In ancient times, the acupuncture points were discovered one by one as the best places to treat specific imbalances. As time went on and more and more points were found, acupuncturists found that points with similar functions could be connected by lines, rather than grouped together by area. So instead of grouping the points by region, for instance, ankle points and knee points, they were organized into meridians, or pathways where the qi would flow. For example, the Gall Bladder channel, which starts from the eye and meanders all the way down to the fourth toe, has 44 related points. One point which has historically been used for eye pain (at the start of the channel) is actually the last point on the channel.
One of the most commonly used points in acupuncture is the 36th point on the Stomach channel, known internationally as ST 36. Its Chinese name is Zu San Li, which means “Three miles on the leg”. Imagine a Chinese herbalist in ancient times walking for hours and hours in the mountains, looking for herbs. He gets tired, sits on a rock, and starts to massage this point on his leg, and when he gets up, feels a boost in energy that allows him to carry on for three more miles.
As you can imagine, this point is used for endurance, and to increase stamina. Because it is on the Stomach meridian, it can also be used to regulate the digestion, so that the food that you eat can be better transformed into the energy you will need throughout the day. It’s said that using moxibustion (a type of heat therapy) on this point every day will allow you to live 100 years.
According to the textbooks, this point can be used to treat fatigue, dizziness, leg pain and weakness (boosting the energy). It can also be used to treat stomach pain, nausea/vomiting, or diarrhea (to normalize the digestion). Interestingly enough, it is also used for either excessive hunger or lack of appetite. A research study has shown that the ST 36 point, combined with two other points (PC 6 and CV 12), can decrease the stomach acid level in people whose acid level is too high. However, for people whose stomach acid level is too low, it has the opposite effect, raising the level of stomach acid. This type of effect leads us to think about an acupuncture point not as a ‘switch’ to be turned on or off, but rather an activation site to normalize the physiology, or to bring things back into balance.
I hope to introduce you to more points in the near future!