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  • Writer's pictureAva Thu Nguyen

Traditional Chinese Medicine Body Clock

How to optimise your bodies energy

using the ancient Chinese Body Clock.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Body clock, sometimes referred to as the Horary Clock summarises where the flow of energy takes place in our body over a 24-hour period.

It forms the basis of the TCM recommended daily routine often referred to by acupuncturists, herbalists and Tui Na Massage practitioners.

Each hour of the 24-hour day corresponds to an organ - that means during each hour of the day, that is the organ where your energy or Qi is most abundant. In TCM theory, it is thought that if we lived in accordance to this flow of Qi we are supporting the natural cycles of the body and allowing the best possible chance of flow in our own lives. When we feel dis-ease in our bodies this is believed to be a lack of free flow of our bodies energy. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, when there is a lack of free flow, this predisposes us to dis-ease.

If you compare how we live our lives today in our modern world, a lot of us are not living in accordance to this rhythm. We are essentially becoming less tuned into our own body's needs and gravitating towards overwork, undernourishment, burnout, lack of sleep, and burning the candles at both ends. In this post, we will go into depth about how to plan your daily life to live in accordance with the TCM Body clock.

Chinese Medicine Body Clock
Figure 1: Chinese Medicine Body Clock.

Let's Explore the Chinese Body Clock!

3am - 5am - Lung

This is the start of the Qi cycle.

Ideally you are still asleep during this time as this is still Yin time (i.e. rest time).

If you are waking during this time, this may indicate an imbalance in the Lung energy. The emotions of grief and sadness are associated with the Lungs. Consider whether there may be some unprocessed emotions that are presenting within the body. If you happen to be awake during this time, focus on your breath. Practice deep abdominal breathing, slowing down your breath as this may help with the energetic flow of emotions through the body.

5am - 7am - Large Intestine

This is the most ideal time to wake up and start your morning routine. Being the 'Large Intestine' time, this is also a good time to move your bowels, so make sure you aren't rushing - allow yourself time to allow things to "flow". In Traditional Chinese medicine, it is the preferred time for you to exercise compared to exercising after work during the "Kidney time", as working out during Kidney time is thought to be detrimental for the Kidney energy.

7am - 9am - Stomach

It's breakfast time! This is the best time to have breakfast because the energy flow within the stomach is highest and the energy utilised form the food you ingest during this time sets the tone for the day.

If you skip breakfast, overtime this may have a detrimental impact on your stomach energies which is thought to be linked to your defensive energies, feelings of being grounded, inner resilience and supporting your body the recharging of your body on a day to day basis.

Intermittent fasting that promotes the skipping of meals during this time of the day is not ideal from a Traditional Chinese medicine perspective. If intermittent fasting is something you would like to incorporate, consider eating your meals between 7am to 6pm and fasting around this time frame, making breakfast your biggest meal of the day.

Stomach time tips:

  • Have your morning coffee after you have breakfast

  • Ensure your breakfast has a substantial amount of protein and greens to ensure sustained satiety and sugar balance

  • Choose warm foods over cold and raw foods to help support your digestive fire

  • Don't rush when you are eating - make the time to ensure you are eating mindfully and chewing your food completely. The mouth is the first stage of our digestive function after all - when we rush we don't chew enough!

9am - 11am - Spleen

This time should be dedicated to activities that require increased levels of concentrations such as study and work. If you are a student and currently completing your studies, this is the most ideal time of the day to study. Save the late night for relaxing and resting. In Traditional Chinese Medicine symptoms like lack of focus and brain fog are symptoms that the spleen may need some support.

11am - 1pm - Heart

The emotion associated with the heart is Joy. That is why this is an amazing time that is supportive of creative activities and activities that bring happiness and joy.

1pm - 3pm - Small Intestine

The Small Intestine is responsible for separating the bodies usable energy from waste. Therefore, it is a great time to schedule in activities that require sifting, sorting and organising of information.

This is also a good time to schedule in lunch. Remember to choose a warm, nourishing meal to support your digestive fire.

3pm - 5pm - Bladder

The bodies yang started to wind down, so schedule in activities that require less brain power during this time. If you commonly hit a wall during this time and feel you need to reach for something sweet, it's a sign you need to support your energy levels for better daily sustainability. Look back on your day and work on support your Stomach and Spleen energies better. Also look working with the Chinese body clock in all other times throughout the day to further reduce the 'afternoon slump'.

This is the time to start winding down your work day.

5pm - 7pm - Kidney

Have dinner during this timeframe.

The kidneys are sensitive to "overwork", so it is not an ideal time to be doing strenuous, high intensity workouts at this time. If you want to exercise, go for more gentle activities such as yoga or light walks. Save the HIIT workouts for the Large Intestine time. This is especially important if you have hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue, or thyroid related imbalances. From a TCM perspective, the kidney energy and its balance plays a major component in the presentation of these conditions.

7pm - 9pm - Pericardium

Spend quality time with your friends and family in a relaxing environment that is not too stimulating. This time is meant to help you relax in preparation for bedtime. It is a great time to start turning off electronics and dimming down the lights and having a warming bath to relax your body and let it know it's almost time to sleep.

9pm - 11pm - Triple Energiser

This is the most optimal time to sleep. Sleeping now allows the body time to arrive in a deeper state of sleep by 11pm where the bodies repair and energy regulation takes place.

11pm - 1am - Gall Bladder

The Gall Bladder is associated with decision making in Chinese Medicine. If you struggle to sleep around this time, it could indicate a struggle to make decisions in any area of your life.

1am - 3am - Liver

The Liver plays an important role in detoxifying the body and plays a part in our digestive functions as well as hormone regulation. If you are waking during this time this may indicate stagnation within the liver. Emotionally this can present as irritability, frustration, anger or being in a constant state of stress.

How in line with the Chinese Body clock is your daily routine? Is there anything you need to adjust to help your body and potentially your day flow better?

This is only a guide. If you would like to take a deep dive into the holistic perspective to your body, consider seeking guidance from a Chinese medicine practitioner and acupuncturist.

Our Brisbane Acupuncture Clinic - Lang Acupuncture and Holistic Health

Would you like to explore your body further through Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture? Book into our Brisbane acupuncture clinic HERE. Our clinic is located close to the Brisbane CBD and offer a holistic perspective to your health.

Brisbane Acupuncture Clinic
Figure 2: Our Brisbane Acupuncture Clinic


Lang Acupuncture & Holistic Health. Brisbane Acupuncture

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