The ancient Silk Road between the East and West has transcended into a modern, ether highway constantly exchanging information on science, art and medicine. Western Astrology and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are 2 ancient disciplines that share many common threads and complementary differences worth exploring. The Hippocratic Medicine of the early Greeks largely influenced the basis from which western medical astrology has evolved and shares many things with TCM, which will be explained throughout this article. The origins are unclear as to whether the Greeks were influenced by the Chinese or vice versa, but most likely the Silk Road was a link for exchanges that weaved the east and west together more than most people realize.
In this article, my aim is to identify and explain synergistic correlations between Western Astrology and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), to expand our scope of Western Astrology through TCM and vice versa. With the growing number of individuals experiencing TCM through acupuncture and herbal medicine in the western world, a demand for bridging this medicine to western astrology will likely increase. As a Western Astrologer and TCM Practitioner, I connect these modalities in six key areas: 1) Holographic Paradigm, 2) 4 vs 5 elements, 3) Yin Yang Balance, 4) Western Zodiacupuncture: 12 Signs/Planets and 12 Acupuncture Meridians, 5) Planetary Aspects/Retrogrades and TCM Patterns 6) Acutonics® Planetary Tuning Forks, 7) and Plants to Planets.
1) Holographic Paradigm
“Heaven is covered with constellations, Earth with waterways, and man with channels.”
-Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Medicine (黄帝内经, huang di nei jing)
TCM is based on the holographic paradigm, in that all parts contain the whole. In short, each human body is a miniature universe. The 12 meridians of TCM were thought to match the constellations, with 365 points equaling days in the year. The qi was believed to mirror the Sun’s annual journey through the Ecliptic–meaning its apparent path on the celestial sphere–and to circulate in a network of 12 primary jing luo (經络) known in English as the meridians.
In Western Astrology the origination of Zodiac Man (image to the right) dates back to the Middle Ages with the body divided up into regions like our Mother Earth, referring to man as a “little world.” Medical Astrology interprets the human anatomy as a microcosm of our universe with the zodiac signs and planets corresponding to organs and body parts.
Ultimately, when encompassing TCM with Western Astrology, there is vastly more to interpret from our solar system into an astrological consultation and vice versa: I believe that the 12 Western Zodiac Signs correspond with the 12 Meridians and organs of TCM. This is explained further in 3) Zodiacupunture: 12 Signs/Planets to 12 Acupuncture Meridians.
2) Western Astrology 4 Elements vs Chinese Medicine 5 Elements:
Elements Cardinal Fixed Mutable_____ Fire-Yang Aries/Mars Leo/Sun Sagittarius/Jupiter
Earth-Yin Capricorn/Saturn Taurus/Venus Virgo/Mercury
Air-Yang Libra/Venus Aquarius/Uranus Gemini/Mercury
Water-Yin Cancer/Moon Scorpio/Pluto Pisces/Neptune
Elements Season Yin Organ Yang Organ Emotion
Wood Spring Liver Gallbladder Anger
Fire Summer Heart Small Intestine Joy
Pericardium Triple Burner
Earth Late Summer Spleen Stomach Worry
Metal Autumn Lung Large Intestine Grief
Water Winter Kidney Bladder Fear
In comparing the element dynamics of the 2 systems, an obvious difference is the number of elements. Both TCM and Ayurvedic Medicine have 5 elements, sharing the 3 elements of fire, earth and water in common with western astrology. These elements share similar traits in both the East and Western counterparts. The Chinese metal element is similar in character to the air in the West. Both encompass profile traits of the me(n)tal and intellectual aspects within ourselves, corresponding with the lung and its health imbalances. The extra element is the wood as the Chinese element of spring, associated with the yin organ, Liver and its yang-paired organ, the Gallbladder. As a practitioner of both disciplines, I find a similarity of Wood to Aries/Mars, both associated with spring growth and bold traits of independent starters and the emotion, anger.
