Once Upon a Point: 足三裏 Zusanli (ST-36)

By | April 26, 2022

Written by Janelle Krannich

 If you’ve entered into the world of TCM, you’re bound to hear about the potent effectiveness of the 36th point along the stomach channel, ST-36. The Chinese name for this point is zusanli (zú sān lĭ), which translates into English as “Leg Three Miles” or “Three Miles of the Foot.” Classical texts of the Han dynasty have referred to zusanli as simply sanli, which traditionally references the method of locating this point along the leg: three cun below the knee, or three cun below ST-35 AKA dubi. Zu refers to foot, which correlates with the stomach channel’s classical translation as Foot Yang Ming 阳明.

Zusanli has earned popularity points through its use in tonifying qi and blood, promoting general wellness, and addressing most conditions related to the abdomen. Traditional actions also include dispelling cold, strengthening the body, brightening the eyes, regulating nutritive (Ying) and defensive (Wei) Qi and the intestines, raising Yang, expelling wind and dampness, and resolving edema. The power of this point is best understood through its classifications as the He (Sea) point, Command point of the Abdomen, and Sea of Water and Grain point.  

Within the Shu point categories, zusanli is the He (Sea) point of the Foot Yang Ming channel. He (Sea) points have absorptive, internalizing properties that treat disorders of the Fu organs (in this case, the stomach) and represent the plunging of energy into the interior of the body. Since zusanli is on a yang meridian (Foot Yang Ming), the He (Sea) point elementally corresponds to earth. When considering Wu Xing, or Five-Element Theory, zusanli is literally the Earth yang point within the Earth meridian; hence, ST-36 is effective in treating counterflow qi and diarrhea, disorders of the stomach, and regulation of dampness.

Some texts reference four Command points while others reference six; regardless, zusanli is one of the original Command points. Command points are individual points that have strong effects on their related body part. As the Command point of the Abdomen, ST-36 can treat any imbalance within the abdomen area with any etiology (hot, cold, excess, deficiency) whether it be chronic or acute.

According to Ling Shu, there are areas of the body that are understood as a collection, or “sea” of vital substances: qi, blood, marrow, and water/grain. It’s only fitting that zusanli would be the Sea of Water and Grain point; after all, the stomach is the first organ to interact with food which directly correlates with digestion and appetite. Whether it be abdominal fullness, spleen/stomach vacuity (e.g., hunger without desire to eat), dampness, or stagnation within the digestive tract, ST-36 is one of the most desirable points to incorporate for treatment.

Whether it be acupuncture, acupressure, moxa, or another TCM modality, keep zusanli as a point of consideration for treatment.


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Dorr, S. D. / C. (n.d.). ZUSANLI (STOMACH-36). Zusanli (stomach-36). Retrieved April 23, 2022, from http://www.itmonline.org/arts/zusanli.htm

Dupuis, C. J. (2022). TCM Acupuncture theory – command points acupuncture points theory. Yin Yang House. Retrieved April 23, 2022, from https://yinyanghouse.com/theory/acupuncturepoints/theory_commandpoints/

Stomach 36 (ST 36). Stomach 36 (ST 36) – Acupuncture Points – Acufinder.com. (2022). Retrieved April 23, 2022, from https://www.acufinder.com/Acupuncture+Points/Stomach+36+(ST+36)/69

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Zú Sān lĭ. English meaning of 足三裏 ( zu san li / zú sān lĭ ) – Stomach 36. (2022, March 8). Retrieved April 23, 2022, from https://www.hantrainerpro.com/tcm/chinese-english/translation-zusanli_st36.htm

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