By Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC
Interconnected organ systems and meridians have specific energetic functions which influence menstrual health. Within separate organ systems and meridians it is the collective amount of signs and symptoms, along with tongue and pulse diagnosis and palpation, that weaves together a pattern in relation to a TCM diagnosis and treatment plan.
This post explores the Liver, Kidney, Spleen, and Extraordinary Vessels as important menstrual forces and their common imbalances that can arise.
Keep in mind that the following conditions, signs, and symptoms can be related to the imbalance of all 5 forces; the spleen, liver, kidney, ren, and chong:
Edema or water retention
Dysmenorrhea (painful period)
Infertility or fertility struggles
Edema or water retention
The Liver System
Liver functions related to menstrual health:
Ensures the smooth flowing and spreading of Qi (and blood) including the cleansing of stress and emotions throughout the body. Qi and blood stagnation can disturb Ren and Dai meridians, causing blood heat.
Regulates blood (including menses) volume while resting and with movement. For example, when the uterus does not have enough blood this causes pain.
Prolonged or repressed anger, resentment, frustration, and stress can cause Qi to become erratic.
When Qi becomes erratic it can stagnate in uterine vessels causing blood stagnation and heat. Or, the directional flow moves to erupt in various places and ways, for example when endometriosis tissue grows outside of the uterus in other parts of the body.
Houses the Hun, the ethereal soul: Ability to be resolute, to plan, creative drive, and assertiveness.
Influences rising and growth: Personal growth and ability to change. Can feel ‘stuck’ with Liver Qi stagnation.
Channel runs through the pelvis and circles genitals.
Liver Imbalance Correlations
Conditions, signs, & symptoms: Fibroids, fixed abdominal masses, breast nodules (phlegm via spleen deficiency mixed with Qi stagnation), swollen/tender breasts, burning and/or itching genital area (damp-heat pattern), bloating and distention, and chronic inflammation.
Pain: Painful period before (Qi stagnation) or beginning (blood stagnation). Throbbing menstrual headache before (Qi and blood stagnation) and/or during (Liver yang rising).
Colour: Purple or dark red blood. Green-yellow leukorrhea (Liver damp heat), or green-yellow-red leukorrhea (damp heat toxin).
Odour: Strong smell, or leathery smell (damp heat).
Duration: Early, late, or absent period due to Qi stagnation producing heat or deficiency of Liver’s ability to smooth the flow of Qi.
Consistency: Large and dark clots, sticky clots (damp-heat), and heavy or scanty period due to stagnation producing heat.
The Spleen System
Spleen functions related to the menstrual cycle:
Transforms and transports food into energy and blood. For example, period will be scanty if Spleen is not efficient at producing blood.
Regulates water passageways. Edema or water retention can be present if Spleen is deficient.
Holds blood in blood vessels and keeps uterus in place. For example, menses will be heavy or prolonged if its energy cannot hold blood in blood vessels, arising from failure of Spleen Qi to command blood.
Overthinking and worrying in excess can affect the Spleen.
Poor diet or sugar metabolism imbalance makes it hard for the Spleen to transform food, leading to phlegm. Phlegm is related to cysts, such as in PCOS.
Controls rising of pure Qi: lifting effect and raises food Qi to lung and heart.
Houses ‘Yi’. Influences capacity for thinking, studying, concentration, and memorization. Excessive studying/mental work weakens the Spleen, leading to dull thinking, poor concentration, and poor memory.
Channel runs through the pelvis.
Spleen Imbalance Correlations
Conditions, signs, and symptoms: Metrorrhagia (bleeding at irregular intervals), cysts, diarrhea associated with cycle (dampness, Spleen yang deficiency), bloating with pain (phlegm damp), fatigue, prolapse, and multiple miscarriages.
Onset: Early menarche.
Pain: Dull headache during or after menses. Dull pain low abdomen during or after menstruation that is alleviated by pressure (Qi and blood deficiency).
Colour: Light red blood. White or slightly yellow leukorrhea that can be irregular.
Duration: Early due to spleen Qi not able to hold blood in place, late if blood deficiency is present, prolonged bleeding if Spleen cannot hold blood in blood vessels.
Consistency: Thin and scanty if Spleen cannot produce blood, watery if damp accumulates, and heavy if Spleen cannot hold blood. Stringy clots (phlegm-damp). Thin or thick and profuse vaginal discharge (cold phlegm damp).
