The Triple Burner: Our Metabolic Coordinator - Root + Bones

The Triple Burner: Our Metabolic Coordinator

San Jiao or “Triple Burner” is a Yang organ that’s exclusive to TCM; with no Western counterpart, it is quite elusive to popular understanding. Considered an extraordinary organ—a category characterized by more abstract function and less tangible form, it is essentially a cavity that holds all of our internal organs, responsible for their harmonious and coordinated function. Thus, it is extremely important for the regulation of our metabolic functions, which all together effectively determine one’s overall ability to maintain and return to homeostasis. 

 The Triple Burner is divided into three "burners" or sections, each corresponding to a specific area of the body and tasked with regulating the movement of water within the body in a unique way:


  • The Upper Burner (Shao Yang) encompasses the area from the diaphragm to the throat. It governs the functions of the Lungs, Heart, and Pericardium, regulating respiration, circulation, and the transformation of Qi. It is considered the “mist” of the three sections, responsible for distributing fluids throughout the body in the form of a vapor or mist. It is nourished by fresh air, cardio exercise, and herbs like Rhodiola and Schizandra. 


  • The Middle Burner (Tai Yin) extends from the diaphragm to the navel and is associated with the functions of the Spleen, Stomach, and Gallbladder. It oversees the processes of digestion, assimilation, and the transformation of food and fluids into nutrients delivered to the entire body. Considered the “muddy pool” or “bubbling pool” of the three sections, it refers to a process of refinery. We can support this burner by eating whole foods that are fresh, organic, and seasonal, as well as following pro-metabolic dietary guidelines from TCM. It is also nourished by herbs like Pine Pollen, Lion’s Mane, and Chaga. 


  • The Lower Burner (Jue Yin) spans the region from the navel to the pelvis, governing the functions of the Kidneys and Bladder. Responsible for the elimination of waste and the regulation of water metabolism, it is akin to the “drainage ditch” of the three sections. It requires proper hydration (which has much to do with essential minerals or electrolytes), and herbs like Deer Antler Velvet, He Shou Wu, and Schizandra. 


When it comes to optimizing the Triple Burner system as a whole, Chinese traditions like acupuncture and Qi Gong or Tai Chi can offer comprehensive support. Additionally, according to TCM’s organ clock, Triple Burner time is 9-11 p.m. so resting or sleeping during this time frame greatly supports replenishment and repair. Of course, there is also herbal support, with Reishi Spore being one of the superior choices for overall metabolic health, as it tonifies most of our primary organs and nourishes all Three Treasures—substances that are foundational to sustaining human life in the TCM understanding. Schizandra is another herb that tonifies all Three Treasures and enters all of the meridians, helping to promote the free flow of Qi that likewise contributes to the harmonious interdependence of the body’s organs and channels. 


The Triple Burner is responsible for much of the body’s smooth coordination and communication, ultimately impacting immunity, stress response, hormonal balance, and digestive health. Because the transformation, delivery, and assimilation of free-flowing Qi is so crucial to health and harmony in the TCM framework, the Triple Burner is a truly extraordinary organ that helps ensure we are well-resourced to respond to life. Indeed, its health fundamentally supports our ability to adapt to external conditions like seasonal changes, therefore enhancing overall resilience.