Stomach 36 Zusanli: Leg Three Miles

Leg Stomach points
Stomach channel points on leg

Stomach 36 has a number of important properties:

  • Earth point and Horary point (0700 – 0900)
  • Lower He-Sea point of the Stomach
  • Tonifies Qi, Blood and yin
  • Often used to anchor and support Earth during other treatment to disperse excess

Location of Stomach 36

  • 13 cun above the lateral malleolus, lateral to the tibia
  • 3 cun inferior to Stomach 35, one finger breadth lateral or just inferior and lateral to the tibia’s anterior crest
  • Just inferior – about 1 cun – to the level of Gallbladder 34 but lateral to the tibia
  • 2 cun distal to the meeting point of tibia and fibula, 1 finger breadth lateral to the tibia


With so many ways to find the point you’d be correct in thinking it’s not always straightforward!

In fact, the wretched point can be hard to find.

That’s why you should read our page explaining the (un-)importance of acupuncture point location!


Needling Stomach 36

Needle vertically, up to 1.5 cun.

Needle cautiously, going deeper gradually. In some people when deqi arrives it can be quite strong. Although the instructions say needle vertically, you may need to ‘feel around’ for the point. When deqi arrives, treat it with respect and humility – you are touching a fundamental part of your patient’s energy system.

Needle sensation

Occurs anywhere between knee and ankle, sometimes down to toes. Usually proceeds distally.

If you really know what you’re doing you can get deqi sensation to proceed proximally. This can produce a powerful treatment, depending on your intention.


Moxibustion on Stomach 36 can be life-saving. Up to 10 cones normal size or 20 for small Japanese size ‘grain’. Also on needle and by radiant .heat transfer. In older patients or those convalescing, be careful not to burn.

Some books suggest you do 100 small moxa cones here.

Moxibustion on Stomach 36 is often applied in life-saving situations, to increase immunity and prolong life.

Actions of Stomach 36

  • Adjusts the function of Stomach and Spleen
  • Helps to fragment food
  • Helps Spleen to transform/transport/circulate fluids back to Blood, so Blood fills with fluids. Hence it activates, tonifies and thickens Blood
  • Regulates composition of Blood
  • Adjusts the functions of the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems
  • Increases the immune response
  • By adjusting Stomach and Spleen, eliminates  Wind and Damp and regulates circulation of Qi ad Blood
  • Assists Kidney Yang and benefits original qi (yuan qi)
  • Tonifies Qi in the whole body


Being probably the most important point in the body, certainly one of the most frequently used, Stomach 36 has many qualities.

Its name – zusanli – I was told, came from the experience of pilgrims who collapsed from exhaustion just as they saw their destination. Using this point helped them stagger on for just three more miles!

It certainly helps the body find reserves of energy, or more correctly, it helps your digestion produce more reserves in the form of Qi and Blood.

Zusanli needs Food to function properly – not stimulants like coffee

Healthy Food for gut health
Healthy Food Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

However, obviously it needs food to do that. If you expect acupuncture to work when you have been fasting, or had no recent food, it won’t work well. You need food for zusanli to do its job. It’s not a magic point that conjures energy out of thin air! (The same may go for someone who has had surgery to put a band round the stomach, stopping them from eating much.)

On the question of food before acupuncture, please don’t make the mistake of taking just a stimulant like coffee instead of food.

You need FOOD – nutrition – not a kick. In fact, caffeine is for most people counter-productive and will produce signs of yang unsupported by yin. Indeed, caffeine scrapes out your yin reserves to produce the yang response you get.


Expresso coffee - a bad idea for yin deficiency!

To understand more of this please read our page on coffee!

Also, good food helps. Bad food probably doesn’t, at least not so much.

And how you eat makes a considerable difference too: eat regularly, chew well and don’t gobble!

Stomach 36 – uses

Benefits just about all digestive and intestinal problems:


Horary point

Being the Earth point on an Earth channel, this may be most effective between 0700 and 0900, the horary time.

For the same reason, the qualities of this point probably become more apparent in autumn, the ‘Earth’ time of year, or as the season changes from one season to the next.

Recognising that moment of seasonal change may be possible in your country but I assure you that discerning when the seasons change in Scotland is nigh impossible. We seem to go back and forth for much of the year!

Frequent Tiredness?

Read our page on “Qi Deficiency: how to overcome tiredness“.

Comment on Stomach 36

Lighting Moxa Cone to assist immune system vs ill effects of antibiotics
Lighting Moxa Cone

Many experienced practitioners claim that regular moxa on zusanli helps to prolong life and health.

After birth, we depend on what we eat to grow and maintain our bodies. This is the number one point for regulating the function that turns food into flesh.

It’s overused. Some practitioners do it for every patient, every treatment. Usually it helps. Sometimes not.

I prefer to choose points based on their qualities. This, I believe, makes me a better acupuncturist, forces me to diagnose better and do better treatments.

If you only use this, or a very few points, and they work, everyone’s happy, until the day when the treatment isn’t appropriate and/or doesn’t work.

Then what are you going to do? You don’t have the experience to choose better combinations or to refine your diagnosis.

Also, practitioners who just use one or two points all the time will eventually become bitter and twisted and want more money.

Another acupuncture point, on the forearm on the Large Intestine channel in a somewhat related place anatomically that has similar, though weaker, qualities and actions: shousanli – arm three miles.

Jonathan Brand colours

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