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Secondary Channels of Acupuncture

By Nicholas Sieben, LAc

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The Exhaustive Quality of Latency: The Gallbladder's Luo Vessels

Amongst the Luo Vessels, the Gallbladder is unique. To begin with, the trajectory of the Gallbladder's Luo Vessel travels from the Luo point at GB-37 Guang Ming into a source point of another element: ST-42 Chong Yang at the dorsum of the foot. No other Luo Vessel does this.

The Gallbladder's Luo is one of three Luo Vessels whose trajectory descends distally away from the Luo point. The others being the Lung's Luo which travels into the palm of the hand, and the Bladder's Luo which travels into KI-4 Da Zhong on the foot. All other Luo Vessels have ascending trajectories.

The "fullness" symptom of the Gallbladder's Luo Vessel, as stated in Chapter 10 of the Ling Shu is also interesting: "deficiencies."

Therapeutically I notice a pulse quality that resolves through using the Gallbladder's Luo Vessel. I frequently see patients presenting with chronic fatigue and depression where the Guan (middle) position of their pulse is tight and pulling medially towards the tendon, as if it is trying to hide. This is a pulse configuration I associate with a condition moving into latency or repression.

The Curious Organ

From the post-natal level, the Gallbladder Luo's trajectory travels to a point whose name is suggestive of the pre-natal level associated with the Extraordinary Vessels. The Nan Jing describes the Extraordinary Vessels as "ditches" and "reservoirs," where overflow from the Primary Channels drain into.

The Gallbladder is a "Curious" organ which places it in the same energetic grouping as the Extraordinary Vessels. However, Gallbladder is also a post-natal Zang Fu organ. It therefore acts as a bridge between these two energetic levels. The Luo Vessels also act as a bridge. The Ling Shu says the "Luo" connect to the "Source." The trajectory of the Gallbladder's Luo Vessel is illustrative of this concept.

The symptom of the Gallbladder's Luo Vessel describes what happens when unresolved pathological material drains into the level of the Source. When the Gallbladder's Luo becomes "full," saturated with pathology, it manifests "deficiencies." This will eventually give rise to "emptying" of the Luo.

The symptom associated with "emptiness" of the Gallbladder's Luo is "paralysis" and/or loss of function of the legs. The idea of a "Luo" or collateral in Chinese medicine is that of a holding vessel, maintaining unresolved pathology in a hidden or latent state. Symptoms become low-grade or hidden altogether as long as the latency is successfully maintained. However, when the Luo reaches saturation or there is a lack of resources to maintain the latency, it will empty back into primary circulation.

The Exhaustive Quality of Latency: The Gallbladder's Luo Vessels - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Understanding Fullness

The stage of the Yang Leg Luo Vessels: the Gallbladder, Stomach and Bladder Luo show the intermittent nature of latent conditions. The Stomach's Luo manifests as intermittent manic outbursts when in a state of "fullness," and weakness of the legs when "emptying." The Bladder's Luo manifests sinus and head conditions: congestion, nasal discharge and intermittent nosebleeds.

The Gallbladder's Luo appears to be the stage where "floating" exuberant Yang begins to burn itself out, leaving the body in a state of intermittent depletion and eventually loss of function.

Depending on how rich the body is in its Yin resources, the Luo will maintain latency by trapping pathogens within blood or fluid stasis. When there is a relative deficiency of blood, the Luo Vessel is more likely to empty, as there will no longer be enough yin to maintain the condition in a quiet contained state. Repressed issues can leak into primary circulation, presenting themselves intermittently. When the body is able to build back its yin, the symptoms will disappear.

The "fullness" state of the Gallbladder manifests symptoms of deficiency showing the holding of latency has depleted the body to such an extent that when it is forced to empty, it will have no choice but to go into a deeper level of energetics in the body: that of the Extraordinary Vessels. The Nan Jing says the Extraordinary Vessels absorb that which comes from unforeseen "calamities," using the metaphor of flooding - catastrophes that "even the wise sages" cannot find solutions to.

