Acupoints For Brain Stimulation At Home

A woman standing against a brick wall holding an open book against her face.

The Brain in Chinese medicine classical texts is referred to as “the Sea of Marrow”. Specific points located along the meridians (jingluo) can stimulate the flow of qi in the channels, and direct it to the Brain. The stimulation of acupoints along the meridians has been shown to trigger the production of neurotransmitters that improve the function of the human brain.

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Does Acupressure Increase Brain Function?

If you were to ask a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner whether you can increase your brain’s function with acupressure, the answer you would get would most likely be according to Chinese traditional medicine’s perspective, which does not speak of the brain in the same way that Western medicine does.

In classic Chinese medicine’s energetic anatomy, the Brain is closely connected to the bones and bone marrow, as well as to the Kidneys and the Essence (jing) stored in it. According to Li Shizhen “The Brain is the seat of the original Shen”, meaning that the Brain is the physical support of shen and all the psychological features that shen reflects.

There are acupoints that benefit the brain, although in traditional language the effects of acupressure on the brain are understood in terms of signs like good intrinsic and extrinsic memory, sharp reflexes, good learning capacity, physical vigor, and concentration; to name a few. 

When the sea of bone marrow has a surplus, then one feels light and vigorous, and overexerts himself. When the sea of bone marrow has an insufficiency, then the brain revolves, and there are noises in the ears. The lower legs cramp, and vision is dimmed. The eyes see nothing. [Patients] are relaxed and sleep peacefully.

Lingshu

Points for Brain Stimulation and Science

A variety of scientific studies have shown that acupuncture can correct reversible brain malfunctions by regulating stress-related neurotransmitters. Acupuncture stimulates the production of neurotransmitters like endorphins, serotonin, enkephalins, and γ-amino-butyric acid (GABA; a major inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain), norepinephrine, and dopamine. 

In addition to that, from the long history of clinical use of acupuncture along with Conventional medicine in Chinese hospitals, physicians noticed that acupuncture increases recovery from the sequelae of stroke, dementia, and dyskinesia (Lee et al. 2007).

One of the most plausible theories for the mechanisms behind acupuncture effects according to researchers is that acupuncture induces neurogenesis in the adult brain (Nam et al. 2013). 

Building an Effective Acupressure Treatment

Although the practice of acupressure does not have the same scientific backing as acupuncture, if done correctly it can produce similar results. However, in order to have an acupressure treatment that is efficient the right technique should be applied, and the regularity should be consistent. 

The following steps can help you build an efficient acupressure practice:

Locate The Point with Precision

Once you get the directions of where an acupoint is located, take some time to find it and make sure it is the exact spot. In case you are in doubt you can google the name of the point and look at a couple of different sources until you are 100% sure.

Apply an Appropriate Technique

The points of access to the meridians are located within different depths in the tissues of the body. The directions will take you to a superficial point on your skin, and from there you have to dig for the actual acupoint.

Chinese medicine’s technique consists of pressing on the acupoint as deeply as you possibly can without injuring yourself. 

When you press it should be done in a gradual manner, slowly increasing the intensity ideally until you feel a sensation that can be a sharp and fleeting pain or an electrical shock that irradiates, for example. This is called de qi.

If you press in the correct way but still cannot feel anything different, try to press on the surrounding areas and look for a point where there’s a different sensation. In case there’s none, stick to the first point and massage it well. 

Depending on the area where the point is located you will be able to sink your finger deeper within the tissue. In these areas you can apply as much pressure as you can until you feel like you can’t press any deeper. In bonny or delicate zones the pressure should be milder and combined with movement whenever possible. 

Apply an Appropriate Stimulation Time

Different acupressure protocols involve shorter or longer periods of stimulation. Efficient stimulation time ranges from 3 to 30 minutes per session. Usually, sessions lasting from 3 to 5 minutes must be done three times daily in a treatment context. Sessions lasting from twenty to thirty minutes are usually recommended for convalescing patients. 

In case you are looking to use acupressure as a means of supporting your overall health, or boosting a specific function in your body for the long run, you can play around with the timing and create sessions that both work and fit into your schedule. 

Keep in mind that while massaging an acupoint, the intensity of the movement also matters. Usually, fast and blunt movements for short periods tend to disperse qi. This technique can be useful in excess conditions.

On the contrary, slow movements applied for longer periods have a nourishing effect that is necessary for deficiency conditions. Balanced movements are the best to harmonize qi, it’s the most recommended technique for any condition.

Be Consistent

Set up a period of treatment and the frequency of the sessions along this period. For example: doing 30-minute sessions, three times a week, for three months. This protocol was applied in patients with diabetes mellitus for a pilot study, showing that acupressure at ST-36 Zusanli was an effective method for reducing blood glucose and was helpful for reducing complications due to diabetes.

Acupressure Points For Brain Stimulation

TE-5 Waiguan

 

Place your hand with the palm downward and you’ll be able to locate this acupoint, which is situated 2 cun from the peak of your wrist on your lower arm.

