‘Discovery’ of an Invisible Organ called a Meridian

Female acupuncture meridians.

According to Chinese medicine, meridians are the pathways through which the body runs its energy and other fundamental substances. (Image: Björn Wylezich via Dreamstime)

In 2018, American scientists published an article in the journal Scientific Reports of Nature, stating that they had uncovered an invisible organ called “interstitium,” or what Chinese medicine calls meridians. Scientists say that the latest discoveries have revealed a “highway” of fluid flow in the human body. This highway seems to be everywhere — under the skin, lurking around the arteries and veins, in the fibrous tissues between the muscles, and winding around the organs.

Researchers believe that for a long time, during dissection processes, scientists have destroyed the structure of the body’s interstitial tissue with the drainage of fluid and as a result, when these tissues are observed under the microscope, they are just a simple layer of structural tissue. Therefore, people never realized their existence as an organ. When this new organ was discovered, many media covered it as a piece of explosive news. Chinese medicine has known about meridians for thousands of years. So what is this all about? Today, we will talk about the history of the newly discovered “invisible organ.”

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The magic meridian

According to Chinese medicine, meridians are the pathways through which the body runs its energy and blood flow, contacts the internal organs, and communicates with the internal and external organs. The meridians and their collaterals are intertwined and spread throughout the body. The flow of energy and blood is vital to the health of the body. To use an analogy, meridians are like the traffic highway of the human body, and energy and blood are like the vehicles driving on the highway continuously. 

If the traffic is running smoothly, then everything is in order; correspondingly, the human body is also feeling relaxed and healthy. If something goes wrong, such as a long traffic jam, or a serious traffic accident, it will cause a series of problems. Correspondingly, it will bring headaches, fever, physical weakness, and so on. When you look at the meridian chart, it consists of many key points called “acupuncture points.” Acupuncture points are considered to be specific locations where blood and energy converge in and out of the circulation route of the body’s internal organs and meridians. They are like important stops on the traffic highway.

A traffic jam at night.
The meridians in the body are like a highway and if something goes wrong like a traffic jam, it will cause a series of problems. (Image: Jevanto via Dreamstime)

Chinese traditional medicine discovered that stimulating some specific acupuncture points could produce special effects for the relief and cure of discomfort in certain places. For example, massaging or doing acupuncture to the Hegu point, located between the base of your thumb and index finger, can cure pains on the five sense organs of the face, for example, a toothache, headache, or eye pain.

Another example is the “foot three miles” point on the Stomach Meridian which, as the name implies, means it is equivalent to walking three miles a day by pressing this point. This point is located 4 finger-widths below the knee and can relieve knee and leg pain, as well as regulate the function of the intestines and stomach. For problems such as stomach pain, flatulence, and so on, you can try this point.

Each point has its own different effects, and multiple points combined together can produce new healing effects. The meridian system and acupuncture points theory is quite profound. Many ancient Chinese doctors studied the meridian system and the earliest known record on meridian points dates back 5,000 years during the time of the Yellow Emperor. Together, they have continued to improve this very ancient system of Chinese medicine. For example, the treatment method of “moxibustion” uses heat to simulate the point by lighting a moxa (mugwort) stick on an acupuncture point. So how did the ancient Chinese know about the meridian system thousands of years ago?  

“Hitting the jackpot”: The discovery of meridian points 

Many meridian points were discovered by chance. For example, an ancient man went to the mountains one day to cut firewood and accidentally injured the Hegu point on his hand. In order to stop the pain and bleeding, he hurriedly pressed that part on his hand. Then suddenly, he discovered that his chronic headache had disappeared. The man then realized: “Oh, pressing this place can cure a headache,” so people discovered the existence of the Hegu point.

In similar ways, all meridian points in the human body were discovered intentionally and unintentionally. It sounds a bit unreal, but in fact, we cannot deny that some acupuncture points were actually discovered in such ways.

