Heart 7, Shenmen, is probably the most used and the most important point along the Heart acupuncture channel. The Heart channel runs from your armpit to the tip of your small finger.
Where the Heart channel actually starts, however, is in the heart organ itself, deep in your chest. It sends one branch down to connect with the small intestine organ. Another branch rises up beside the oesophagus and over your face to the tissues round your eye.
A third branch goes to the lung and emerges in your armpit at Heart Point 1 and that’s the branch on which all the Heart channel acupuncture points lie, including this one.
Acupuncturists in some traditions prefer not to treat the Heart channel, choosing instead to treat the Pericardium or one of the other Fire channels.
They argue that we should treat the Heart zangfu-organ with great respect. Also, that when treating it one ought to concentrate instead on the other 11 zangfu-organs. The argument suggests that, had they been in good condition, we wouldn’t have needed to treat the Heart.
I have some sympathy with this view, but I do treat the Heart channel points and they are very effective.
There is another point with the same name, Shenmen, in the ear. It is mainly used for sedating or calming the Mind. It doesn’t seem to strengthen the Heart zangfu or channel.
At the proximal end of and on the radial side of the pisiform bone at the wrist just over the ulnar artery.
The first, more usual method, is on the anterior face of the arm on the radial side of the ulnar tendon (flexor carpi ulnaris). Ignore the wrist crease when needling it. Feel for the proximal end of the pisiform bone which lies just distal to the distal end (it’s called the styloid process) of the ulnar bone. Sometimes the ulnar tendon is sore when pinched there between your thumb and forefinger – that’s the point too!
The other problem when needling from the ulnar side of the arm (near the Small Intestine channel) is that to get to the point you have to point the needle slightly distally to get round the proximal corner of the pisiform bone.
In so doing you are very close to Yinxi HE-6. In fact, I suspect that when needling the point from this direction, I have often needled Yinxi instead.
Fortunately the properties of Yinxi are not greatly different from Shenmen although it’s neither the Source point nor the Shu-Stream point … but it is the Xi-Cleft point, regulates Heart Blood and clears deficiency Heat.
Usually a heavy aching around the point, sometimes radiating up the channel towards the elbow.
Because of its action in steadying or regulating the Heart qi, this is broadly seen as a sedative point, but actually it’s neither exciting nor sedating, though more often used for the latter.
The following book:
Finding Effective Acupuncture Points
by Shudo Denmai lists it as being good for constipation, when used with moxa, though he does not really explain why. Presumably this is because Shenmen is the Earth point on the Heart channel. The Heart is the Mother of the Spleen, one of the two Earth meridians according to 5-Element theory. Because constipation usually comes partly under the Spleen, treating the Mother – the Heart – can help the Child – the Spleen.
Used with moxa, the point tonifies the mother of the Spleen, which is in charge of transforming and transporting. This makes more sense if Spleen qi is deficient than if it is full. However, given that anyone with major constipation thinks they’re going to die anyhow, perhaps this use of the point is more for its mentally fortifying purposes.
We should also remember that the name of Heart 7 is Spirit Gate. ‘Spirit’ here refers to something different from the word when used in a religious context.
It is meant in the same way we use the word when we say someone is in good or bad spirits.
As such, it can be used to help someone cold and closed off to open up (the word ‘men‘ means ‘gate’). That means it can be used to help someone too open to outside influences manage themselves better.
(Another point used to help people open up is Neiguan, Pericardium 6, often used during pregnancy for nausea. But Neiguan is useful in other ways too.)
Click to return from Heart 7 Shenmen Spirit Gate to other acupuncture points locations.
What about when people have Qi Stagnation (see my book on the subject, below) over a period of time? This point can help calm and steady them to take a more measured approach to life.
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