Gallbladder is also associated with the Extraordinary Vessel Dai Mai, which is seen as a channel that maintains the tone of the other Extraordinary Vessels: Du Mai, Ren Mai and Chong Mai. However, Dai Mai is also seen as a channel that absorbs unresolved post-natal material.

The Seed of Our Next Incarnation

Dai Mai's associate channel Bao Mai, which wraps around the chest via the Great Luo Vessel and travels into the Luo points of Ren Mai and Du Mai: CV-15 Jiu Wei and GV-1 Chang Qiang. Bao Mai makes the connection between the Great Luo, which is the culmination of all the Luo Vessels, and Dai Mai, the vessel that wraps around the waist. Jeffrey Yuen says that which deposits into Dai Mai becomes "the seed of our next incarnation." Bao Mai shows the route by which unresolved Luo Vessel pathology finds its way into Dai Mai and the Extraordinary Vessels.

The trajectory of the Gallbladder's Luo doesn't travel into Dai Mai, it goes to a point with the name "Chong" in it. Whereas the Stomach's Luo Vessel manifests its fullness in the exuberant symptom of mania, the Gallbladder does so as deficiency. Yet the Gallbladder's Luo is said to travel into the source point of the Stomach: ST-42 Chong Yang, seemingly having a depleting effect on the Yang Qi of Chong Mai.

The way I've come to view the Luo Vessels are as stages in a progression. This is the way they are presented in Chapter 10 of the Ling Shu. Each stage, categorized anatomically: Arm Yin, Arm Yang, Leg Yang, Leg Yin work together to prevent transmission into a deeper, more serious energetic stage. For example, the vessels of the Leg Yang stage: the Stomach, Bladder and Gallbladder interact with one another as they try to contain pathological latency and prevent it from transmitting into the deeper level of the Yin Leg vessels of the Kidney, Liver and Spleen.

The Arm Yang Luo Vessels

This process is even easier to visualize with the Arm Yang Vessels. The Small Intestine, Large Intestine and Triple Heater Luo all meet at the area of the shoulder, thought to be the point LI-15 Jian Yu. The Yang Arm Luo have inherited the unsuccessful attempt by the Yin Arm vessels to hold onto unresolved pathology. The Arm Yang Luo try to keep pathology out of the chest.

This is what the Luo do: they externalize and bring pathology distal and upwards within the body. The Arm Yang Luo vessels bring pathology into the shoulder, jaw and ears before they become powerless against transmission back into chest via Triple Heater's Luo. The next level of the transmission process, the Leg Yang Luo vessels show exuberance from the Stomach and Bladder's Luo as a further attempt to vent pathological pressure away from the center of the body back into the head.

Much like the Triple Heater in the previous stage, its Shao Yang partner Gallbladder becomes powerless against the pathology's transmission into the next stage: the Yin Leg vessels. The movement from GB-37 into ST-42 Chong Yang suggests the level of the Kidney, Liver and Spleen Luo is associated with Chong Mai as the "Sea of the Zang Fu," as well as the other "seas" of the body: the "Sea of Food and Drink," and the "Sea of Qi and Blood."

The "Four Seas" is another classical concept explored in the Ling Shu. According to Jeffrey Yuen "limbic depression can cause a disruption in the Four Seas of the body." The emptiness signs of both the Gallbladder as well as the Stomach's Luo relate to weakness of the legs, coming from saturation of the vessels. The "Seas" represent energetically rich gathering areas of the body: the chest, the head, the abdomen. Chong Mai is known as the "Sea of Blood," as well as the "Sea of the Zang Fu and Primary Meridians."

An interpretation of Gallbladder's connection to ST-42 Chong Yang is the penetration of pathology into the Four Seas via its resonance with Chong Mai. Both the Four Seas and Luo Vessels deal with Rebellious Qi. When something pathological moves into an area and remains stagnant there, the body will respond with "Counterflow Qi" as it tries to move pathology back out to the exterior. Many of the signs and symptoms of both the Four Seas and the Luo Vessels are those of Rebellious Qi. It can be said that the role of the Luo Vessels is to keep pathology out of the Four Seas as long as possible, to preserve the post-natal resources of the body.

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