What’s That Point For? Shenmen and Point Zero

The professor who taught the basic classes covering acupuncture point location and functions had a phrase he would use to signal us that a certain point would not be on our tests: “Not a widely-used point.” There are 365 regular acupuncture points, plus a couple hundred “extra” points plus innumerable points used by the many “family styles” of acupuncture. Most acupuncturists, though, work with maybe one to two hundred points on a daily basis. This is because while some points have broad therapeutic applications others are quite specialized and are used only rarely as part of specific treatment protocols, if at all. There is even one point that is contraindicated to needling and only exists as a place-holder to keep the point-number on its channel consistent.

While there are many points that I have never used in clinical practice and others that I’m certain I won’t ever needle over the course of my whole career, there are others that I use with almost every patient I see. Two of these very commonly used points are Point Zero and Shen Men. They are located on the auricle—the outer portion of the ear. In the Auriculotherapy system, both of these points belong to the class know as “Master Points.” Master Points are in a league of their own because they are typically active in nearly every patient and address a wide variety of health concerns.

Point Zero: This master point is the geometrical and physiological center of the whole auricle. It brings the whole body towards homeostasis, producing a balance of energy, a balance of hormones, and a balance of brain activity. It also supports the actions of other points.

Balance is a central concept in Chinese medicine. The more adept a person’s body is at keeping all of the physiological variables it manages within appropriate levels, the more healthy, energetic and resilient that individual will be. In fact the entire aging process can easily be viewed as a result of the gradual degradation of the body’s ability to keep these variables in balance. Point Zero is the ultimate “tune-up” point because it promotes this balance on multiple levels—energetic, hormonal, neurological, etc. If I had to treat a patient using only one needle, this point is where that needle would go.

Shen Men: The purpose of Shen Men is to tranquilize the mind and to facilitate a state of harmony and serenity. This master point alleviates stress, pain, tension, anxiety, depression, insomnia, restlessness and excessive sensitivity. It was one of the first points emphasized for the application of ear acupuncture for the detoxification from addictive drugs and for the treatment of alcoholism and substance abuse.”

Acupuncture treatments are helpful regardless of the patient’s state of mind. That said, I have found in my own clinical practice that reaching a deep state of relaxation during treatments greatly increases the chances of a good clinical outcome. Needling acupuncture points is much like giving a set of instructions to the body. Imagine trying to listen to someone’s instructions in a chaotic environment full distractions and interruptions. Hardly an ideal situation. You might get the general idea, but the nuances may escape you in the confusion. Compare that to receiving instructions in a calm environment where you’re free to focus on and process the new information you’re receiving. That is the basic difference between a relaxed and an agitated body getting an acupuncture treatment. Because of this I always include one or two points to calm the mind and reduce stress.

This post contains material from: Oleson, T. (2014). Auriculotherapy Manual. London: Churchill Livingston.

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