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What Are The 8 Extraordinary Meridians of TCM?

Throughout the years, we’ve stated numerous times that the energetic superhighway of TCM known as meridians contains a dozen invisible channels that connect to all the organ systems and everything else in your body, supplying life-building- and homeostasis-promoting blood and Qi. 

But what we didn’t tell you, until now, is that the actual number of meridians in the body is 20. 

What are these extra meridians we haven’t revealed until now? They are called the 8 extraordinary meridians (奇经八脉). 

But before we explore the 8 meridians that are not considered part of the main meridian network, let’s quickly review the basic concept of meridians. 

What Are Meridians In TCM? 

At the microscopic level, things may seem in constant flux, with no symphonic orchestration. There’s random chaos as particles violently collide into one another. But in TCM theory, there is indeed an organizing life-force that brings a semblance of energetic order within our bodies…. 

Meridians control the circulating flow of energy (Qi) throughout the body. There are 12 pairs of meridians, 6 Yin and 6 Yang channels of invisible energy. Running on each side of the body, the paired meridians mirror each other and flow through a TCM organ system. Each meridian line contains several energy points. The Yin/Yang pairing of meridians is as follows, with the Yin organ listed first: Lung/Large Intestine; Heart/Small Intestine; Kidney/Bladder; Liver/Gallbladder; Spleen/Stomach and Pericardium/Triple Warmer.

When it comes to these organ systems, in TCM theory, the physical anatomical structure of Western medicine is not really so important. What matters more in TCM theory is the synergistic relationship with other organs and each systems’ Yin/Yang properties. 

Yin organs reside deeper in the body and serve as manufacturing centers, storage sites and regulatory agencies of the body’s fundamental substances: Qi, Blood and other precious bodily fluids. As for Yang organs, their chief role is digestion and transforming digested food into nutrients to provide the body with Qi. 

Feeling fabulous with ample vim and vigor depends on the Yin/Yang balance of the meridians system. But all that circulating Blood and Qi has to be stored somewhere…

The 8 Extraordinary Meridians of TCM

Humans have been creating reservoirs for thousands of years. Just as preserving precious drinking water is critical to maintaining life, your body has eight additional meridians that function as reservoirs for Blood and Qi. 

These extraordinary meridians direct these substances to where they are needed in the body. They also function as superhighway connectors for the 12 main meridians. In addition, these auxiliary channels circulate Wei Qi to support the immune system.

Why else should you care about the extraordinary meridians? Well, if you want to live your life with not only abundant energy but also one filled with gratitude, spirit and purpose of life, you need your extraordinary meridians to have your back … or lower back to be more accurate. 

If you want to live your life with not only abundant energy but also one filled with gratitude, spirit and purpose of life, you need your extraordinary meridians to have your back

An imbalance of Yin/Yang in the Kidney organ system can manifest as low back discomfort, premature aging and a lack of willpower. The 8 extraordinary meridians disperse and circulate Jing, or your life essence, and Shen, or spirit, throughout the body. 

Can you now see why these ancillary energy pathways matter?   

Skilled traditional Chinese medicine practitioners focus on these extraordinary meridians to help their patients overcome emotional imbalances, limiting thought patterns and poor lifestyle habits (smoking, addiction, overeating).

When the 8 extraordinary meridians are able to better circulate the body’s life force, spirit, energy and blood, a person is better able to live life with spiritual harmony. 

What Are the 8 Extraordinary Meridians?

It’s in these life-essence-flowing meridians that the body’s deepest energetic functioning occurs. Interestingly, when you were in the womb, your body’s 8 extraordinary meridians were developing before your 12 main meridians were taking shape. 

The names of these channels and their corresponding relative function are:

  • Ren Mai: Responsible for conception, be it a new life form or the energy that gives rise to a new brilliant business idea!
  • Du Mai: This governing vessel controls the Qi of all the Yang organ systems. When well-balanced, you’ll feel grounded and in control of your life.
  • Chong Mai: Not to be confused with Chiang Mai, the gorgeous mountainous area of Northern Thailand, this vessel may help people break free from genetic patterns of trauma.
  • Yang Chiao: Chiao, or Qiao vessels control dexterity of the lower limbs. On an emotional level, this vessel, which is paired with Du Mai, may help control over-thinking.
  • Yin Chiao: Paired with Ren Mai, when fine-tuned, may help one overcome feelings of abandonment or low self-worth.
  • Yin Wei: Paired with Chong Mai, this is the vessel of compassion.
  • Yang Wei Mai: Critical in the last state of immune defense and helps release old habits and patterns when operating in balance.
  • Dai Mai: Known as the “belt channel”, if you’re feeling frequently frustrated or indecisive, tell your acupuncturist that your Dai Mai needs a tune-up!


The 8 extraordinary meridians form before you are born. As such, they play a critical role in your genetic expression, especially your personality and immune function. Even if you don’t get acupuncture on a regular basis, it’s fascinating to know that lurking behind the scenes of your body’s main energetic superhighway system is an ancillary yet equally critically important 8 truly extraordinary meridians. 

Recommended Reading:

What Are Meridians And Are They Real?