Another difference in TCM, is their cultural perspective on emotional correspondences to the elements. With the exception of joy, from the western perspective, the other 4 emotions of anger, worry, grief and fear would be considered ‘negative’ to most individuals. In TCM, the emotions are a source of disharmony with neutral connotations. All emotions have their place in healthy individuals and should be expressed in a balanced way to maintain health. Even too much joy can be a source of disharmony.
Some organs are in different elements when comparing systems. For example, in TCM, Virgo’s small intestine is the fire element and earth in astrology. This is a reminder that we are integrating 2 different disciplines that each bring their unique perspectives, but can still help to expand our awareness of health.
3) Yin-Yang Balance
The foundation of TCM is based on Taoism, an organic philosophy derived from observing the patterns of nature. The Tao is the divine path or way through the flow of the Universe. Through the Tao, one senses the yin and yang’s opposing, cosmic forces as interdependent balance for well-being. In TCM, health is embodied through balance of the yin and yang forces. The organs and associated meridians are organized into pairs of yin (solid) organs and yang (hollow) organs, each assigned to one of the 5 elements as shown in the diagram.
In western astrology, the zodiac signs are considered negative (yin) and positive (yang) energies. The odd numbers (fire and air elements) in the zodiac are yang: Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius. The even numbers (earth and water elements) in the zodiac are yin: Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces. I consider the moon’s south node as yin and north node as yang.
4) Western Zodiacupuncture: 12 Signs/Constellations and Acupuncture Meridians, 365 Acu-points/days
The number 12 is a common thread in Astrology and TCM, as the number of signs/planets and principle Chinese meridians. According to TCM, the 12 meridians are well-defined pathways in the body connected to our organs and emotions, where our qi or life force flows. These meridians are the link between our physical and energetic bodies, where the qi transforms the material into energy and vice versa. As aforementioned, the 12 meridians of TCM were thought to match the constellations, with 365 points equaling days in the year. [Just a note on Chinese Astrology, in that the emphasis is on a calendar with the zodiac operating on cycles of years, months and hours of the day.] Here are the meridians listed in order of the Chinese Meridian Clock’s qi circulation or energetic biorhythm. The 24 hour clock is divided into 12 two hour intervals of the qi moving through the organ system. I have matched each meridian with a corresponding western zodiac sign. The qi circulation through the Chinese meridians does not flow in the same order as the western zodiac path from head (Aries) to feet (Pisces). 8 of the 12 (in bold) translate into clear correspondences. The Large Intestine, Spleen, Pericardium, and Triple Burner Meridians need explanation, as I will do in this section, and remind us that we are considering 2 different systems.
Time TCM Organ/ Western Western
Meridian Zodiac Sign Organ/Body ___________
3-5 am Lung-Yin Gemini Lung
5-7 am Large Intestine-Yang Aquarius Lung, Peripheral Circulation
7-9 am Stomach-Yang Cancer Stomach
9-11 am Spleen-Yin Taurus Neck/Thyroid
11-1 pm Heart-Yin Leo Heart
1-3 pm Small Intestine-Yang Virgo Small Intestine
3-5 pm Bladder-Yang Scorpio Bladder
5-7 pm Kidney-Yin Libra Kidney
7-9 pm Pericardium-Yin Aries Head, Brain, Blood
9-11 pm Triple Burner-Yang Pisces Lymphatic/Immune System
11-1 am Gallbladder-Yang Capricorn Gallbladder, skeletal system
1-3 am Liver-Yin Sagittarius Liver
Lung-LU Meridian (yin/Metal) 3-5 am Sign: Gemini-Air
In western astrology the lung and nervous system is co-ruled by the air signs, Gemini and Aquarius. Gemini is associated with the upper limbs/hands, whereas the lung meridian travels from the lungs to front of shoulders and down the arms and out the thumbs. Both the western (air) lungs and the eastern (metal) lungs correlate to cerebral, rational aspects of our personality traits and how this interplays with emotional nature. The lung’s acupuncture points treat many lung conditions: cold, asthma, cough, bronchitis, and shortness of breath. In TCM the emotion, grief and sadness, corresponds to the lungs, recognizing that emotional imbalances may lead to chronic lung issues, such as, bronchitis or pneumonia. The Lung’s Spirit in TCM is the Po, our power to let go. When individuals hold on to grief without letting go, lung issues may persist till treatment or the grieving process completed. This awareness can greatly expand western medical astrology’s understanding of Mercury, Uranus and the lungs regarding health and well-being in the astrology chart.
