They serve as reservoirs of Chi.
About two thousand years ago, one of the great texts of Chinese medicine, the Nan Ching was written. This classical text describes the twelve ordinary channels as rivers and the eight extraordinary channels as reservoirs of Chi. When the ordinary channels become low in energy, they can draw from the reservoirs of energy in the extraordinary channels. On the other hand, if the ordinary channels become too full, the excess can be taken up by the extraordinary channels. In this way the extraordinary channels help us to maintain a balance in our energy body.
The extraordinary channels all draw their energy from the kidneys, which are the storehouse of Ching Chi (essence or sexual energy) in the body. Thus the extraordinary channels circulate the Ching Chi around the body, particularly to the skin and hair, and to the five ancestral organs: the brain and spinal cord, the bone marrow, the blood, the uterus and the liver and gall bladder.
The Chi that protects the body against invasion by external pathogens is called Defensive Chi or Wei Chi. The extraordinary channels circulate Defensive Chi over the back, abdomen and thorax. These functions are performed by the Governor Channel, the Functional Channel and the Thrusting Channels, respectively.
In the first chapter of the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (Huang Di Nei Ching Su Wen), another of the classical texts of Chinese medicine, the life changes of women and men are described in 7 and 8 year cycles respectively. The Functional Channel and the Thrusting Channel govern these cycles.
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