In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is an organ clock that represents the time of the day when each organ is functioning optimally and has the most energy. This 24 hour cycle is believed to help us know when to exercise, eat, have sex, rest and sleep. It also acts as a way to communicate with a particular organ or meridian (energy channel) of the body. There are 12 organ systems and 2 accessory systems that are represented by this clock. Each organ system is also associated with an emotion, taste, sense organ, season, etc and I have provided a picture below that outlines this.
Here we will discuss the physical and emotional symptoms that arise if an organ is out of balanced. But keep in mind that if some of the symptoms don’t make sense (ie. Liver imbalance causing PMS symptoms), just know that TCM is a highly developed and complex form of medicine that very much differs from Western medical diagnosis.
1-3am : Liver: Involved in the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body. Regulates bile secretion, stores blood, regulates menstruation and is connected with the tendons, nails, and eyes. During this time toxins are released from the body and fresh new blood is made. If you’re not sleeping at this time, you can quickly become deficient, especially if you are female because of the importance of blood for menstruation (even for those going through menopause). The liver is also emotionally connected to anger, resentment, frustration, irritability, bitterness, "flying off the handle". You may find that you wake up between 1-3am if you have repressed anger or long standing resentment. Also if you have a large intake of drugs, alcohol or chemicals your liver may be having a hard time at detoxifying these also. Symptoms of liver imbalances include breast distension, menstrual pain, irregular menstruation, high pitches tinnitus, headache, irritability, inappropriate anger, excessive dreaming, depression, dizziness, dry, red eyes and other eye conditions, tendonitis. BEST TIME FOR: Deep resting & dreaming.
3-5am Lung: Respiration. Forms energy from air, and helps to distribute it throughout the body. Works with the kidney to regulate water metabolism. Important in the immune system and resistance to viruses and bacteria. Regulates sweat glands and body hair, and provides moisture to the skin. It is also emotionally associated with grief and sadness. You may find that if you’re waking up during these times you may be struggling with grief or sorrow. Imbalances may also show up as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and shallow breathing, dry skin, sweating, fatigue, cough, frequent cold and flu, allergies, asthma, and other lung conditions.
BEST TIME FOR: Sleeping soundly.
5-7am Large Intestine: This is the best time to have a bowel movement. The large intestine is all about ‘letting go’ physically and emotionally. 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 and have a shower helps to wash away old energy. Symptoms of malfunction include constipation, diarrhoea, dry stools, skin rash, and feeling emotionally ‘stuck’.
BEST TIME FOR: Wake up and drink water! Avoid caffeine and go for a brisk walk to get everything moving.
7-9am Stomach: The stomach’s function is the digestion & breakdown of foods, so this is the best time to eat a healthy & nourishing breakfast. Also, it is important to eat the biggest meal of the day here to optimize digestion and absorption. Worry, excess mental work or thinking and anger also affect the stomach. If out of balance, symptoms that may arise include acid regurgitation (reflux), stomach ulcer, nausea, vomiting, belching and bad breath.
BEST TIME FOR: Eat breakfast.
9-11am Spleen: Food digestion and nutrient absorption. Helps in the formation of blood and energy. Keeps blood in the blood vessels. Connected with muscles, mouth, and lips. Involved in thinking, studying, and memory. The emotions connected to the spleen are Worry, dwelling or focusing too much on a particular topic, excessive mental work. Symptoms of imbalance are Tired, loss of appetite, mucus discharge, poor digestion, abdominal distension, loose stool or diarrhoea. Weak muscles, pale lips. Bruising, excess menstrual blood flow, and other bleeding disorders.
BEST TIME FOR: Work and be active.
11am-1pm Heart: Regulates the heart and blood vessels. Responsible for even and regular pulse. Influences vitality and spirit. Connected with the tongue, complexion, and arteries. The emotions associated with the heart are lack of enthusiasm and vitality, mental restlessness, depression, insomnia, despair and over excitement. (Though as the heart is the ‘empire’ of the body, all emotions end up affecting the heart also). Some symptoms of a heart imbalance are Insomnia, heart palpitations and irregular heart beat, excessive dreaming, poor long-term memory, psychological disorders.
BEST TIME FOR: Eat lunch ( nourished and balanced- not overly filling) and socialize.
1-3pm Small Intestine: The small intestine separates the clear and turbid (dirty) fluids, and moves these to the urinary bladder and large intestine. If you haven’t drunk enough water during the day, you are more likely to feel dehydrated and thirsty during these times. When out of balance, conditions that may arise include duodenal ulcer, bloating with vomiting or gas and lower abdominal pain.
BEST TIME FOR: Solve your problems/sort out issues and get organised.
3-5pm Urinary Bladder: This is a time of the day when you may feel a drop in energy levels, especially if you are not well-hydrated. The urinary bladder stores & secretes urine (clear fluid), and is nourished by salty foods so having a bowl of broth soup, such as miso or veggie broth, during this time helps strengthen the bladder (and the kidney, which is it’s paired organ). When out of balance, you may experience burning when urinating, yeast infection, or urinary incontinence.
BEST TIME FOR: Work, study & drink tea.
5-7pm Kidney: Key organ for sustaining life. Responsible for reproduction, growth and development, and maturation. Involved with lungs in water metabolism and respiration. Connected with bones, teeth, ears, and head hair. Emotions that are associated with the kidneys are fear, weak willpower, insecure, aloof, isolated. Symptoms that may arise if there is an imbalance are frequent urination, urinary incontinence, night sweats, dry mouth, poor short term memory, low back pain, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, and other ear conditions. Premature grey hair, hair loss, and osteoporosis.
BEST TIME FOR: Eat dinner and restore your energy. Put yourself first.
7-9pm Pericardium: This is one of the accessory organs systems. Responsible for the brain, circulation and the reproductive organs. Pericardium influences relationships with other people. To support the pericardium, this is the time to do something gentle to help you ease into sleep, such as meditation, light stretching, reading, or cuddling.
BEST TIME FOR: Socialize, have fun, have sex and a perfect time for trying to conceive.
9-11pm San Jiao (Triple Burner): This is the second accessory organ system. Responsible for energy transfer, temperature & metabolism. During this time, to best support San Jiao, we should think about going to sleep during this time – having an earlier bed time in the winter, and staying up a little later in summer. Sleep with the sunrise and sunset. As the san jiao is broken up into an upper, middle and lower section, symptoms can vary depending on what is happening in your body.
BEST TIME FOR:Chill out, relax and read. Avoid eating.
11pm-1am Gall Bladder: Physically, the gallbladder stores and excretes bile, but emotionally, it is in charge of self-esteem and decision-making. If you’re not sleeping by this time, you are depleting your gall bladder’s energy stores, which over time, can lead to poor self-esteem, poor judgment, indecision, or difficulty digesting fats.
BEST TIME FOR: Sleep and regenerate.
Below shows the body clock in more detail:
Remember that this is just a guide line. If you are feeling unwell and are unsure of the reason, be sure to book in an appointment with the healthcare provider of you choice. They will be able to help you get on the road to health and wellness. And don't forget, it's all about the mind, body & soul!