Large Intestine-LI Meridian (yang/Metal) 5-7 am Sign: Aquarius-Air
The LI needs explanation from a TCM point of view to validate its correspondence to Aquarius. Because the LI is the yang-paired organ to the lung, it treats many lung issues shared with Aquarius, including, cough, asthma, cold, immunity, and sinuses. A significant point indicated for the respiratory, immune and peripheral vascular systems is LI-4, “Union Valley” on the hand. As a me(n)tal element, this meridian connects to cerebral/mental issues similar to the air element in Astrology. The name for the LI channel is “Bright Yang,” also describing the Aquarian ruler, Uranus, the planet of electrical light and voltage.
Stomach-ST Meridian (Yang/Earth) 7-9 am Sign: Cancer-Water
In Medical Astrology, the moon rules the stomach, breasts and ovaries and in TCM, the stomach meridian passes over the nipples, stomach and ovaries moving down the legs and out the second toes. An acupuncture point named “Leg Three Miles” strengthens the immune system and affects fluids, linking it to the Western Astrology moon, connected to the lymphatic system and immunity. TCM’s stomach and the astrological moon both relate to food, early digestion and food allergies.
Spleen-SP Meridian (Yin/Earth) 9-11 am Sign: Taurus
The spleen organ from a TCM perspective is significantly different than the spleen’s functions in western anatomy. In TCM, the spleen regulates metabolism, energy and cognitive abilities. In TCM, the spleen is the yin earth element, at the center of the body or cosmos and in astrology Taurus is the yin earth element. The similarities of TCM’s spleen and Astrology’s Taurus can best be explained by their common definitions of their earth elements, both associated with qualities of practicality, patience, hard work, stability, and stubbornness. TCM does not acknowledge the thyroid gland, however, the Spleen’s bodily functions are similar to the thyroid defined in western anatomy, ruled by Taurus in astrology. Hypo-thyroid symptoms include lethargy, lack of appetite, weight gain and impaired cognitive functioning, all patterns of a spleen deficiency in TCM. Additionally, the salivary glands/saliva and gustatory system or sense of taste are associated with the spleen in TCM and Taurus in astrology. In Hippocratic Medicine, the humor of the spleen was the earth element.
Heart-HT Meridian (Yin/Fire) 11 am-1 pm Sign: Leo-Fire
This meridian and sign shares many common positive characteristics to the element fire: creative, bold, energetic, and generous. When the heart is out of balance in TCM, the symptoms may include anxiety, insomnia, speech problems and inappropriate laughter; whereas in astrology, the shadow side of Leo may display narcissism. In Astrology, the sun rules the heart. Interestingly, the heart meridian runs from the chest down the inside of both arms, the location where pain strikes on the left side, when having a heart attack. Both systems connect the heart with royalty. In Astrology, the sun rules Leo, the Lion and king of the jungle and relates to royalty in general. In TCM, the heart is considered the Emperor of the body, as the center of command for all the organs (all organs are classified as different officials). By knowing about the heart’s spirit called the Shen, astrologers can expand their understanding of issues related to the Sun ruling Leo. The state of Shen is said to be visible in the eyes and heard in the speech. When the Shen is healthy it produces bright, shining eyes and clear speech. When disturbed, often seen after a shock, the eyes may be dull with no presence and speech may be incoherent or interspersed with nervous laughter.
