Acupuncture can play a role in treating cardiovascular diseases and researchers have come to understand some of the mechanisms by which it works. Traditionally, points like ST 36, PC 6, LV 3, and LI 11 are often indicated for conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol, angina, palpitations, and arrhymmia. (1, 2) In this post we will concentrate on stomach 36 and related points, as they are some of the most frequently used, and are indicated for various liver syndromes, phlegm obstruction, yin vacuity, and for treating qi and blood related heart patterns.
Interestingly, there are 10 points on the stomach meridian and in the legs that are used for treating cardiovascular conditions.
Acupuncture & the Autonomic Nervous System
Studies have shown that acupuncture works on the cardiovascular system by modulating the autonomic nervous system. In cases of excessive sympathetic activity, acupuncture can reduce sympathetic outflow and stimulate nerve pathways in the brain and spinal cord to regulate the CV system. Research has also confirmed that ST 36 and ST 37 can lower blood pressure and works best for mild to moderate hypertension when it is below 170/105 mm Hg. (3)
While much is known about the effects of acupuncture on the CV system via autonomic nerve responses, I want to discuss points on the stomach meridian and Superficial Front Line (SFL) that are used for treating CV diseases.
Points Related to ST 36 on the Stomach Meridian and Superficial Front Line
As stomach 36 is one of the most commonly used points for cardiovascular disorders, we should also examine other points on or near ST 36. For instance, ST 40 is used for treating CV disorders when a phlegm pattern is present. Stomach 37 has also be found to have beneficial effects for treating HTN and likely works much like ST 36. (3) In the Master Tung system the Four Flowers (77.08 - 77.11) are also indicated for heart disorders, as are the points 88.01 - 88.03 (Thigh Three Thoroughfares).
Anatomically, all of these points are located on the Superficial Front Line (SFL) which is very similar to the stomach meridian. Examining the SFL we find that it includes the sternalis muscle and sternal fascia. On the interior side of the chest the pericardium has ligaments that connect directly to the sternum. The sternopericardial ligament connects superiorly to the manubrium and inferiorly on the xiphoid process.
This demonstrates an internal - external relationship between the ligaments of the pericardium and the ST meridian / SFL connection to the sternum.
Doing a point count we find that there are ten points on the ST meridian or SFL that are frequently indicated for cardiovascular conditions. These include ST 36, ST 37, ST 40, 77.08, 77.09, 77.10, 77.11, 88.01, 88.02, and 88.03.
These points likely share similar functions not only on the nervous system, but also on the myofascial system via the SFL and its internal connection to the pericardial ligaments. By understanding the anatomy of myofascial lines it gives many insights into traditional practices and point indications.
The Yang Ming - Jue Yin Pattern
In meridian systems the stomach and pericardium are closely connected. Pericardium points like PC 6 can be used for nausea, vomiting, and other stomach and gastrointestinal disorders. Similarly, as discussed various stomach points are used for CV diseases. This relationship between the stomach and pericardium is similar to the liver and large intestine connection. In meridian systems and the Balance Method we refer to this as the yang ming - jue yin relation.
The yang ming and jue yin points are some of the best to use for various heart diseases. In addition to the various points on the ST meridian and SFL, researchers have also confirmed that points like PC 5, PC 6, LI 4, LI 10, LI 11, and LV 3 are among the best for treating cardiovascular related disorders. (3)
In my class on internal medicine I go into detail about traditional points, Master Tung's points, modern research, myofascial anatomy, and autonomic nervous system responses to acupuncture. You can learn more about acupuncture for internal medicine at the link below.
Maher, James; Master Ching Chong Tung: Advanced Tung Style Acupuncture Vol 1: The Dao Ma Needling Technique of Master Tung Ching Chang, 2005, RBC.
Flaws, Bob; Sionneau, Philippe; The Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine, 2005, Blue Poppy Press
Medical Acupuncture, A Western Scientific Approach; Filshie, White, Cummings, Longhurst, 2016, Elsevier Publishings