For example, Sun Simiao, a great medical scientist of the Tang Dynasty, recorded in his book A Thousand Essential Prescriptions, Volume 29, a method of treatment called the “Ah Yes Point.” Doctors would apply pressure to different parts of the patient’s body until the patient cried out: “Ah, this is it, this is it.” The doctor then presses or use needles or moxibustion on the part of the patient that has pressure, pain, or any abnormal sensation, and it really improves the condition. So it is called the “Ah Yes Point’ treatment. Isn’t it interesting? But having said that, the complex and profound meridian system could not have just been discovered by a stroke of luck. 

Moxibustion traditional Chinese medicine technique with burning mugwort moxa sticks placed on meridian points on woman`s back.
Once the ‘Ah Yes Point’ was found, the doctor could proceed with various treatments, including moxibustion. (Image: Microgen via Dreamstime)

The discovery of meridian points: The ‘internal view theory’

There is another theory called the “internal view theory,” which is what the ancients called “internal reflection.” A famous ancient Chinese physician, Li Shizhen, emphasized in his book The Eight Channels of the Qi Jing that “the only person who can check the tunnel of the internal view is the one who reflects on it,” meaning that the internal view of the internal organs and the tunnel of the meridians can only be reflected or seen internally through certain ways of cultivating the body and mind, such as through meditation. It means that ancient physicians with high attainments could close their eyes and see through the human body and its organs.

Not only that, but they could also use their power to drive the energy contained in the five organs to cure diseases. For example, historical records tell the story of Bian Que, another ancient Chinese physician. When he first met the Duke of Cai Huan, he said to him: “Oh, you have a disease in your skin that needs to be treated quickly.” The Duke of Cai Huan was very unhappy, thinking that this doctor liked to show off his skills by treating people who were not sick.

After a while, when Bian Que saw the Duke of Cai Huan for the second time, he said: “Oh, Duke of Cai Huan, your disease has reached your stomach and intestines, so you have to hurry up and treat it.” The Duke of Cai Huan, like last time, still did not listen. On the third occasion when Bian Que met with the Duke again, he turned his head and left straightaway.

The Duke of Cai Huan thought it was strange. “Why didn’t he advise me to cure my illness this time?” So he sent someone to ask Bian Que. Bian Que replied: “the Duke of Cai Huan’s illness is terminal, and there is no cure.” Not long after, the Duke of Cai Huan became really sick and died. How did Bian Que know about the illness of the Duke of Cai Huan?

Let’s hold this question first and talk about another story, the story of Hua Tuo and Cao Cao. In the historical text Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it is said that emperor Cao Cao always suffered from headaches. He searched all over the world for famous doctors, but no one could cure him.

A collection of porcelain figures depicting characters from the Chinese novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms."
In the historical text ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms,’ it is said that emperor Cao Cao always suffered from headaches. (Image: Xianghong Wu via Dreamstime)

Later, Hua Tuo, a renowned doctor of the times, proposed a method to Cao Cao, saying: “Yes, there is a method to cure you, but we have to split your head open and take out the illness.” According to present-day analysis, there was probably a tumor inside Cao Cao’s head. When Cao Cao heard of this, he was angry and thought Hua Tuo wanted his head. So Cao Cao ordered that Hua Tuo be locked up. Later, Cao Cao suffered from quite frequent migraines and when he thought of Hua Tuo, he learned that the physician had already died in prison. Cao Cao later died from the tumor.

So how did Hua Tuo know about Cao Cao’s tumor? Chinese medicine has always had a set of methods for confirming the diagnosis by looking, listening, asking, and feeling the pulse. However, from ancient times to the present day, there are very few great medical practitioners who can reach the level of Bian Que and Hua Tuo. This is because those ancient doctors were not only concerned with the practice of medicine, but they were also concerned about the cultivation of the mind and body.