Small Intestine-SI Meridian (Yang/Fire) 1-3 pm Sign: Virgo-Earth
In TCM the Small Intestine is considered the Receiving Official, in charge of separating the pure from the impure. This correlates to the western functions of the SI, in that it digests and absorbs our food, then discharges the waste to the Large Intestine. In Astrology, Virgo is the sign of purity, perfectionism and analysis, as an earth element. An inconsistency in TCM is it is paired as the yang counterpart to the heart as a fire element and earth in astrology.
Bladder-UB Meridian (Yang/Water) 3-5 pm Sign: Scorpio-Water
In TCM, the bladder’s element is water, and in Western Astrology the bladder is associated with Scorpio also as the water element. According to Evolutionary Astrology, Pluto/Scorpio represents the subconscious mind and our archive of past life memories. Similarly, the bladder meridian has esoteric acupuncture points on the back, such as, UB 43- “Vital Spirit,” needled as an access gate to release past life memories and emotions stored in the body.
Kidney-KD Meridian (Yin/Water) 5-7 pm Sign: Libra-Air
The kidney functions defined by TCM largely reflect western astrology’s Libra corresponding to the kidneys. In TCM, the kidneys are considered the creator and storehouse for our yin and yang. They also store the Jing or essence, which many would analogize to our ancestral DNA. This is the foundation from which the essence of TCM is based, with the balance of yin and yang as the pathway to health. In Astrology, the western horizon or equinox of Libra is when the day and night are equal and we are in harmonious balance. The quest of Libra (Scales) or its ruler, Venus, are to find the harmonic balance of equality through our relationships with others. In Western Medical Astrology, Venus also rules our acid/alkaline pH balance and estrogen levels. Likewise, in TCM the kidneys are the source of imbalances related to the menstrual cycle and menopause, connected to our Jing or essence.
Pericardium or Circulation Sex-PC Meridian (Yin/Fire) 7-9 pm Sign: Aries-Fire
In Astrology, the fire sign Aries, ruled by Mars relates to our inner warrior traits, along with our head, blood (anemia), energy levels, sex and anger. In western anatomy the Pericardium is described as a sac that covers the heart, protecting it from infections. Similarly in TCM, the Pericardium is regarded as the “Protector of the Heart.” The Pericardium shares the fire element and many health and emotional conditions with Mars in astrology related to the brain, blood issues, blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, anger and sex. The Pericardium meridian is known as the 'Circulation Sex' because it controls the lubrication or facilitation of sexual organs.
Triple Burner-TB Meridian, (Yang/Fire) 9-11 pm Sign: Pisces-Water
The Triple Burner organ system is unique to Chinese Medicine. Many TCM practitioners consider the Lymphatic System as part of the Triple Burner. In medical astrology, Pisces corresponds with the lymphatic/immune system. In TCM, the Triple Burner is divided within our body’s microcosm of heaven, human and earth in the 3 cavities: thorax, abdomen and pelvis, regulating the heat and protection of the body from infections. Modern research validates points along its meridian for enhancing the immune system: TB-5 “Outer Gate” is a protocol point for fighting colds and other infections. TCM refers to this organ as the “Irrigation Official,” in control of the water passages, which corresponds to the Piscean water element. The Triple Burner meridian travels up the arm and front of the neck, over the lymph glands that swell from infections. The TB is a fire element, but the points along this water regulating channel are cooling and clear heat, as the fire is believed to control water. It’s interesting to note the theory of the Taoist, Liu Zi Jue, in that each of the 5 elements has its own exhalation or its own sound. The sixth sound (“Heeeee”) of the Triple Burner, is thought to integrate the vibrations and potential of the other five sounds and elements. This mirrors the all-encompassing notion of Pisces as the last zodiac sign corresponding to transcendence and universality of all zodiac signs.
