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The functions of the TCM San Jiao (triple burner)


To some, the San Jiao is thought to be a Yang organ.  To some, the San Jiao is thought to be where the Yuan (original) Qi flows.  To some, the San Jiao is thought to be three divisions of the body.

The following discussion of the San Jiao will be divided into these three ideas (as seen in Maciocia – the foundations of Chinese Medicine).




The San Jiao as a Yang organ:


“The San Jiao is the official in charge of irrigation and it controls the water passages.” (Simple Questions).   In this thought, the San Jiao has form like all the other organs.  It helps to receive food, digest it, transform and transport it, and excrete the wastes.  The San Jiao moves fluids in the upper Jiao through the defensive Qi, through the mid Jiao as nutritive Qi, and through the low Jiao as body fluids.  The ability of the Stomach, Lungs, and Kidneys and Bladder to disperse their fluids is dependant on the San Jiao.  Therefore malfunction of the San Jiao can Manifest in blockage of the upper, mid, or low Jiao.  This can cause sneezing, abdominal distension, and retention of urine.



The San Jiao is where the Yuan Qi flows:


In this theory, the San Jiao has no form, it is not an organ, it is a collection of functions.  The Classic of Difficulties says that the Yuan Qi resides between the Kidneys and spreads to the Zang Fu via the San Jiao, it then enters the twelve meridians and emerges at the Yuan-source points.  The Yuan Qi can only make possible all body functions through its spreading by the San Jiao.  Therefore it greatly effects the warming for digestion, and excretion. 



The San Jiao as three divisions of the body:


This theory comes from both the Spiritual Axis and The Classic of Difficulties.  The upper Jiao is from the diaphragm up (Heart, Lungs, Pericardium, throat and head), the mid Jiao is from the diaphragm to the umbilicus (Stomach, Spleen, and Gallbladder), and the area below the umbilicus is the low Jiao (Liver, Kidneys, Intestines, and Bladder).

Upper Jiao: distributes the fluids in a mist-like form all over the body through the use of the Lungs.

Mid Jiao: digests and transports the essential nourishment from food and drink to the whole body.

Low Jiao: separates the essences from the dirty in our foods and fluids.  This functions ensures excretion of urine.

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