Their hearts were full of compassion for the world, and they were always aiming to help others. Although they did not have a form of practicing Buddhism like monks, they had similar beliefs and shared similar values. So naturally, these great ancient medical doctors had a lot of extraordinary powers when they cultivated to a certain level. 

Some of you may feel this is still unbelievable, but many supernormal abilities such as clairvoyance and mind reading have been scientifically verified. Yoga practice theory believes that the human body has seven “chakras.” From the bottom to the top respectively, these are the root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown chakras. The third eye chakra is where the pineal gland is located. If you can see through this third eye, you can see things that others cannot see, and this is one of the recognized supernormal abilities in today’s world.

Colored circles representing the 7 chakras are superimposed on the silhouette of a man sitting on a rock in meditation.
Yoga practice theory believes that the human body has seven chakras: root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. (Image: Biuro9845 via Dreamstime)

It is also possible that the abilities of Bian Que and Hua Tuo to see into the body are of this kind. The yogic theory of chakra believes that the third eye chakra of ordinary people is blocked, so there is no way to see with this third eye. Moreover, the chakra channel of the third eye is very narrow and difficult to open. According to this theory, the left and right chakras meet at the intersection of the optic nerve. The right chakra is called the solar chakra for logic and the left chakra is called the moon chakra for emotions.

Ordinary people are so wrapped up in the seven emotions that excessive thinking and emotions make the left and right chakras swell like balloons, thus squeezing toward the middle. In this swollen status, the middle chakra channel is blocked, making it difficult for energy to rise to the top of the head.

To make the channel smooth, yoga practice requires people to cultivate an attitude of “forgiveness,” that is, “compassion and kindness” toward others and oneself so that both chakras for emotions and logic are in a state of peace in order to allow energy to pass through this narrow channel. Then isn’t this in line with the powers that all famous ancient doctors have achieved due to the cultivation of the mind?

Scientific proof of the existence of meridians

Previously, the theory of meridians and acupuncture points in Chinese medicine was not accepted by Western medicine. Western medicine theories adopt the empirical method of dissection, and after dissecting of the human body, no meridians can be found, so they believe that meridians do not exist.

This brings us to the issue of “seeing is believing.” In the wide spectrum of light, the human eye can only detect a narrow spectrum. Beyond the visible spectrum, you have infrared, ultraviolet, and x-rays, which cannot be seen by the naked eye. Previously, science had not discovered these things, but it did not mean they did not exist. A more likely reason is that science is not developed enough yet and instruments are not advanced enough to measure them.

A chart showing the electromagnetic spectrum with a seperate insert for the range of visible light.
In the wide spectrum of light, the human eye can only detect a narrow spectrum. (Image: VectorMine via Dreamstime)

Moreover, blood and energy flow and their vibrational frequencies are not really within the visible spectrum. The good thing is that today there are some cutting-edge scientific researchers who have used advanced instruments to discover the existence of meridian points. For example, Russian quantum mechanics physicist Konstantin Korotkov used the technique of “gas discharge visualization” and discovered some bright spots when testing the human aura. These bright spots are actually the acupuncture points in Chinese medicine. 

And just in 2021, the Harvard Medical School in the United States also observed clearly for the first time a continuous line of fluorescence migrating along the meridian points of the human body. The researchers said this new discovery actually corroborates the existence of meridians in Chinese medicine. For a long time, Western medicine has been treating the human body as a machine; when parts do not work, then just repair them; if they are not repairable, then just get a new part. But Chinese medicine walks a different path and follows the traditional Chinese idea of the unity of heaven and man.

Under Chinese medicine theory, the human being is seen as a whole, as a part of the natural operation of the entire universe. If the theory of Chinese traditional medicine is confirmed and recognized in the future, the superiority of its holistic approach to healing will be fully recognized by human society. The world’s medicine will enter a new era, and by then people may find that the culture left by Chinese ancestors is incredibly wise and profound. It is not a feudal superstition. Instead, it goes beyond Western empirical science.

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