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‘Why Are You Doing That Point?’ Stomach 36

By Sara Calabro

Welcome to the second installment of “Why Are You Doing That Point?” This ongoing series explains the locations and common uses of popular acupuncture points.

Last time we looked at Liver 3 and Large Intestine 4, two points that frequently come together in a combination called Four Gates.

This time we’ll look at Stomach 36.

Stomach 36—also known as Zusanli (Chinese name), Leg Three Mile (English translation) and ST36 (acupuncturist lingo)—is located on the shin. It’s found about a hand length below the patella, just outside the prominent tibia bone (see picture below). Having this point needled often produces a strong sensation that sometimes travels down the leg.

‘Stomach’ Doesn’t Necessarily Mean ‘Digestion’

When curious patients inquire about this point and learn its name, they often assume it’s for digestive problems. Stomach 36 is indeed one of the most commonly used points for pretty much any digestive issue you can think of. For everything from constipation to diarrhea to heartburn to nausea to hiccups, Stomach 36 is a likely choice.

However, Stomach 36 is used for an extremely wide variety of ailments, many of which have nothing to do with what we traditionally think of as “stomach problems.”

Even more than as a digestive aid, Stomach 36 is known primarily for its ability to invigorate.

Feeling zapped of energy? Unusually tired? Your acupuncturist is most likely going to use Stomach 36. If Liver 3 is the go-to moving point, Stomach 36 is the go-to boosting point.

Clues Can Be Found In the Sea…

In acupuncture, each meridian has an assigned he-sea point. Stomach 36 is the he-sea point on the Stomach meridian, which is one way of understanding the point’s role as an energy booster.

The Chinese character known as he refers to “connecting” or “uniting.” All he-sea points are located near the knees and elbows. They are points of connection, where the more distal parts of the body (the extremities) start to merge with the inner core (the trunk and organs).

Stomach 36 draws energy into the body’s internal reservoir, the “sea.”

But if all he-sea points are connectors, what makes Stomach 36 so special?

…and In the Earth

Without getting into too much detail, all meridians have an associated element—Fire, Earth, Metal, Water or Wood—and select points along those meridians also are associated with elements. These points are known as the transporting points. They are considered the meridian’s most powerful points. Acupuncturists use them over and over again.

All elements are important. Earth, however, plays a central role. It feeds the other elements. In one way or another, Earth influences and is influenced by all elements.

For this reason, Stomach, because its element is Earth, is critical to the functioning of all other systems. Furthermore, Stomach 36 is an Earth point. So Stomach 36 is what acupuncturists call Earth-on-Earth—an Earth point on an Earth meridian.

This makes Stomach 36 doubly valuable in its ability to produce systemic effects. More specifically, because Earth—in the same way we think of the earth—is the nourishing, life-giving element, Stomach 36 is loaded with vitalizing properties. It feeds the body.

The Real Question Is, What Can’t ST36 Help?

Considering Stomach 36’s Earthiness, it makes sense that the point is used so broadly.

From an acupuncture perspective, so many ailments—particularly in the West, where we’ve mastered the art of overworking ourselves to the point of complete exhaustion—stem from an underlying deficiency. The answer to much of what plagues us is nourishment.

In addition to the digestive disorders mentioned above, Stomach 36 is commonly used to treat fatigue, dizziness, hypertension, tinnitus, depression, generalized pain, paralysis, chest fullness and palpitations, shortness of breath, chills and fever, urinary tract infections, and many other things.

We all need food.

Next up on “Why Are You Doing That Point?” is Governing Vessel 20. Read it now.

Featured photo by Sara Calabro
ST36 infographic from A Manual of Acupuncture

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Comments

Diane Lowry
Reply

Love the latest series of blog posts Sara! Wonderful information to share with our patients.

Sara
Reply

Thanks fo the feedback, Diane! So glad you’ve been enjoying them.

Sara

Ka Hang Leoungk
Reply

Agreed, this whole series is a great read Sara, especially for patients who find TCM theory a bit too abstract.

I often liken Zusanli to a great shot of espresso, without the caffeine.

