When I worked as an acupuncturist in NYC, I would estimate 50% of my patients were coming in for emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety–NYC is a stressful place to live for sure! I found acupuncture to be an extremely effective way to ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, particularly when coupled with therapy and exercise.
The points I use most frequently for depression are as follows: (and remember, each individual is different and may require a unique approach):
Heart 7 (Shen Men or Spirit Gate): Located at the wrist crease, on the radial side of the flexor carpi ulnaris tendon, between the ulna and the pisiform bones.
This point is particularly effective in treating so-called ¨spirit disorders¨ such as insomnia, poor memory and irritability. The character śhen’ points to its ability to work with the heartś function of storing the spirit and itś ability to calm and regulate the spirit. In Chinese medicine, the Heart is ẗhe residence of the spirit” and when heart blood and yin are deficient, they cannot nourish the Heart. The Heartś ability to store and anchor the spirit is compromised, and the Heart loses its harmony and becomes restless.
Du 20 (Bai Hui or 100 Convergences): Located on the head, 5.0 cun directly above the midpoint of the anterior hairline. This point is at the intersection of the six yang channels of the body and the Governing Vessel. As the uppermost point on the body, Du20 represent the convergence of ¨the hundred spirits. An alternative name for this point is Guimen, Ghost Gate, reflecting its influence on emotional disorders. This point is located at the most yang point of the body and therefore affects yang energy profoundly. I use it particularly to lift deficient yang energy in cases of depression due to vacuity; many patients with depression suffer from severe and often overwhelming fatigue, and Du 20 is extremely useful in these cases. Through needling Du 20, the patient can better absorb the ënergy of heaven” just as Kidney 1 (the lowest point on the body) can ground the patient.
Pericardium 7 (Da Ling or Great Mound): Located in the middle of the wrist crease between the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis. I use this point when a patient is experiencing emotional distress coupled with heat signs, such as during menopause. The Pericardium channel is a Fire channel and has a strong effect on the spirit, and is useful whenever heat disturbs the spirit or Shen. It is excellent for mania as well as depressive symptoms: in ancient texts, PC7 was indicated for sadness and weeping as well as ¨ceaseless laughter” (what we consider to be mania in modern times).
Gall Bladder 40 (Mound of Ruins): located at the junction of the line drawn along the anterior and inferior borders of the lateral malleolus. I use this point when someone is experiencing irritability or anger, either as a symptom of depression or on its own. The Gall Bladder and Liver channel are paired channels in Chinese Medicine, and are responsible in part for the smooth flow of qi throughout the body. When that qi is stuck or its flow impaired, it can lead to sparks of anger or irritability, jealousy, resentment or frustration. The Liver and Gall Bladder correspond to the energy of spring, growth and decision-making, and when these channels are imbalanced, patients can experience frustration, stagnation and indecisiveness. Often these patients experience heat symptoms such as red eyes, headache, and distention or a heavy sensation in the chest.
Ear Points useful for depression and anxiety: In Chinese medicine, the ear represents a microcosm of the body as a whole, and can be helpful for almost all psycho-emotional disorders. My favorite three points are Shenmen, Point Zero and the Sympathetic point located on the inner aspect of the ear, although I often incorporate other points according to the patientś presentation.
Shenmen is a Master Point, which basically means it is among the ear points that are MOST energetically active. Its translation is Divine Gate, and it is hands-down the most important ear point for calming down a stressed out patient. Point Zero is a centering point that brings the body back into homeostatic balance. This point is useful when a patient presents with a multitude of emotional symptoms and Iḿ not sure where the best place to start is. Finally, Sympathetic point allows the body to move back into its parasympathetic mode of healing and regenerating. Interestingly, using low-level laser therapy on these points, a treatment which I recently began using in my clinic, has been showed to be remarkably effective in reducing stress level.
If you or a loved one is experiencing anxiety or depression, please contact Hillary at email@example.com to discuss how TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) may be able to help.
Sources: Grasping the Wind by Andrew Ellis, Nigel Wiseman and Ken Boss. A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman. Nourishing Destiny by Lonny Jarrett.,