Gallbladder-GB Meridian (Yang/Wood) 11-1 am Sign: Capricorn-Earth
In TCM, the Gallbladder is the yang counterpart to the Liver, ruling courage and considered the Official of Decision-making and Wise Judgement. This shares many of the characteristics of Capricorn in astrology, as the practical sign associated with goal setting, responsibility and planning with the shadow for being overly judgmental. With Capricorn, there is potential for rigidity of judgement that can potentially harden into gallstones and blocks in the GB meridian. In Dr. Cornell’s classic book on Medical Astrology, he associates the Gallbladder and gallstones with Capricorn and Saturn.
Liver-LV Meridian (Yin/Wood) 1-3 am Sign: Sagittarius-Fire
This meridian travels from the liver down the thighs (ruled by Sagittarius) and legs, out the big toes. Both TCM’s Liver and the Sagittarian ruled liver have expansive roles in the temperament and body. In astrology Sagittarian traits may include being independent, adventurous, spiritual with wanderlust. In TCM, just as trees (wood) unrelentingly grow upward to the light, the liver represents the natural drive of the body/mind to spread outward. Individual with strong liver qi and blood are usually good strategic planners and decision makers, as they know how to spread themselves into the world. As an official, the liver is the General that sets strategies for action. When the liver qi is stagnant, symptoms of irritability, frustration and anger may arise. Interestingly, ancient Greek Medicine viewed the liver similarly to TCM, associating it with the humor, yellow bile, and temperament as ambitious, restless and easily angered. Likewise, in English, both ‘gall’ and ‘liverish’ are used to describe a person being agitated or irritable.
Other Correspondences of Paired Meridians and Zodiac Circle
In the Chinese Clock after the first 2 paired organs, beginning with Heart/Small Intestine their matched zodiac signs of each pair are adjacent to each other in the zodiac circle. For example, Heart and Small Intestine correspond with the adjacent signs Leo and Virgo. And the same goes for Bladder and Kidney with Scorpio and Libra; Pericardium and Triple Burner with Aries and Pisces; and Gallbladder and Liver with Capricorn and Sagittarius.
North and South Nodes Equate TCM’s Conception and Governor Vessels
Whereas the 12 principle Chinese Meridians are often referred to as the “Ordinary Meridians,” there are also 8 “Extraordinary Meridians.” 2 of these 8 are unique in that they are the only 2 extraordinary channels with their own acupuncture points: Conception Vessel (CV) and Governor Vessel (GV). The CV is named the “Sea of Yin” connecting all the yin channels in the body. It begins in the perineum, flowing up the front midline and ends in the mouth. I correspond the CV to the karma of the moon’s South Node (yin) or “Dragon’s Tail” in astrology. The GV is referred to as the “Sea of Yang,” connecting all of the yang channels. It arises from the perineum flowing up the center of the back through the spine, neck and over the head, ending in the mouth, connecting with the Conception Vessel. I correspond the GV with our futuristic Dharma of the moon’s North Node or “Dragon’s Head.” Many sources say the Conception Vessel originates in the uterus and the Governor Vessel point, “Hundred Convergences,” is the exit point for the spirit during physical death, out the crown chakra on the top of the head. The connection between CV-1 in Microcosmic Orbit the perineum and GV-20 on the crown chakra is referred to as a central axis to heaven and earth, corresponding to the nodal axis of the North and South Nodes in astrology. There is a qi gong meditation exercise called Microcosmic Orbit (see picture), where one focuses on the qi circulating through the CV and DV channels, representing the moon’s orbital path around earth.
