Part 1: The Divergent or Distinct Meridians
by Marty Eisen, Ph.D.
The Distinct or Divergent Meridians derive their name from the fact that they diverge from the 12 regular Meridians. They diverge from big joints such as: the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees, except for the Liver Divergent Meridian, branching from the dorsum of the foot. Their importance is that their paths make internal linkages which are not made by the principal Meridians. Hence, they can be used to understand the actions and indications of some acupoints and the course and symptoms of some diseases.
The Yang Divergent Meridians separate from their Yang Principal Meridian, enter their related Yang Organ and their externally/internally paired Yin Organ and join their Primary Meridian in the supraclavicular fossa, neck or face.
The Yin Divergent Meridians diverge from their Yin Principal Meridians, converge with their externally/internally related Divergent Meridian in the head region and then, join the related main Yang Meridian. Hence, the twelve Divergent Meridians are divided into six pairs, according to their internal and external relations, called the Six Confluences. The pathways in the Six Confluences will be described in Section 4. Only the Kidney, Heart and Lung Divergent Meridians enter their pertaining Yin Organ.
The Divergent Meridians do not have their own acupuncture points. They run deep into the body reaching the Organs, but not as deep as the principal Meridians.
Only Wei Qi courses through the Divergent Meridians.
2. Some Functions of the Divergent Meridians
(a) The Divergent Meridians strengthen the relationship between internally and externally paired Meridians and Zangfu. This helps explain the action of some acupuncture points.
For example, LI 4 (Hegu) and LI 11 (Qu Chi) are used to treat Pathogenic Heat attacking the Lung Meridian because the Large Intestine Divergent Meridian reaches the Lung.
The Stomach Divergent Meridian enters the Heart and so many Stomach acupoints can be used to treat disorders of the Spirit (Shen).
Points on the Bladder Meridian are used to treat a disharmony of the Heart and Spirit because the Bladder Divergent Meridian links with the Heart. For instance, B 62 (Shenmai) is used for epilepsy, insomnia, palpitations and manic depression.
(b) The Divergent Meridians connect regions and Organs not interconnected by the twelve regular Meridians.
B 57 (Chengshan) and B 58 (Feiyang) can be used for treating hemorrhoids and other rectal diseases even though the Bladder Meridian does not circulate through the rectal region, because its Divergent Meridians do.
In Chinese medicine, the Heart (Fire) and Kidneys (Water) play an important in balancing the body. The primary Meridian of the Kidney connects with the Heart, but the Heart Meridian does not connect with the Kidney. However, Bladder Divergent Meridian, related to the Kidneys, passes from the Kidneys to the Heart, strengthening the communication between these Organs.
The Liver and Gallbladders Meridians don’t connect with the Heart. However, the Gallbladder Divergent Meridian travels to the Heart, which helps explain the relationships between the Liver and Gallbladder with the Heart.
(c) The Divergent Meridians help circulate Qi and Blood to the head and face.
All six principal Yang Meridians travel to the head and face. The only Yin meridians that circulate there are the Heart and Liver Meridians. However, the Yin Divergent Meridians provide pathways for the Yin Meridians to circulate Qi and Blood to the head and face via their link with the Yang Divergent and primary Meridians.
For instance, the Lung Meridian only ascends to the throat. Nevertheless, the Lung provides Qi to the nose as a consequence of the connection between the Lung Divergent and the Large Intestine primary Meridians.
(d) The Divergent Meridians strengthen the relation between the Meridians and the Heart
The Divergent H, S, SI, B, G, Liv and Sp Meridians all pass through the Heart. The Kidney (K) Divergent Meridian ascends to the root of the tongue, meeting the Luo Connecting Channel of the Heart. Note the relation between the Heart and Kidneys in (b). A branch of the San Jiao (SJ) Muscle Channel links with the root of the tongue. The SJ Divergent Meridian is distributed to the Pericardium of the chest. The Pericardium (P) Divergent Meridian converges with the SJ Meridian. Thus, the K, P and SJ Divergent Meridians are indirectly related to the Heart. The energy from the Lung (L) and Large Intestine (LI) Divergent Meridians do not enter the Heart.
This helps explain why symptoms involving the Heart appear in disease syndromes of other Organs and can be treated by using acupoints on their principal Meridians. For example, cardiac and hypochondriac pain appears in Gallbladder patterns, mania and epilepsy in Bladder patterns and panic and palpitations in Stomach patterns.
This gives credence to the statement that the Heart is the King of the Five Zang and Six Fu Organs and houses the Shen, which appears in Chapter 71 of the Spiritual Pivot (Ling Shu).
(e) The Divergent Meridians help to lessen the severity of some diseases (3,4)
Pathogenic or Perverse Factors (or Energy), called Xie (evil) Qi, indicates any disease factor, either exterior (e.g. Wind, Damp, Cold, Heat) or interior (e.g. Phlegm, Interior Wind, Fire, Stagnation of Qi). Zheng (Upright) Qi is not type of Qi but is all of the body’s Qi in relation to its capacity to fight pathogenic factors. All of the pathological changes and developments of a disease are the stages in the struggle between the Upright Qi and the Pathogenic Factors.
