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Best Chinese Medicine Basics: The Governing Vessel (Du Mai)

Chinese medicine views the organs not as separate entities, but as connected physical, chemical, and energetic networks. Here, we’ll dive deeper into the Chinese medicine concept of the Governing Vessel and how we can use herbal medicine to boost our health.

Governing Vessel / Du: Overview & Associations

Unlike the main yang organ systems in the body (such as the Urinary Bladder or the Stomach), the Governing Vessel has a channel and acupoints, but no corresponding organ. Instead, the Governing Vessel interacts with all the yin organs of the body and links with the Ren, or Conception Vessel.

Body Region: back
Paired Channel: Ren/Conception Vessel
Western Associations: spine, nervous system, brain, neck, eyes, anus.
Other Associations: all yang elements of the body.
Common Conditions: back pain, neck pain, headaches, cognitive disorders, stroke, colds, fever, dizziness, tremors, memory loss, reproductive conditions.

The Governing Vessel / Du Channel: An Extraordinary Vessel

Not all energy flow in the body happens through the main organ system channels. In fact, some of the most influential channels are deeper vessels that have no organ association. These are the extraordinary vessels.

The Du and Ren are the only two extraordinary vessels with points of their own. The Ren channel is attributed to yin, while the Du channel is attributed to yang. Together, they form what is called the “microcosmic orbit”: a connected circle of energy that connects yin and yang throughout the body.

The Governing Vessel is the “Sea of Yang”, meaning that it stores the body’s yang reserves and has control over all the body’s yang organs (Large Intestine, Stomach, Small Intestine, Urinary Bladder, Triple Burner, and Gallbladder). As such, it can be used to stimulate yang energy to improve energy, movement, activity, and warmth.

The Governing Vessel is deeply connected with the nervous system because the channel itself flows up the spine and into the brain. It can be used to restore nerve function or improve brain health.

Along with the Urinary Bladder, the Du channel has a strong influence over any condition of the back, as well as protecting the body against “external evils.” In Western medicine terms, that corresponds to excess cold, heat, or pathogens like viruses or bacteria.

The Governing Vessel (Du Mai)

Each organ in Chinese medicine is associated with an energetic channel where qi travels along the body, closer to the surface of the skin. These channels create a web of connections and are how acupuncturists “tap” into the body’s energetic system to stimulate change.

The Du Channel begins in the lower abdomen, similar to the Ren channel. It emerges at the perineum and runs along the sacrum and up the spine to the nape of the neck. From here, it enters the brain and reaches the vertex (the top of the head). From the crown, the channel descends down the forehead to the nose and ends just above the upper lip.

An internal branch of the Du channel branches off in the lower abdomen and connects with the genitals and perineum, winds around the anus, then ascends the spinal column and connects with the kidneys. A second branch follows a similar path but instead ascends up the abdomen to the heart, throat, mouth, and eyes. Finally, a third internal brand emerges at the eye and enters the brain, neck, and travels down the back to the kidneys.

Our Best Chinese Medicine Favorites for the Governing Vessel

The Governing Vessel controls the yang aspects of the body, as well as qi, warmth, and movement. With Chinese herbal medicine, we can improve the body’s function, relieve pain, and enhance brain health by supporting the Governing Vessel.

Du Defense – Gan Mao Ling

One of the Governing Vessel’s main functions is to protect the body from invasion and pathogens and help mount an immune response. Gan Mao Ling helps support the Governing Vessel with the action and defense we need to fight. Use Gan Mao Ling at the onset of a cold to help reduce your downtime and improve your symptoms.

Relax Wind – Tian Ma Gou Teng Wan

To treat issues that are related to “wind” in Chinese medicine (often abrupt, changeable, or movement-related conditions), we often need to support the nervous system and the yang energy of the Governing Vessel. Tian Ma Gou Teng Wan is a famous formula that helps to calm issues like dizziness, tinnitus, headaches, blurred vision, tics, spasms, and tremors.

Brain Boost – Bu Nao Pian

Bu Nao Pian is an herbal formula that helps to restore brain health. It can improve a range of conditions that affect the Du channel and the brain, including brain fog, trouble concentrating, memory loss, low energy, anxiety, stress, and insomnia.

Best Chinese Medicine Supplements for Governing Vessel Health

Supporting the Governing Vessel is one of the best ways to improve your energy, relax your nervous system, and conquer back pain. Shop our full collection of Chinese herbal formulas to enhance your health today!