You may have experienced how sound can change your mood from sad to happy, or happy to sad. You also may have used the power of special sounds —like wind chimes, Tibetan singing bowls, chanting, or soothing music — to help you relax.
These are examples of how sound has an uncanny power to change our energy state. The power of sound to change our energy is why traditional Chinese medicine incorporates sound as a tool for healing.
Sound is Energy
A big part of traditional Chinese medicine is balancing the flow of internal energy, or Qi (chi). This is the life energy that flows inside of our bodies, and through our major internal organ systems. The ancient Chinese found that blockages, stagnation, or imbalances in our energy flow can cause disease.
Part of why herbal medicine and acupuncture work so well, is that they are able to affect our Qi energy flow in positive ways. But acupuncture and herbs aren’t the only treatments that can affect our energy: there are many other TCM modalities that do, such as massage, diet, cupping, Qigong movements — and sound!
Specifically, within the field of Qigong, there are six separate healing sounds that bring balance to the Qi in the six major organ systems. Each sound is said to clear stagnant or negative energy in a particular organ and encourage a more balanced energy flow to help that organ system thrive.
How TCM Healing Sounds Work
Unlike passively listening to music or the sound of a bell, with TCM healing sounds, you, must intone the sound with your own voice. This causes the vibration of the sound to reverberate deep inside of your body. Your own intonation is why and how the sound energy can affect your internal energy balance.
Each sound is associated with a paired organ system and its associated meridians. These systems are also associated with common emotions. That’s why many TCM doctors and Qigong masters suggest using healing sounds if you are feeling emotionally out of balance. You can look at this list of sounds and try intoning the associated sound for that emotion.
Generally, however, the six healing sounds are best used as a meditation or daily wellness practice. If you can set aside 2-3 minutes, you can start by standing or sitting quietly at first, maintaining good posture. Then, inhale deeply and slowly all the way down to your abdomen. When it’s time to exhale, exhale slowly and evenly while forming one of the healing sounds listed below. You can go through each of the six sounds one at a time, or do a few repetitions of each. Or, you can choose one particular sound that feels good, or that you know is associated with an energetic or emotional imbalance that you have.
The Six Healing Sounds of TCM
Lungs (and Large Intestine) – “sssssss”- grief, sadness
Kidney (and Bladder) – “chooo” – fear
Liver (and Gall Bladder) – “shhhhhh” – anger
Heart (and Small Intestine) – “haaaaaw’ – hate/love
Spleen (and Stomach) – “whooooo” – worry, anxiety
Triple Warmer (a special meridian in TCM) – “heeee” – general overall balance
The good news is that you can employ these sounds as preventative medicine or as a general tonic or tune-up for your system. Here is a video with more about the six healing sounds and a demonstration of what they sound like.
A Word about Organ Systems in TCM
When TCM refers to different organ systems such as the liver, or lungs, it isn’t always talking about just the physical internal organ. More accurately, a TCM organ system refers to a wide number of health functions that are associated with the energy meridians flowing to and from that particular organ. This means that if a TCM physician prescribes a sound or treatment for your spleen, it doesn’t mean that your spleen has a disease. What it means is that the health systems inside your body that are governed by the spleen meridian are off-balance in some way. That could mean your digestion, your hydration level, your blood sugar levels, or many other functions associated with that meridian. Likewise, just because you are experiencing a certain emotion does not always mean you have health trouble in any associated organ meridian system. This is why in TCM it’s important not to self-diagnose, and always consult with a TCM doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of illness.
Modern Sound Therapy
The six healing sounds in TCM aren’t the only sounds that can have a healing effect. Read an article by the National Eczema Association featuring Dr. Olivia Hsu Friedman that talks about how sound therapy can help with eczema and stress.
Energy medicine, such as using sound as therapy, is being rediscovered in modern times, although it has ancient roots in TCM. The six healing sounds of TCM are a super simple wellness tool that anyone can learn and practice to help rebalance their internal energy.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.