If you’ve been watching the news lately and managed not to be sucked into the vacuum of political news and commentary, you may have caught an interesting article several weeks ago about a “new organ” dubbed the “Interstitium”.
We’ll link the article at the end of this post, but it was on national media and I caught it for several weeks prominently on CNN.com.
Basically, this new organ is considered to be a collection of spaces… the fluid filled spaces that populate the body. Normally, microscope-studied tissue samples are dehydrated tissues… so the fluidity of the samples weren’t really observed. However, the scientists used a new microscope technique detailed in the article and they applied it to living, non-dehydrated tissues. It was there they were able to see these fluid filled spaces in great detail.
My first notion was a quote I frequently think of…. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” This is from Shakespeare, but that story really isn’t that important. The gist of the quote, which resonates so very well with me as an acupuncturist, is that life itself is an adventure, and that it should be approached always with the most open of minds. Here we go again with a paradigm-shifting discovery, yet one that has been discussed for thousands of years in Asia as the San Jiao or “triple burner”.
The San Jiao is perhaps the most unusual “organ” in Chinese Medicine. We have the more obvious sounding organs, like heart, liver, lungs… but then there is the San Jiao. What is it? It appears from the ancient literature that it has always been a most complex and debated idea of body physiology.
From the Nan Jing, Chapter 31… “How is the triple burner supplied and what does it generate? Where does it began and end? At which places in the body might one treat the triple burner? Is it even possible to know these things?”
It is said that the triple burner “holds the office of irrigation design; the water passages issue from it“. (Su Wen, Ch 8). It is also said that the triple burner “has a name but no form.” (Nan Jing, Ch 38). All these quotes give us the idea that it is widespread, a combination of space and fluids that wrap and network throughout the body, behaving in a consistent manner (like an organ) but lacking what we typically have defined as the look and feel of an organ.
Generally, it is believed that the triple burner is fluid filled cavities throughout the body. This system is critical to the transformative power of qi and contains a particular kind of “Source” Qi in it. It is important to the movement of qi throughout the body, and is described as controlling it’s flow and movement, descent and entering into the organs of the body. It also manages to control water and fluid passage through the body.
Is the Interstitium the Triple Burner? Perhaps. We will no doubt “learn” more and more about the Interstitium as months go by… I certainly hope so. Science is especially excited that it may help us understand how cancer can spread throughout the body. But like Horatio, it would be best to approach this also with a sense of wonder and delight. Traditional Chinese Medicine has spoken eloquently of the San Jiao or triple burner for thousands of years. For those that had the eyes to see, this has long been established, respected and understood. This is good to remember in these coming days as old ideas fade away and new approaches are found. Knowledge and wisdom are quite different. What is the most important to you?