Sara
Reply

I’m so glad you’re digging it. And I love the espresso-shot analogy! I might have to steal that from you :)

Marjorie
Reply

Wonderful

Stuart Zoll
Reply

I like reading your tweets, my teacher Dr. So would recommend burning 5 moxa on St-36 for healthy long life.

Sara
Reply

Glad you’re enjoying AcuTake, Stuart. Thanks for the addition to the article about ST36!

Sara

Alma Myers, LAc
Reply

Hey Sara, Great Blog. I’d like to add the ability to “digest experiences” as well as “feeling nourished” by these experiences, not just food. It assists the Foot Greater Yin in “thought digestion” and the paired Hand Yang Brightness for “letting go of crap”. Its name implies the ability to “walk three miles” or helps you “go the distance” and pairs with the Hand Three Mile, or LI10.
As a Doorway to the Earth point, St 36 helps us feel grounded and connected by filling our vessels full of “qi and blood,” Self Nourishment.

[…] at Liver 3 and Large Intestine 4, two popular acupuncture points that are frequently used together; Stomach 36, known for its energizing qualities; and Governing Vessel 20, a conversation-starter located on the […]

[…] Stomach 36 is one of the best acupuncture points on the body for strengthening the immune system and recovering from fatigue. It is a very energizing point. Stomach 36 is found about a hand length below the patella of the knee, just outside the prominent tibia bone. Learn more about this point’s uses and location here. […]

When Acupuncture Does Not Work | AcuTake
Reply

[…] can boost energy with certain acupuncture points and other modalities such as moxibustion (burning an herb called mugwort against the skin, often […]

[…] For heat-related symptoms that occur in the lower body, Large Intestine 11 usually is combined with points on other meridians that transverse the legs. For example, Large Intestine 11, along with one or more points along the Spleen channel, is used to address heavy menstrual bleeding, typically considered a heat sign. For constipation due to heat and dryness, Large Intestine 11 might be combined with Stomach 36. […]

[…] For heat-related symptoms that occur in the lower body, Large Intestine 11 usually is combined with points on other meridians that transverse the legs. For example, Large Intestine 11, along with one or more points along the Spleen channel, is used to address heavy menstrual bleeding, typically considered a heat sign. For constipation due to heat and dryness, Large Intestine 11 might be combined with Stomach 36. […]

[…] Stomach 36 is one of the most effective acupuncture points for strengthening the immune system and recovering from fatigue. Acupuncturists often incorporate this point into treatments because it is such an energizing point. Stomach 36 is found about a hand length below the patella of the knee, just outside the prominent tibia bone. Sometimes pressing this point, if it’s done firmly enough, will produce a strong sensation that travels down the leg. Learn more about Stomach 36′s uses and location here. […]

Acupuncture boost your immunity | Golden Cabinet
Reply

[…] Stomach 36 is one of the most effective acupuncture points for strengthening the immune system and recovering from fatigue. Acupuncturists often incorporate this point into treatments because it is such an energizing point. Stomach 36 is found about a hand length below the patella of the knee, just outside the prominent tibia bone. Sometimes pressing this point, if it’s done firmly enough, will produce a strong sensation that travels down the leg. Learn more about Stomach 36′s uses and locationhere. […]

dae anderson
Reply

Thank you!
Is it possible to share if a moxa stick is appropriate (such as st. 36) or contraindicated?
(Recommended application/time/duration/freq. of treatment)
I use cupping (I’m a massage therapist doing Anmo) and moxa on a few pts. but your small bite approach to application and qualities of ea. pt. has me curious of pressure techniques and combinations.

Thank you, you’re a welcome read in my life.
Ciao

Dr Subharani
Reply

hai, its interesting please guide on important transporting on all meridians i.e on all the five elements please. thank you

[…] Stomach 36 is one of the most effective acupuncture points for strengthening the immune system and recovering from fatigue. Acupuncturists often incorporate this point into treatments because it is such an energizing point. Stomach 36 is found about a hand length below the patella of the knee, just outside the prominent tibia bone. Sometimes pressing this point, if it’s done firmly enough, will produce a strong sensation that travels down the leg. Learn more about Stomach 36′s uses and location here. […]

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