Heart 7
Shenmen: Spirit Gate

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Heart 7, Shenmen, is probably the most used and the most important point along the Heart acupuncture channel, which runs from your armpit to the tip of your small finger.

The Heart channel, however, actually starts in the heart organ itself, deep in your chest. It sends one branch down to connect with the small intestine organ, and another branch 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 the Heart zangfu-organ should be treated with great respect and that when treating it one ought to concentrate instead on the other 11 zangfu-organs which, had they been in good condition, would never have made it possible for the Heart to need treatment.

I have some sympathy with this view, but I do treat the Heart channel points and they are very effective. However, I try everything else first.

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.

Location of Shenmen - Spirit Gate

At the proximal end of and on the radial side of the pisiform bone at the wrist just over the ulnar artery.

Needling Heart 7 - Spirit Gate

  1. There are two ways of needling Heart 7. 

    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! 
  2. That takes us to the second way of needling Heart 7, which is from the ulnar side, in fact from what you’d think would be the line of the Small Intestine meridian, although actually that lies closer to the dorsal surface of the arm. Needling this way you do so under the ulnar tendon. Still, He-7 is quite close to Si-5 and it makes a difference which of the two points you are needling! 

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.

Needling Sensation at Heart 7

Usually a heavy aching around the point, sometimes radiating up the channel towards the elbow.

Actions of Heart 7

  • Pacifies the Heart and calms the Spirit
  • Tonifies and steadies the Heart
  • Source point of the Heart Zang

Comment on Shenmen - Spirit Gate

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.

  • As a tonifying point it stimulates Heart Blood, Heart Yin and Heart Yang so is useful in a huge range of modern diseases when they have these syndromes, ranging from insomnia to mental illness, and shock.
  • For Heart Blood stagnation, it functions well with Yinxi, HE-6, the Xi-cleft point.
  • For calming hysteria or great anxiety, (Shen disturbed) it works well with Neiguan P-6.
  • Useful for mental stress from itching skin caused by Blood Heat or Deficient Yin.
  • With Shangwan Ren-13 (which also regulates the Heart) it is steadies people who madly rush about, are always busy; on the go. So also is Juque, Ren-14.
  • With Taixi K-3, is a powerful combination for Heart Yin deficiency.

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 and because the Heart is the Mother of the Spleen, one of the two Earth meridians according to 5-Element theory.

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, but 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.

The Name of the Point

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'): 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 or where there is nausea, but really useful in other ways too.)

Click to return from Heart 7 Shenmen Spirit Gate to other acupuncture points locations.

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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Jonathan Clogstoun-Willmott Books

All the books in the 'Chinese Medicine in English' series should be fully accessible on Kindles and Kindle apps. (Or you can buy the softback print editions, of course.)

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Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress

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Yuck! Phlegm! How to Clear Your Phlegm ...

Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine

Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Western Astrology and Chinese Medicine was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine! See Reviews.

Seven Reviews so far for Yuck Phlegm. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)

3000 years of Chinese being stressed, and at last, here's a book showing how all that experience can help you!

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