Indeed we could all use a Power Point right now. No, not the one with the digital slides and the lecture (which is hopefully not just read off the slides). This is about an acupuncture point with real power! Classical Chinese medicine practitioners for thousands of years have touted the power of this point. In fact, one practitioner who practiced during the Song Dynasty (5th century ce), Qin Cheng-zu, the imperial medical officer, wrote that by using this point “all diseases can be treated.” It is often referred to as the “Master point for well-being.”
This point is called Zusanli or “Leg Three Miles,” because if one is very fatigued, stimulating this point will push you that extra “three miles.” There is a legend concerning the Chinese infantry who had small weights on their boots which when they squatted and rested would stimulate this point and therefore give them the extra boost they needed to make that last stretch of marching.
Even Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), the renowned Haiku poet, in preparing for his last long walk of over 1200 miles (over 5 months) set off by burning moxa on his St 36. (Moxa treats acupuncture points with warmth, a very specific kind of warmth which uses burning mugwort. A future blog.) He wrote in the beginning of his travel diary, Oku no hosomichi (Narrow Road to the Interior) :
I have sewn a torn part of my undergarments.
I have changed the strings of my hat.
I have burnt moxa below my knee.
My mind is now totally occupied with the moon over the Matsushima islands…
Stimulating this point invigorates and energizes the whole body. There are lots of reasons why, but way too much information to go into here without the context of the broader understanding of all the meridians, their interconnections and relationships with one another. It’s a Command Point, a Heavenly Star Point, the He-Sea and Earth point of the Stomach channel. It treats digestive issues, stress and fatigue, boosts the immune system, alleviates depression, supports better sleep. Its main power, however, is in tonifying the body’s qi and blood, fortifying and strengthening the whole body. In fact, for over 1500 years, it has been recommended to daily stimulate this point and in so doing to extend one’s longevity. (This recommendation is even more powerful if one can moxa this point everyday.) There is a Japanese folk tale from the Edo era (1603-1867) about Farmer Manpei who, when asked whether he had any secret to maintaining long life, answered that he had no secret other than burning moxa on Zusanli every day, just as his ancestors had done. Legend has it that Manpei lived 243 years; his wife, Taku, lived 242 and their son, Mankichi, lived 196 years. Doctor Shimetaro Hara (1882-1991) used to burn moxa on his St 36 every single day and he lived to be 108 years of age.
As is shown in the images, ST 36 is located just below the knee, four fingers below the knee cap (which equals the Chinese measurement of 3 cun) next to and lateral to the tibia in the tibialis anterior muscle, the muscle just lateral to the tibia. You know you are on the right spot if it is a little tender or if the muscle pops up when you flex your foot. Using a relaxed thumb on the outstretched opposite leg, apply firm but light pressure over the point, angling the thumb toward the center of the leg. You can even massage the point in a small circular motion. Spend 30 seconds to a minute applying pressure. Then do the same to the other leg.
Do this everyday to treat stress, fatigue and digestive issues. Do this everyday to boost your immune system and for general well-being. If you get a chance, email me in 50 years and let me know if that longevity part worked.