Waiguan is a powerful acupoint traditionally utilized to treat all lack of warmth both physical and emotional “warmth”. TE-5 is one of the most important acupoints in the treatment of ischemic stroke, as has been pointed out in several studies.

Some researchers believe that the mechanism of acupuncture at waiguan might be the modulation of synchronizations between different regions within different brain networks.

Acupuncture at waiguan can improve the connections in the central nervous system as well as the autonomic nervous system. This point likely improves the functional state and connectivity of sensorimotor areas in the brain, which directly causes better performance in everyday tasks as well as in technical work. 

GB-30 Huantiao

 

This point is located at one-third of the distance between the greater trochanter of the femur and the sacral hiatus.

Huantiao is mentioned in an ode to 11 miraculous acupuncture points by the great poet and Daoist master Ma Danyang. This acupoint is traditionally considered a magical point due to its efficacy in treating lower back pain, rheumatism, and pain running down from the thigh to the calf, such as sciatic nerve pain. 

Different scientific studies have found that needle stimulation at huantiao, as well as other acupoints (ST-36, DU-20, PC-6, HT-7, DU-26, REN-17, REN-12, REN-6, SP-10, LI-11, TE5, DU-16, DU-8, REN-4, REN-6, and REN-24), can affect the brain, inducing adult neurogenesis and helping in the recovery from neurodegenerative diseases. 

 GB-39 Xuanzhong

 

This point is located on the lower leg 4 -finger-width above the tip of the external malleolus on the anterior border of the fibula.

Xuanzhong is the Influential point of the Marrow, where the Essence of the Brain is summoned. In TCM it is said that the Brain’s Marrow has a tendency to descend to nourish the bones. This argument relates to chapter 3 of the Lingshu, which specifies: “when the brain is empty, the tibia hurts” (Lin Shi Shan, 1997, p. 196).

This point can treat the Marrow and bones, reconstitute Kidney, and strengthen the Brain. Xuanzhong is used in Wind-stroke conditions (ictus or its sequelae) or “Zhong Feng“, and can also prevent its relapse.

The efficiency of GB-29 xuanzhong has been the focus of scientific research, one of which found that “acupuncture at zusanli (ST-36) and xuanzhong (GB-39) can significantly improve cerebral vasomotoricity, cerebral blood flow auto-regulative function, cerebral hemisphere collateral circulation comprehental function in the patient of ischemic stroke.” (Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2006)

ST-36 Zusanli

 

Find ST-36 zusanli below your knee, one finger breadth lateral to the anterior crest of the tibia.

Zusanli is the command acupoint in the treatment of stomach pain and any other condition related to the stomach. It is said that daily moxibustion in this acupoint extends the lifespan and helps to maintain health. ST-36 is also traditionally indicated to send energy to the eyes of people above thirty years old.

Science says that the stimulation of zusanli, in combination with GB-20 has the effects mentioned above. ST-36 in combination with DU-20 has been shown to counteract oxidative stress and regulate the gut-brain balance. Acupuncture ate ST-36 alone was shown to induce neurogenesis in one study. 

DU-20 Baihui

 

This point is located at the intersection of the median line at the vertex of the head with a line drawn from the tip of one ear to the other.

The apex of the head where baihui is located is the most yang region in the body, having profound effects on regulating yang qiAccording to the Chinese classic Lingshu, DU-20 is a point of the Sea of Marrow (TCM’s brain).

The stimulation of this point benefits the Brain and sense organs, nourishes the Sea of Marrow, and revives consciousness; among other important actions. 

One study has shown that acupuncture at ST36 and DU-20 stimulates adult neurogenesis in the brains of animals with stroke, diabetes, tension, and a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease (Nam et al., 2013).

KI-3 Taixi

 

This point is located in the depression between the medial malleolus and the Achilles tendon, level with the prominence of the medial malleolus. Locate KID-3 in the center of the indentation, equidistant from the protrusion of the medial malleolus and the dorsal margin of the Achillean tendon.

Taixi is the point of the Kidney channel where qi stops and accumulates. The Kidneys are the root of the yin and yang of the whole body. The yin Essence stored in the Kidneys nourishes the Brain. Due to this fundamental role, deficiency in the Kidneys may be both the cause and the result of disharmony in any other organ, i.e. zangfu.

KI-3 has been the focus of many scientific studies. One study with magnetic resonance imaging tested the effects of 30 minutes of acupuncture stimulation at taixi in combination with taichong (LIV-3). The findings indicated that “acupuncture at taichong and taixi specifically promote blood flow and activation in the brain areas related to vision, emotion and cognition, and inhibit brain areas related to emotion, attention, phonological and semantic processing, and memory.” (Neural Regen Res. 2015)

Besides modern science, taixi has been traditionally regarded as a precious point capable of deeply nourishing the Inner Organs and clarifying the senses. The stimulation of taixi is specifically indicated for deficiency conditions manifesting with fatigue, poor memory, dizziness, difficulty concentrating due to exhaustion, erectile dysfunction, insomnia, and so forth. 

Images from the book Atlas of Acupuncture, Claudia Focks 2008.

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