THE FUNCTION OF THE
GALL BLADDER IN CHINESE MEDICINE
The Gallbladder is
classified both as a Fu and as an extraordinary bowel, as it
both stores and secretes bile. As the reservoir for Heat and
Dampness in the body, the Gall Bladder is responsible for
absorbing excesses from the Liver. One of the functions of
the Liver in Chinese medicine is to create smooth flow,
specifically of Qi, Blood, digestion, and emotion. Liver
depression means lack of free flow, and its specific cause
is unfulfilled desires. Depression of free flow creates Heat
(specifically, depressive Heat), and excess Heat can be
dumped into the Gall Bladder. Gall Bladder dysfunction
characterized by Heat is thought of in Chinese medicine as
arising from prolonged stagnation, leading to resentment and
festering anger (the festering quality arises from Dampness,
produced by the Spleen).
An imbalance arising from vacuity of Gall Bladder function,
as compared to those of excess described above, is the
pattern of Gall Bladder timidity. The Gall Bladder engenders
the capacity for courage and bravery. In the West, we speak
of having gall to express this quality. Weakness in Gall
Bladder function may manifest with a tendency towards fear
and timidity. While the Liver is responsible for planning
and organizing, the Gall Bladder is responsible for
decisiveness and execution. Inability to act may be tied to
a Gall Bladder imbalance.
The Gall Bladder also governs the right side of the body.
This is simply due to its physical location alongside the
Liver under the right ribcage, and therefore the
preponderance of its energy on that side of the body. Using
this metaphor, the Heart governs the left side of the body
(there are other metaphors of left / right tropism in
Chinese medicine, including Yang / Yin and Liver / Lung).
Multiple symptoms occurring on the right side of the body
often reflects a Gall Bladder dysfunction. Some of the most
common of these include right-sided shoulder pain, hip pain,
knee pain, and sciatica. These areas are traversed by the
Gall Bladder channel.
Finally, the law of midday-midnight is important with
relation to Gall Bladder function. This theory of Chinese
medicine outlines a biorhythm for all of the organ systems.
Beginning with the Lungs at 3:00 AM, Qi flows through each
of the channels and organs during a two hour (referred to a
Chinese hour) time period (the time shifts one hour forward
during Daylight Savings Time). This order is Lung Large
Intestine Stomach Spleen Heart Small Intestine
Bladder Kidney Pericardium Triple Heater Gall
Bladder Liver. Gall Bladder time is 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM.
This means that the Gall Bladder has the greatest amount of
Qi in it at this time, and so excesses may manifest then.
Gall Bladder symptoms which commonly manifest during this
period are insomnia, anxiety, and digestive dysfunction.
The law of midday-midnight asserts that Gall Bladder
deficiencies will manifest during the opposite hour, 11:00
AM to 1:00 PM, which is the time of its lowest energy. This
is also Heart time. The midday-midnight theory illustrates
the relationship between the Gall Bladder and the Heart. The
right / left tropism described above also reflects this
relationship. In addition, the Gall Bladder acts as a
protector of the Heart. The Heart is protected by the Gall
Bladder, and the Gall Bladder is protected by the appendix.
They are affected by excess Heat and Dampness in ascending
order of biological importance, with the Heart obviously
appearing at the end as it is considered to be the ruler of
the body. It is very common clinically to see people who
have their appendix out as a teenager, their Gall Bladder
out as an adult, and then to suffer from Heart disease and
an eventual Heart attack later in life. This illustrates the
concept in Chinese medicine that illness occurs as a gradual
progression over the course of ones life. When the
symptomatic expression of one illness is removed without
properly treating its root, then symptoms will simply
manifest elsewhere at a later date. Without a model which
connects these events, they are seen as different illnesses.
Symptom chasing occurs, possibly over the course of years,
without ever addressing the underlying cause.
Copyright 2006 Robert Keller. All rights reserved.
The information in this website is for informational
purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or treat
Robert Keller, C.A. 1949 Route 70 East,
Suite 8 Cherry Hill, NJ 08003