The Chinese body clock elaborates upon important acupuncture theory, which pre-dates modern Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has been utilized by East Asian Medicine for centuries. Good health is demonstrated by optimal organ function. In ancient China, the affects of illness and disease and how they impacted the body were studied extensively and documented. This information was refined and charted into what acupuncturists know and refer to as the Chinese clock.
In Chinese medicine, 12 organ systems control and govern specific functions in the body. Each of these systems is most active for 2 hours within a 24 hour period. This can be likened to and has similarities to circadian rhythm and the impact this has on bodily functions.
Human health depends on the functioning and processing of these organ systems. Think of each organ system as more than just the physical, vital organ. An organ system encompasses both the visceral organ, along with its energetic associations and relationships.
For example, in allopathic / conventional medicine your heart is responsible for circulating blood around your body. In Chinese medicine, this is also true, but your heart energy is also associated with controlling blood vessels, is considered to open into the tongue and heart conditions manifest in the face and complexion. The body fluid associated with the heart is sweat and the heart is said to house the mind, mental activity, memory and sleep.
Our energy levels are dependent on the food we eat, what we drink, our sleep, our thoughts and our activities. When our energy is circulating smoothly, we experience good health. When our energy is out of balance, we can experience both emotional and physical symptoms. If this imbalance continues, it can lead to illness in our body.
This is the reason our daily routine and lifestyle choices support or hinder our health. Let’s take food and drink for instance. It seems obvious that the type of food we eat is important in nourishing our body, but when and how we eat is also important.
Do you eat on the run and quickly gobble down your food? Or do you take your time to enjoy the food and allow your body to digest it properly? Maybe you eat when you are stressed, upset or angry? Also, how much water do you drink each day? Do you drink enough fluid to stay properly hydrated and flush toxins and waste from your body?
Most people know the body repairs and heals as we sleep. Do you get enough sleep each night to support this? Optimal sleep is both the length and quality of our sleep. Maybe you toss and turn in bed trying to get to sleep or wake frequently during the night? We can support our sleep by avoiding over stimulation of our minds before bed and taking time to relax. Our aim is to wake refreshed and rested, clear-headed and alert.
To ensure you have adequate energy levels during the day, it is important to exercise in the right way, at the right times. When you experience energy dips or fatigue, this can prevent you from doing the things you want to do. By altering your lifestyle choices, you can support your health.
The Chinese Body Clock outlines which organ systems are active throughout the day. Here’s the breakdown:
5 AM to 7 AM is the time of the Large Intestine, making it a perfect time to have a bowel movement and remove toxins from the day before. It is also the ideal time to wash your body and comb your hair. It is believed that combing your hair helps to clear out energy from the mind. At this time, emotions of defensiveness or feelings of being stuck could be evoked.
7 AM to 9 AM is the time of the Stomach, so it is important to eat the biggest meal of the day here to optimize digestion and absorption. Warm meals that are high in nutrition are best in the morning. Emotions that are likely to be stirred at this time include disgust or despair.
9 AM to 11 AM is the time of the Pancreas and Spleen, where enzymes are released to help digest food and release energy for the day ahead. This is the ideal time to exercise and work. Do your most taxing tasks of the day at this time. Emotions such as low self-esteem may be felt at this time.
11 AM to 1 PM is the time of the Heart, which will work to pump nutrients around the body to help provide you with energy and nutrition. This is also a good time to eat lunch and it is recommended to have a light, cooked meal. Having a one hour nap or a cup of tea is also recommended during this time. Feelings of extreme joy or sadness can also be experienced at this time.
1 PM to 3 PM is the time of the Small Intestine and this is when food eaten earlier in the day will complete its digestion and assimilation. This is also a good time to go about daily tasks or exercise. Sometimes, vulnerable thoughts or feelings of abandonment my subconsciously arise at this time.
3 PM to 5 PM is the time of the Bladder, when metabolic wastes move into the kidney’s filtration system. This is the perfect time to study or complete brain-challenging work. Another cup of tea is advised as is drinking a lot of water to help aid detoxification processes. Feeling irritated or timid may also occur at this time.
5 PM to 7 PM is the time of the Kidneys, when the blood is filtered and the kidneys work to maintain proper chemical balance. This is the perfect time to have dinner and to activate your circulation either by walking, having a massage or stretching. Subconscious thoughts of fear or terror can also be active at this time.
7 PM to 9 PM is the time of the Pericardium, 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. A difficulty in expressing emotions may also be felt. However, this is the recommended perfect time to have sex or conceive.
9 PM to 11 PM is the time of the Triple Heater / San Jiao 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. Feelings of paranoia or confusion may also be felt.
11 PM to 1 AM is the time of the Gall Bladder and in order to wake feeling energized, the body should be at rest. In East Asian 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. Subconscious feelings of resentment may appear during this time.
1 AM to 3 AM is the time of the Liver and a time when the body should be asleep. During this time, toxins are released from the body and fresh new blood is made. If you find yourself waking during this time, you could have too much yang energy or problems with your liver or detoxification pathways. This is also the time of anger, frustration and rage.
3 AM to 5 AM is the time of the Lungs and again, this is the time where the body should be asleep. If woken at this time, nerve soothing practices are recommended, such as breathing exercises. The body should be kept warm at this time to help the lungs replenish the body with oxygen. The lungs are also associated with feelings of grief and sadness.
Understanding that every organ has a repair / maintenance schedule to keep on a daily basis, offers you the opportunity to learn how to treat yourself for improved health and well-being. It also allows you to identify exactly which organ system or emotion needs strengthening / resolving. Always use your symptoms and body cues as a guide, and if you make a connection above, such as that you get sleepy between 5 – 7pm, don’t hesitate to research what you can do to strengthen that meridian (which would be the kidneys). A great solution to deficient kidneys is having a sweet potato for breakfast!
Make sure to look at the emotional aspect too. If you’re sleepy during kidney time, do you have any fears holding you back from reaching your true potential? Are you afraid of rejection? Failure? Addressing this emotion will strengthen the organ and improve your physical health forever.
The Asian community has utilized this body clock for centuries and in general, they live happier, healthier, longer lives than most Americans. So there may be something to it after all. Try adjusting your day according to the body clock and see if it makes things better for you.