The Kidney System
Kidney functions related to the menstrual cycle:
Stores jing and controls development and reproduction. Jing (essence) is a source of prenatal energy that reflects our constitution, vitality, and strength. Jing has an influence on ovulation and egg production as well as libido. It naturally declines as we age and can be preserved with stress-management and supplemented through supporting our spleen with good nutrition (postnatal qi) and digestion.
Rules birth, growth, development, and reproduction. Fertility is related to this function.
Controls water metabolism. Edema or water retention will be present if Kidney function is low.
Houses Zhi: will power and motivation.
The Kidney meridian runs through the pelvis.
Kidney imbalance Correlations:
Conditions, signs, and symptoms: Inter-menstrual spotting or bleeding (yin deficiency), early menses (deficiency heat or yang deficiency), backache, low sex drive, and pain during ovulation (phlegm damp; spleen connection).
Onset: Late menarche due to essence deficiency.
Colour: Crimson red (yin deficiency) blood. White leukorrhea.
Duration: Shortened/early (Kidney yin deficiency) or late (Kidney yang deficiency).
Consistency: Thin texture, scanty, and/or spotting. Thin, watery leukorrhea; kidney cannot store essence or heat causes leakage.
The Extraordinary Vessels
The penetrating vessel (Chong Mai), directing (Ren Mai), girdling (Dai Mai), and the governing vessel (Du Mai) are reservoirs of Qi and blood that influence blood, hormones, and reproductive health. Both the liver and kidney channels are closely connected to the Ren and Chong Mai.
Ren Mai: Nourishes yin hormones, regulates Qi and blood of the yin channels and in the uterus and vagina, promotes the transformation, transportation, and excretion of fluids.
Chong Mai: Strengthens link between Ren and Du Mai vessels. Regulates uterus and menstruation; regulates Qi and blood and nourishes blood.
Dai Mai: Holds the uterus and meridians in place, influences external genitalia, regulates circulation of Qi to legs, opens the hips, and helps balance leukorrhea.
Du Mai: Regulates warmth (yang energy) of uterus and Qi of yang channels, which facilitates conception.
Extraordinary Vessels correlations: Fibroids, infertility, irregular cycles, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, metrorrhagia, menopause, and lumps/abdominal masses.
Whole Systems are Assessed
Organ systems, meridians, and environment are interconnected, meaning they affect one another and work together. Here are a few examples:
Free flow of Liver Qi helps the spleen’s function of transportation and transformation, and ascending of Spleen Qi helps the free flow of Liver Qi.
Liver blood replenishes essence. Kidneys are the origin of Tian Gui and menstrual blood whereas the Liver supplies the blood to the uterus.
Kidney yang provides the heat to the Spleen needed for transportation and transformation of food essence while Spleen Qi helps the Kidneys transform and excrete fluids. A Phlegm-damp pattern is linked to Kidney and Spleen unable to transform water due to Spleen and Kidney yang deficiency, while damp heat can arise due to Spleen’s inability to transform water with the influence Liver Qi stagnation.
Kidney and Spleen yang energy warm the lower burner. Cold damages yang, causing uterus vessels to constrict and blood to stagnate. Signs and symptoms may include late and/or scanty period, burgundy or dull red blood, small dark clots, fishy odour, and pain during and after period.
The patterns of Kidney yin deficiency heat, dampness from Spleen deficiency unable to transform, and Liver stagnation heat can disturb Ren and Dai mai vessels, causing blood heat.
Our external environment (climate) has an effect on our body’s rhythms. Read my post 'Optimizing Circadian Rhythm For Well-Being' to learn more.
Timing and amount indicates state of yin and yang balance:
Balanced yang hormones: cyclic timing and regularity of menstruation.
Balanced yin hormones: good quantity and quality yin, cycle is neither scanty nor too heavy.
Balance Your Menstrual Cycle With Acupuncture
PCOS | How Acupuncture Can Help
Chinese Medicine For PMS
Acupuncture For Stress & Anxiety
Nutritional Cycling For Hormone Health
Circadian Rhythm For Hormone Balancing
If you’re interested in acupuncture for menstrual cycle health I’d be happy to guide you along. Please visit www.vcaspa.com to book online. To learn more about my acupuncture practice, follow @hayley_stobbs on Instagram.
In health & happiness,
Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC