up with the organs of Western medicine (even if they have the same name). One unusual characteristic of TCM organs is that they follow an "organ clock" in which each of the twelve systems has a two-hour block of time associated with it:

  • 3-5 AM Lung
  • 5-7 AM Large Intestine
  • 7-9 AM Stomach
  • 9-11 AM Spleen
  • 11 AM-1 PM Heart
  • 1-3 PM Small Intestine
  • 3-5 PM Urinary Bladder
  • 5-7 PM Kidney
  • 7-9 PM Pericardium
  • 9-11 PM San Jiao
  • 11 PM-1 AM Gallbladder
  • 1-3 AM Liver

So what does this mean? Certain bodily functions follow the clock - for instance having a bowel movement during the Large Intestine time and digesting breakfast and lunch during the times of the Spleen and Stomach - and symptoms that appear at the same time each day may indicate an imbalance in that organ system. Let's focus more on the latter...

Physical Symptoms

There are tons of correlations to various aspects of health in Five Element Theory, so it's worth tracking the times that physical symptoms appear, even if they seem completely unrelated to the organ systems on the clock. While they may be tied to something other than the clock - for instance itching that's worse at night may be due to a Yin deficiency rather than a San Jiao pattern and feeling low energy after lunch may be a digestive issue rather than a Heart imbalance - giving your Licensed Acupuncturist as much information as possible will lead to the most accurate TCM diagnosis.

Emotional Symptoms

Organ systems also have corresponding emotions, and some tend to flare up according to the clock. Do you feel anxious before bed? That can be tied to a Yin deficiency...but the Pericardium may also be the culprit. Do you wake up between three and five? That can be a physical manifestation of the Lungs - for instance if your allergies have been acting up - but there also may be an emotional root if you've been feeling sad or depressed.


The most common example of this that we see at the clinic is waking up between one and three, especially if mind racing keeps a patient from getting back to sleep quickly. The Liver's emotion is anything on the spectrum of anger, including stress, frustration, irritability, and even road rage. Unfortunately modern society tends to put us in a stressed state, and as the major detoxification organ, the liver needs to process everything from old hormones to exogenous chemicals. Green and sour foods can help the Liver system get back into balance, as can herbs, supplements, and or even simple teas. Even more important, though, is establishing a regular stress management routine. Practice yoga, engage in deep breathing, enjoy a hobby, meditate, talk to a friend... Do whatever it takes to keep stress under control.

Organ Clock on the Beachside Blog

Of course, cyclical symptoms can be a result of a myriad of other factors. Weather patterns, work schedules, habit routines, medication timing, and a variety of other influences can be the cause, but if you've accounted for all other stimuli and still notice the symptoms at the same time, the organ clock may be the key to finding the root imbalance.

Kathleen Ketola is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.