Alternative medicine

Channels and Meridians in Alternative Medicine: The Research

We typically think of energy as something that powers light, heat, and electricity in our homes.

But does energy, in some ways, power us?

Throughout history, religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and systems of medicine like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have referred to life energy flowing through the body in currents or “channels.”

Traditionally, the channels are said to play a role in health and well-being as well as spirituality.

Does it hold water under the scrutiny of science? We’ll take a look.

First of all, what are chains?

Channels are perhaps best known for their use in TCM. But they are also found in a number of traditions, including Ayurveda, or traditional Indian medicine.

They can be called:

  • canals
  • meridians
  • srotamsi
  • nadis

In traditional Chinese medicine

A 2010 study states that the meridians are a system of channels through which vital energy, or qi, flows. It is believed that qi can become blocked or depleted leading to imbalance and disease.

The study also notes that meridians can correspond to the peripheral and central nervous system.

According to a 2015 reviewmeridians are “low-resistance fluid channels where various chemical and physical transports take place”.

The review noted that there are 14 main channels linked to 365 sub-channels, called sub-collaterals. The joints of the main and secondary channels are called acupuncture points.

Acupuncture points are used in TCM practices, such as:

In Ayurveda

Ayurvedic texts often refer to the channels in Sanskrit as srotamsi, plural for srotas.

an older one 2007 study noted that health in Ayurveda is governed by the balance between the three doshas, ​​or humours. The accumulation of doshas can cause blockages in the srotas, the macro and micro-channels that nourish the body.

Nadi is another Sanskrit word for canals often used in Buddhist and Hindu traditions.

According to a 2016 review, the main nadis are believed to correspond to the nervous system of the physical body, although they are distinct from it. The same review noted that there are 10 major nadis in the body, along with 350,000 minor nadis.

Additionally, three main nadis are said to represent the basic energetic qualities of life: ida, pingala, and sushumna.

They are said to correspond to different aspects of the nervous system as well as particular energies, shown in the table below.

Pingala and ida are said to meet at a point behind the center of the eyebrows, known as ajna, or the third eye chakra.

They are also thought to play a role in certain breathing practices, such as nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing.

In one 2013 studythis practice has been shown to influence the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for relaxation.

Channels can play a role in Ayurvedic practices, including:

It is important to note that the terms “masculine” and “feminine” in this case do not refer to sex or biological gender, but to the complementary energies that Ayurveda says exist in every person, regardless of sex and gender. kind.

This mirrors the concept of yin and yang in traditional Chinese medicine.

In yoga and energy healing

Proponents believe working with channels can help people take a more holistic approach to their health and wellbeing.

Kristin Leal, yoga teacher and author of “MetaAnatomy: A Modern Yogi’s Practical Guide to the Physical and Energetic Anatomy of Your Amazing Bodyis one such person.

“Our health isn’t just about the state of our immune system,” says Leal. “It’s super important…but taking care of our emotions, how we feel, our energy state, how we interact in our relationships and our patterns – all of these are important for overall vitality. .”

According to Leal, channels can play a role in all of them.

Cyndi Dale, intuitive healer and author of “The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy“, says the channels are like” rivers of energy that run through the body “.

They are subtle and internal, but some believe they affect the physical body.

“The idea [of channels] is that we are not just physical or spiritual/emotional, but a whole person,” says Dale. “They enter and through cells, including vessels and capillaries, [and deal] with tissues, wastes and nutrients.

Likewise, energy channels are responsible for the flow of energy through the subtle or non-physical body.

“We use it to literally unclog the tissues…and get the physical fluids moving in the body,” says Dale.

Working with the channels can “clear your physical and emotional energies, physical or subtle, that are keeping you from having true well-being,” says Dale.

Practitioners use channels to help manage pain as well as mental and emotional difficulties.

Some believe that channels can be cleaned by practices such as:

Despite the lack of scientific evidence, canals have been an integral part of alternative medicine traditions for ages.

In the “Corpus of Hippocrates”, a collection of ancient Greek medicinal works, the channels connect important parts of the body, such as the organs and the orifices, such as the eyes and the ears.

In the history of acupuncture mentioned above, researchers noted that the first references to the channels were probably in Chinese medicine texts found at the site of the Mawangdui Tombs. These texts dated between 186 and 156 BC.

Called “may”, the researchers described them as “imaginary ‘channels’ associated with diagnosis and treatment”.

In the 20th century, the French diplomat Georges Soulié de Morant is said to have coined the term “meridian”.

According to balance sheet 2014 mentioned above, the first organized scientific study of the meridians was conducted by Dr. Kim Bonhang in North Korea in the 1960s, although a team of scientists in China were unable to replicate the results some years later.

Academics debate timeline of the inclusion of canals in Ayurvedic traditions, as the ancient history was probably oral.

Some of the earliest mentions are found in Hindu religious texts, including the “Upanishads” in 500 BC and the Vedas in 2000 BC

They are also mentioned in more recent central texts of the Ayurvedic medicine tradition, including the “Ashtanga Hridayam” and the “Charaka Samhita.”

So what about the scientific community on the channels?

In one report 2010 on the history of acupuncture, researchers have noted that channels are not a universally accepted scientific concept.

Still, many researchers have attempted to find evidence to support their existence.

A balance sheet 2013 multiple studies have noted several hypotheses, including the existence of a primo vascular system (PVS) that may offer support for the physical existence of meridians, and that fascia, or connective tissue, may play a role.

A study 2019 human cadavers have noted that acupuncture meridians may be part of the human extracellular matrix. The researchers also hypothesized that the nerve bundles of the vessels could represent 80% of the acupuncture points.

Although several studies have been conducted, there is no conclusive evidence of channels. Their existence is still disputed in the scientific community.

Channel-based therapies are part of complementary and alternative medicine. They do not replace medical care.

“If I think I broke a bone, I go to the ER,” Dale said in agreement.

Ultimately, she advocates integrating channels and other alternative theories into your lifestyle to complement medical care.

Canals are mentioned in texts dating back centuries, but modern scientists have yet to validate their existence.

Research has shown that certain treatments using channel theory, such as acupuncture and breathing, are beneficial for mental and physical health. Yet this does not necessarily support the existence of channels.

Channel-based therapies are forms of complementary and alternative medicine and can provide support alongside proper medical care.


Beth Ann Mayer is a New York-based writer. In her spare time, you can find her training for marathons and arguing with her son, Peter, and three furbabies..