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On Point with Zu San Li

I get questions all the time about how I know what points to use in a treatment or about the action of the different acupuncture points, so I thought it would be fun to do a series of post about common points I use in clinic and what they are used for. This week in clinic I got a lot of questions about the point named Zu San Li (aka ST36).

Chinese army

This is a point that I use all the time in clinic. It is one of my favorite points because it is so powerful as well as versatile. It is located on the lower leg, a hand breath below the bottom edge of the knee cap in the belly of the tibialis anterior muscle. You can find this point by resting your palm on your knee cap, with your fingers pointed towards your toes. The point is where the tip of your middle finger lands just to the outside of the tibia bone in spot where there seems to be a little bowl that your fingertip sits in easily. You can feel around in this location and try to find the spot that is most sensitive.

The name of the point is Zu San Li, which translates to Leg Three Miles. The story that was told to me about how this point got its name was:

When the Chinese army was marching across China to battle they would stop when they became fatigued after marching many many miles and stimulate this point and then they would be able to march on for 3 more miles. Who knows if there is any truth to this old story, but it does tell us some of the actions of this very useful point.

Zu San Li as known as ST36 is categorized as an earth point and is on the stomach meridian which is also an earth organ channel which makes it the Horary point of the channel. It is known as the Stomach He Sea point which is where the qi of the channel pools like in a great reservoir. It is also considered a sea of nourishment point and the lower uniting point for the Stomach Channel. When a point has many categories like this you know it is a major point that can be used in many applications.

This point has the ability to shake up and revitalize the energy or qi of the body. It is very useful when someone is fatigued and just doesn’t have the energy to continue on and just wants to give up. This giving up can be both physical and mental. When someone is so tired of being in pain and just wants to sleep and rest, this point can restore energy so they can get through their day. Or if they are mentally depressed or melancholy and just don’t see why they should continue on, this point can help mobilize qi and strengthen the spirit to continue on.

“It feeds the earth in order for things to grow more richly.” -Dr. J.R. Worsley

Being the earth point on an earth channel this point is extremely grounding for people, it can help build a sense of purpose and a feeling of stability. Being a He Sea point the energy travels deep down inside the body and can impact someone to the core of their being. It is very helpful for those who are feeling agitated, nervous, anxious, or scattered.

I use it for all types of digestion complaints from nausea to food poisoning, all types of diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and food stagnation. When someone is very sick with a stomach bug and weak from vomiting this point alone can help revitalize them. Especially with children having stomach ache, just rubbing this point gentle can help them recover quickly.

This point is also a good overall immune boosting point. When someone is over stressed or rundown this point can help boost them back up and protect against invading pathogens or pernicious influences.

I use this point often for patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, or who are just over stressed. It is helpful in autoimmune conditions as well as low immunity, or to rebuild energy after being ill. It is helpful for those who feel nervous, or easily agitated, depressed, or have a lack of energy.

So next time you feel like you have been marching across China without a break and need to restore some vitality to your being, stop and stimulate Zu San Li and you will be able to carry on for 3 more miles. Let me know how it goes.

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