4) Planetary Aspects/Retrogrades and TCM Patterns
As a practitioner of both TCM and western astrology, I utilize the astrology chart to supplement my TCM diagnosis with information about the patient and their planetary cycles. The best way to explain this is through some examples. Challenging aspects (conjunctions, squares and oppositions) in the natal chart or transits from Saturn, Uranus, Neptune or Pluto with the faster moving planets or through zodiac signs can affect their ruling organs and meridians. For example, if Neptune is conjunct Saturn, I may do an acupuncture protocol to strengthen the immune system. If a patient has the moon in Aries, a fire sign, in the sixth house, I look for symptoms of potentially stomach heat and suggest dietary and herbal remedies along with acupuncture accordingly. Mercury Retrograde may indicate the lung qi going in the wrong direction, leading to symptoms like cough and holding or shortness of breath. For western astrologers, to at least be aware of the TCM paired organs can be helpful. For example, say a patient with Leo (ruling Heart) rising has anxiety and digestion problems. By looking at the paired organ to the Heart (anxiety in TCM) as the Small Intestine, you could investigate the possibility of the digestion issues being with the Small intestine as maybe Celiac or SIBO (Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth).
5) Acutonics® Planetary Tuning Forks
“Sound is the Medicine of the Future”-Edgar Cayce
Acutonics is a modern development of Harmonic Medicine, that integrates Western astrology, TCM and Sound Healing. It utilizes tuning forks with frequencies of the sun, moon and planets. These frequencies are based on Kepler’s calculations of planetary velocities. In the 20th century, Hans Cousto, translated these velocities into musical tones, of which are the foundation for Acutonics’ Harmonic Medicine. Specifically, they can be applied to acupuncture points or chakras, used as portals to the inner matrix of meridian pathways or core energetic system. This healing alchemy brings the Music of the Spheres to Earth, harmonizing the celestial bodies with our own. The epic book, Acutonics: From Galaxies to Cells, co-authored by Donna Carey and others explains in depth this multi-dimensional, cohesive system.
6) Plants and Planets
In TCM, the Herbal Materia Medica is considered the ‘yin’ counterpart to the ‘yang’ of Acupuncture. It is arguably the most sophisticated herbal system in the world, comprising thousands of concoctions from the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms. During the 17th century the Astrological Botanist, Nicholas Culpeper, wrote his renowned books, The English Physitian and the Complete Herbal, that correspond hundreds of medicinal herbs to the planets and astrological influences. Both TCM and western Medical Astrology assign herbs according to their physical properties, such as, hot, cold, wet and dry, prescribing them with an allopathic intent for balance. For example, if an individual has Lung heat, both medicines may use Honeysuckle (Jin Yin Hua) for its cooling properties to treat asthma, cough or sore throat. In addition, both systems assign herbs according to the organ that they treat; moreover, in astrology the organs correspond to zodiac signs and planets. Examples of astrological herbs from Culpeper’s books that are also Chinese Herbs include the following: Mugwort/Venus, Mistletoe/Sun, Hawthorn/Mars, Dandelion/Jupiter, Honeysuckle/Mercury, Mallows/Venus, Foxgloves/Venus, Licorice/Mercury, Plantain/Mars, and Rhubarb/Mars. In the February/March 2016 edition of The Mountain Astrologer, J. Lee Lehman said in her article, Astrology and Homeopathy, “To apply herbs astrologically, we must know their properties (hot, cold, wet, dry) and which properties were being used in the rulership assignment.” Here is an overview of the planetary qualities: Saturn (cold and dry), Jupiter (hot and wet), Mars (very hot and dry), Sun (hot and dry), Venus (cold and wet), Mercury (assumes qualities of what it is with) and Moon (cold and wet). Another reminder that the foundation for Culpeper’s theories are based on the Hippocratic principles in ancient Greece.
In conclusion, TCM and western astrology are two ancient disciplines, that have evolved into a modern fulcrum from which East meets West in healing and metaphysics. My intention is to introduce and integrate the ‘yang’ western astrology with ‘yin’ TCM as a balanced approach offering the best from both worlds. Being a practitioner of both disciplines, I see the connections often and feel impelled to explain the synergy of integration. Their connections most likely arose from the Silk Road, helping to inspire Hippocratic Medicine in ancient Greece and western astrology. However, if we go back even further in time, we would most likely find that both these systems share the same ancient healing heritage with everything else in Shamanism.