Xie Qi can enter the principal Meridians and then try to pass up a Meridian and eventually enter its Organ. If the Zheng Qi is too weak Xie Qi enters the Organ. However, if the Zheng Qi is stronger, but not strong enough to drive the Xie Qi completely out of the Meridian, it will be diverted into the corresponding Divergent Meridian. The Xie Qi will still reach the Organ, but the produced symptoms will be less severe.
3. Qi Circulation in the Distinct Meridians (4)
Although only Wei Qi circulates in the Divergent Meridians, the circulation is not the same as the usual Wei Qi circulation pattern. Wei Qi circulates outside the main Meridians through the skin and muscles in 50 cycles in 24 hours. During the day (midnight to noon) it cycles 25 times following the Yang Meridians:
LI – S – SJ – G – SI – B – LI – …
During the night (noon through midnight) it cycles 25 times following the Yin Meridians:
K – H – L – Liv – Sp – K – …
The circulation of Wei Qi in the Distinct Meridians follows its own pattern. It starts in the Meridians of the legs and then through the arm Meridians and completes the following cycle in a day:
B – K – G – Liv – S – Sp – SI – H – SJ – P – LI – L – B – …
It is still Wei Qi and is derived basically from the Wei Qi which circulates 50 times during a day.
When the Perverse Energy reaches an Organ via a Divergent Meridian, it is reacted upon by the Zheng Qi. However, the Distinct Meridian contains Wei Qi, which is part of the reaction, and it will reach its maximum either during the day or night, if it is a Yang or Yin Meridian, respectively. This Wei energy will reinforce the Organ’s reaction. However, most symptoms are not produced by the Perverse Energy, but by the body’s reaction against them. Since the strength of the Wei Qi will increase or decrease with its daily 50 cycle rhythms, so will the produced symptoms. Thus, if the predominant symptom is intermittent, the Distinct and not the Principal Meridian may be involved and this should be investigated.
4. Pathways of the Six Confluences of the Divergent Meridians (1,2,4)
The pathways of the Distinct Meridians are not as well determined as those of the principal Meridians. Both a Yin and Yang Distinct Meridian usually depart from their Principal Meridians near so-called Access Points (4). Each Yin Divergent Meridian converges with its internally/ externally related Yang Divergent Meridian, which then rejoins its Yang Principal Meridian from which it departed. This rejoining point is called a Return Point (4). In a few combinations the Return Point is on a different, related Principal Meridian.
The Qi flow through an internally/ externally related pair of Distinct Meridians is activated by needling the Access Points bilaterally on both the Yin and Yang Principal Meridians and the Return Point bilaterally on the Yang Principal Meridian. The direction of energy flow is from inside (Yin) to outside (Yang) and from inferior (Yin) to superior (Yang). The flow from the Yin and Yang Access Points to the primary and coupled Organs and then to the Return Point, superiorly located on the coupled Yang Principal Meridian.
The pathways are only drawn on one side of the body in the diagrams.
The First Confluence
(a) The Bladder Divergent Channel
It departs from the Bladder Meridian in the popliteal fossa and runs to a point 5 cun below the sacrum. Then, it winds round to the anal region, connects with the bladder and disperses into the kidney. Following upward alongside the spine, it disperses in the cardiac region, emerges at the neck and converges with the Bladder Meridian.
Its Access Point is B 40 (Wei Zhong or Bend Middle) and its Return Point is B 10 (Tian Zhu or Celestial Pillar).
Bladder Divergent Channel
(b) The Kidney Divergent Channel
It departs from the Kidney Meridian in the popliteal fossa and crosses the Divergent Bladder Meridian on the thigh. Running upward, it connects with the kidney and crosses the Dai (Belt or Girdle) Meridian at about the level of the 7th thoracic vertebra. Then, it ascends to the root of the tongue and emerges at the posterior neck to join the Bladder Meridian.
Its Access Point is K 10 (Yin Gu or Yin Valley) and its Return Point is also B 10.
Kidney Divergent Channel
The couplets region of influence is the kidneys, bladder, the ano-rectal region, the coccyx, descending colon and the anterior surface of sacrum and vertebral column (2).
The Second Confluence
(a) Gallbladder Divergent Channel
Departing from the Gallbladder Meridian on the thigh, it crosses the hip joint, enters the lower abdomen in the pelvic region, and joins the Liver Distinct Meridian. Together, they traverse the lateral aspects of the abdomen and pass between the lower ribs to connect with the gallbladder and spread through the liver. Then, the pathway passes further upwards to cross the heart and esophagus and disperse in the face. Finally, it enters the eye and rejoins the Gallbladder Meridian at the lateral canthus.
Its Access Point is G 30 (Huan Tiao or Jumping Round) and its Return Point is G 1 (Tong Zi Ziao or Pupil Bone Hole).
Gallbladder Divergent Channel
(b) Liver Divergent Channel
Separating from the Liver Meridian on the instep, it runs upward to the pubic region, where it converges with the Gallbladder Meridian. One text says the separation occurs at the inguinal ligament (2).
Its Access Point is Liv 12 (Ji Mai or Urgent Pulse), which is not near its point of departure from its main meridian and its Return Point is G 1 (Tong Zi Ziao or Pupil Bone Hole).
The couplets region of influence is the lateral abdominal region and hepatobiliary structures (2).
Liver Divergent Channel