Organ Disharmony in Chinese Medicine

surprised seagull at beach

We've discussed how acupuncture (and acupressure) can be used to bring balance to the meridians of the body to treat pain, but how do Licensed Acupuncturists treat conditions like fertility, depression, and indigestion? The answer lies in narrowing down which organ systems are off kilter, and the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) concept of organs can be very different than what you probably know.


In TCM, there are twelve main organs in the body, each having special functions. Some of these overlap with Western medicine: The Heart circulates blood, the Lungs control breathing, etc. Many others don't. Let's go into a little more detail on five of the "main" organ systems:

  • Spleen: Qi comes from the air we breathe and the food we eat, and the Spleen is the main digestive organ in TCM. It's in charge of holding our organs in place, keeping our blood in our vessels, pulling nutrients from food, and our day-to-day energy. We also call the Spleen the "origin of blood" as it produces blood to flow through the meridians, which corresponds a little more closely to its function in Western medicine. 
  • Liver: The "general" in charge of the movement of qi through the body, the Liver plays a huge role in TCM. The Liver is the organ most easily influenced by stress, and its disharmony can disrupt other organs. It also stores blood and has a strong tie to the reproductive system, especially menstruation in women.
  • Kidneys: When we run ourselves down to the point that the energy derived from our Spleen and Lungs isn't enough, we tap into our Kidneys as they're the body's reservoir. The Kidneys are linked to urination like in Western medicine, but they're also involved in growth and reproduction in TCM. While the Kidneys' vital substances naturally decrease as we age, poor diet and lifestyle choices can deplete the Kidneys' energy and lead to symptoms similar to adrenal fatigue in naturopathic medicine.
  • Lungs: As we mentioned, the Lungs control breathing, but they're also in charge of the TCM version of the immune system and control sweating. 
  • Heart: While the Heart's most important physical job is to pump blood, it also "houses the mind" in TCM, making it a huge player in sleep patterns and mental and psychological disorders.

In addition to the functions listed above, each organ system has a list of associated relationships with emotions, seasons, food flavors, sense organs, times of the day, and more. The body is a delicate balance of all of these systems, and an upset in one will usually affect the others over time. Ancient scholars predicted these patterns, and modern medicine is constantly proving them correct! The job of your Licensed Acupuncturist is to determine which pattern is causing your symptoms, and then develop a treatment plan to help the body get back into balance. 

Kathleen Ellerie 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.