The body flows through a rhythm every 24 hours with each 2-hour segment benefiting one organ at a time. The 12 organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine are heart, small intestine, bladder, kidneys, pericardium, triple warmer, gall bladder, liver, lungs, large intestine, stomach, pancreas. The organs have a period of strongest activity and a period of weakest activity. By knowing these times, we can support our bodies as it flows through the cycle.
3am – 7am: Lungs and Large Intestine
Starting at 3am our lungs begin their period of strongest activity. Many have experienced this shift more than once by waking up between 3-5am with a cough. Most asthma attacks occur between 4 and 5am. Opposite of this though, from 3-5pm, our lungs are at their weakest.
Our lungs are paired with the Large Intestine, and we flow right into the colon from 5am to 7am and see its period of rest from 5pm to 7pm.
7am – 11am: Stomach and Spleen
There is an old saying “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper”. This is to support the stomach during its height of the day and not overwhelm it at night when it is resting. I encourage patients with gastric complaints to follow this rule for a week and see what changes occur in their bodies.
The spleen is responsible for protecting our bodies in TCM so from 9am to 11am, wound healing happens faster, short term memory is at its best, and our overall health is generally better.
11am – 3pm: Heart and Small Intestine
When I was first learning acupuncture, the doctor teaching the course always told us to work out between 11am and 1pm. While my schedule doesn’t always allow this, I do try to stay active during this time of the day with even a short walk to support my heart health.
From 1pm to 3pm, our small intestine is functioning at its highest potential. The enzymes are breaking down the food and separating out the good from the bad. Therefore, having a larger meal in the morning instead of the night will allow for better digestion.
As a rule of thumb, I suggest not eating after 8pm which leads to the stomach and the small intestines weakest time periods.
3pm – 7pm: Bladder and Kidneys
The bladder excretes the highest amount of fluids between 3pm and 5pm. Drinking lots of fluids throughout the day will help during this time frame to eliminate toxins from your body.
Starting at 5pm, the body starts slowing down for the day and physical performance is declining.
7pm – 11pm: Pericardium and Triple Warmer
This is when blood flow to the heart is at its peak and the body is getting circulated with nutrients gathered and filtered throughout the day.
The triple warmer “organ” is not a physical organ, but instead the meridian responsible for warming the upper, middle, and lower parts of the body. During this time, our bodies are at their calmest as we prepare for a night of rest.
11pm – 3am: Gall Bladder and Liver
The gall bladder is responsible for excreting bile which breaks down fat. We can support the gall bladder by eating the good fats and avoiding bad fats, especially from 11am to 1pm when it is weakest.
The liver processing through the days toxins at a high rate from 1am to 3am. This behind-the-scenes organ is preparing the body for a new day.
While each person experiences life a little different, this organ clock has been a tried-and-true system to follow. Some days may be better than others but being aware of what we are doing to our bodies every day will help us all to start functioning a little higher. Instead of fighting when the organs are in periods of rest or work, we should be joining and supporting them.
Ursinus, Lothar. The Body Clock in Traditional Chinese Medicine: Understanding Our Energy Cycles for Health and Healing. Earthdancer.