The San Jiao also referred to as the Triple Heater or Triple Burner, is a special and essential concept in TICM. It is the sixth "Fu" organ which represents the hollow space inside the trunk of our body. In TICM, there are five solid organs, and each solid organ has its counterpart in a hollow organ. We refer to this as the San Jiao, meaning three warmers.You could say the San Jiao is the equivalent of the lymphatic system. It is known as the organ of “metabolism” and not the thyroid gland as we are led to believe.
This system coordinates the organ functions of the body within three energetic centres and is responsible for maintaining overall metabolism within the body. The triple burner is the passage through which water, food and fluid are transported. It ignites fevers and infections to fight disease as well as prompts the release of adrenaline to meet an emergency.
The functions of the three burners were summarised in ancient text as follows: "The upper burner acts like a mist. The middle burner acts like foam. The lower burner acts like a swamp." This mirrors the functions of the Triple Burner as being the activities of Qi (energy) and the movement of water.
Upper burner: "mist" which moves Qi, Blood and body fluids throughout the body. These fluids are distributed throughout the body just as mist disperses in the environment.
Middle burner: "foam" which digests, churns, and decomposes food.
Lower burner: "swamp" which breaks down, clears, and excretes impure substances.
Imbalances in the San Jiao system can lead to leakage of Qi that can then cause damage to the fluids and essence of the body. It is through the action of these systems that fluid dynamics are maintained in the body.
Disharmony of the San Jiao channel leads to symptoms like abdominal distention, oedema (swelling), urinary incontinence, difficulty urinating, loss of hearing, weight gain, and tinnitus to name a few. Pain in the throat, eyes, cheek, back of the ear, shoulder and the upper arm can occur as these structures are located along this meridian's pathway.