By Sara Calabro
Kidney 6—also known as Shining Sea (English name), Zhaohai (Chinese translation), and KD6 (acupuncturist lingo)—is located on the inner ankle.
Find it by locating the high point of your medial malleolous, the prominent bone on the inside of your ankle. Drop your finger to directly below the malleolous and you’ll feel a little dip between two tendons. That is Kidney 6 (see picture below). If you don’t feel the dip, try flexing your foot slightly.
Kidney 6, in addition to being an effective point for resolving a host of issues—literally, from head to toe—serves as a reminder of how acupuncture’s greatness lies in its subtlety.
Because Kidney 6 is located in a bony area surrounded by tendons, acupuncture needles in this point get inserted very shallowly. Most people barely feel it. (There are exceptions to this, so don’t worry if you experience a sensation when receiving Kidney 6.)
In contrast, acupuncture points in the fleshier, more muscular parts of the body may get needled to a deeper level. Something about this deeper insertion can feel more tangible, more likely to do something.
But the reality is that, while deep needling is appropriate for certain acupuncture points and conditions, acupuncture is extremely subtle in how it shifts energy throughout the body. Deeper is not necessarily better. Less, often, is more.
Sometimes the most shallowly needled acupuncture points, the ones that cause the least amount of sensation, produce the most profound changes. Kidney 6 is a great reminder of this.
The acupuncture lozenge
One of the most common uses for Kidney 6 is to relieve throat issues. Any kind of throat problem can benefit from this point—sore throat, dry or scratchy throat, swelling of the throat, difficulty swallowing, even the feeling of having a lump in your throat.
Kidney 6 is considered the master point of what’s known as Yin Qiao Mai, one of eight extraordinary vessels.
There are entire systems of acupuncture grounded in the extraordinary vessels, so a complete discussion of them is beyond the scope of this article. But as it relates to Kidney 6, Yin Qiao Mai is a channel that runs deeper than the main Kidney meridian but along a similar pathway. It follows the inner part of the body from the foot all the way up to the inner edge of the eye. It transverses the throat, bringing moisture and movement to the area.
Kidney 6 helps eye problems such as redness, itching, and blurriness in the same way, by regulating moisture to the eyes.
This point will calm your mind
Kidney 6’s ability to resolve a lump in your throat is partly due to what I said above about the point’s relationship to body parts along Yin Qiao Mai. However, it also relates to Kidney 6’s relationship to the Heart system.
In acupuncture, many emotional imbalances—things like anxiety, depression, nervousness, and restlessness—can be attributed to a disharmony between the Kidney and Heart systems. Sometimes this is referred to as “Heart and Kidney not communicating.” In order for your mind to be calm and your spirit to be balanced, your Heart and Kidney systems need to be working in concert with one another.
Kidney 6 is one of the go-to points on the Kidney channel for restoring balance with the Heart and alleviating emotional symptoms.
Close your eyes and think of Kidney 6
Kidney 6’s relationship to the Heart also makes it a good candidate for treating insomnia. Many of us can’t sleep because we’re struggling emotionally or can’t stop our minds from spinning. This kind of insomnia is often attributed to an imbalance in the Heart system.
Also, as I mentioned above, Kidney 6 affects eye-related symptoms because the eyes are part of Yin Qiao Mai. Insomnia that feels as though you physically can’t keep your eyes closed can be a Yin Qiao Mai-related issue—hence, its master point, Kidney 6, can help.
If you experience this kind of insomnia, try the following exercise:
Get into bed, but stay in a seated position from which you can access both ankles. You can try bending your knees and touching the soles of your feet together. If that’s uncomfortable, get into whatever position gives you easy access to both ankles. If you can’t find one, just use one ankle.
For five full minutes, press Kidney 6 firmly on both sides (or one, if you can’t reach both). I find it most comfortable to use my thumbs, but use whatever fingers feel right for you. You may notice some tenderness at the point or you may feel nothing. Either is okay.
Close your eyes and concentrate all of your attention to the exact spots where your thumbs come in contact with your ankles. Take slow, deep breaths while you do this.
Do this exercise every night. As you get more comfortable with the location of Kidney 6, you can do it with the lights off so that you can easily transition into a fully reclined position—and hopefully, into a deep sleep.
Kidney 6 goes low, too
Although most of Kidney 6’s uses relate to symptoms in the upper part of the body, the point also is called upon for disturbances in the urinary, digestive, and reproductive systems.
Urinary tract infections, burning or otherwise painful urination, lower abdominal pain, and constipation can all be helped by Kidney 6.
And because the Kidney system is responsible for sexual and reproductive health, acupuncture treatments focused on menstrual-related symptoms—anything from period cramps to infertility—are likely to involve Kidney 6 as well.
Photo by Sara Calabro; Kidney 6 infographic from A Manual of Acupuncture
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