To explain pathological transmission
Disease is usually transmitted along the meridians. The exogenous pathogenic factors are transmitted from the external to the internal, from the collaterals to the meridians, and from the meridians to the viscera. Thus the pathological changes of the viscera can be transmitted by the meridians. For example, disease of the zang-organs can be transmitted to the fu-organs and the disease of fu-organs can be transmitted to the zang-organs by the meridians in external and internal relationship with each other. On the other hand, the diseases of the five zang- organs can be transmitted among them because of the multiple relationships among the meridians and collaterals.
For example, the liver disease can be transmitted to the lung and the stomach; the kidney disease can be transmitted to the heart and the lung; etc. Besides, disease of the internal organs can be transmitted to the surface of the body, leading to pathological changes of the related constituents, organs and orifices. For example, angina pectoris may lead to tenderness on medial side of the upper limb along which the heart meridian runs; the disease caused by stomach-fire may cause swelling pain of the gums through which the stomach meridian runs; up-flaming of liver-fire may cause ocular disease, etc.
To explain the pathogenesis
The occurrence of exogenous disease is usually caused by invasion of pathogenic factors which first attack the surface of the body, then invade the collaterals with scanty defensive qi, and gradually get into the internal part of the body. The occurrence of endogenous disease is caused either by insufficiency or imbalance of qi, blood, yin and yang. If qi, blood, yin and yang are insufficient,
the meridians and collaterals will become empty; if qi, blood, yin and yang have lost balance, the meridian qi will be stagnated or in disorder, leading to the occurrence of disease.
To guide the diagnosis and treatment of disease
To guide the diagnosis of disease
Since the meridians run along certain routes and pertain to certain viscera, there is a special relationship between different parts of the body and the internal organs. Clinically the relationship between the pathological location or the disease and the meridians can be used to decide which meridian and viscus are involved so as to make an accurate diagnosis.
For example, the liver meridian distributes over the hypochondrium, so hypochondriac pain indicates liver disease; the lung meridian emerges from the supraclavicular fossa, pain in the supraclavicular fossa indicates lung disease. Take headache for another example. It usually appears in different regions. Pain in the forehead is related to the yangming meridian; pain in both sides of the head is usually related to the shaoyang meridian; and pain in the nape is often related to the taiyang meridian. Besides, some diseases show special reaction points on certain acupoints. If tenderness appears on these reaction points, it is very helpful for diagnosis. For example, intestinal abscess will lead to tenderness on Lanwei (EX-LE7), gallbladder disease will bring on tenderness on Yanglingquan (GB 34).
To guide the treatment of disease
The theory of the meridians and collaterals is extensively used in clinical treatment, especially in acupuncture and moxibustion, massage and drug treatment.
Drug treatment also has to be done according to the theory of meridians and collaterals because the meridians and collaterals can transport the effect of the drugs to the affected part. In the long course of clinical practice, TCM has developed the theory of "meridian tropism of drugs" which holds that each drug can enter one or more meridians. With the guidance of this theory, clinically drugs are selected, based on syndrome differentiation, according to their state of "meridian tropism" to treat disease so as to improve the therapeutic effect.
The treatment of disease by acupuncture, moxibustion and massage is usually done by needling or massaging the acupoints proximal or distal to the affected part on the meridians to regulate the functional activities of the meridian qi and blood. To select acupoints, one has to differentiate the syndrome first with the theory of the meridians and collaterals to decide which meridian the disease is related to, and then select acupoints in the light of the running route and coverage of the meridian. Such a way to select acupoints is called "selection of acupoints along the meridians".
Again take headache for example. If it is related to the taiyang meridian, Qianghuo (Rhizoma seu Radix Notopterygii) should be used; if it is related to the yangrning meridian, Baizhi (Radix Angelicae Dahuricae) should be used; if it is related to the shaoyang meridian, Chaihu (Radix Bupleuri ) should be used, because these drugs enter to these meridians respectively. In the formulation of a prescription, one or two drugs that enter a certain meridian can be added in order to guide the other drugs, which normally do not enter that meridian, to work on that meridian. The drug that leads other drugs to work on a certain meridian or organ is called "guiding drug".
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