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The Five Phase (Wuxing) Acupuncture Points

The text below is taken from A Manual of Acupuncture, and offers an introduction to the method of selecting acupuncture points based on the wuxing (five phase) properties of the shu-points. A good theoretical grounding in yinyang and wuxing will help make sense of this sometimes confusing area, and my personal recommendation would be Yinyang Wuxing, Spirit, Body and Healing by Rhonda Chang. The author clearly has an intimate knowledge of these theories, and bring them to life with a number fascinating case studies. The book concentrates mainly on herbal treatments, but there is great value here for acupuncturists too.

FIVE PHASE POINTS

The five phase properties of the five shu-points were established in the Classic of Difficulties. On the yin channels, the jing-well point is ascribed to wood, the ying-spring point to fire and so on through the generating sequence (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) to the he-sea point which is ascribed to water. On the yang channels, the jing-well point is ascribed to metal, the ying-spring to water and so on through the generating sequence to the he-sea point which is ascribed to earth. Each phase is the ‘child’ of the one preceding it and the ‘mother’ of the one following it.

The Classic of Difficulties says “In cases of deficiency reinforce the mother, in cases of excess reduce the child”. This has been understood to describe the method of selecting points to tonify or reduce a channel or zangfu according to the generating sequence of the five phases. For example to tonify the Heart (fire) select the Heart channel point that belongs to the mother phase (wood) i.e. Shàochōng HE-9; to reduce the Heart select the Heart channel point that belongs to the child phase (earth) i.e. Shénmén HE-7. The complete list of these mother and child points is as follows:

The mother-child points of the twelve channels
  Mother point Child point
Lung Tàiyuān LU-9 Chǐzé LU-5
Large Intestine Qūchí L.I.-11 Èrjiān L.I.-2
Stomach Jiěxī ST-41 Lìduì ST-45
Spleen Dàdū SP-2 Shāngqiū SP-5
Heart Shàochōng HE-9 Shénmén HE-7
Small Intestine Hòuxī SI-3 Xiǎohǎi SI-8
Bladder Zhìyīn BL-67 Shùgǔ BL-65
Kidney Fùliū KID-7 Yǒngquán KID-1
Pericardium Zhōngchōng P-9 Dàlíng P-7
Sanjiao Zhōngzhǔ SJ-3 Tiānjǐng SJ-10
Gall Bladder Xiáxī GB-43 Yángfǔ GB-38
Liver Qūquán LIV-8 Xíngjiān LIV-2

 

As might be expected from such a highly theoretical perspective, when we examine these mother and child points in the light of traditional point usage, some have indeed been used to tonify or reduce their related zangfu or channel, whilst in other cases there appears to have been no application of this kind:

Tàiyuān LU-9 (mother) is the principal point on the Lung channel to tonify any Lung deficiency, whilst Chǐzé LU-5 (child) is important to reduce either excess or deficiency heat in the Lung.

Qūchí L.I.-11 (mother) is characterised primarily by its ability to clear a variety of excess pathogenic factors (heat, dampness etc.) from the body and its only tonifying effect is on the flow of qi and blood in the upper limb, whilst Èrjiān L.I.-2 (child), as a distal point, is able to expel wind, clear heat and reduce swelling from the upper reaches of the channel.

Both Jiěxī ST-41 (mother) and Lìduì ST-45 (child) act primarily to reduce excess pathogenic factors from the Stomach channel and zang, and the only tonifying effect of Jiěxī ST-41, like that of Qūchí L.I.-11, is to benefit the flow of qi and blood in the limb.

Dàdū SP-2 (mother), like most of the shu-points of the Spleen channel, has some effect on tonifying the Spleen. Other points, however, such as Tàibái SP-3 and Sānyīnjiāo SP-6 are considered superior for this purpose. Shāngqiū SP-5 (child) is an important point to clear exterior or interior dampness deriving from Spleen deficiency.

Shàochōng HE-9 (mother) was, surprisingly in view of its status as a jing-well point, indicated in various classical texts for deficiency of the Heart. Shénmén HE-7 (child) is able to regulate all patterns of disharmony of the Heart zang, but as the shu-stream and yuan-source point is primarily used to tonify deficiency rather than drain excess.

As emphasised throughout this text, the points of the three arm yang channels have little effect on their related fu, and Hòuxī SI-3 (mother) has no intestinal indications, whilst Xiǎohǎi SI-8 (child) has only two. These points could in no sense, therefore, be said to tonify or reduce the Small Intestine fu. As far as the Small Intestine channel is concerned, both have a strong action on reducing heat, stagnation and pain from the channel and neither could be said to have any tonifying effect.

As with the Small Intestine channel, neither Zhìyīn BL-67 (mother) nor Shùgǔ BL-65 (child) are significant points to treat their related fu, and both points primarily act to clear excess pathogenic factors from the channel.

Fùliū KID-7 (mother) is an important point to strengthen the Kidney’s function of dominating body fluids and regulating urination, whilst Yǒngquán KID-1 is able to help lower pathologically ascending heat, qi, yang and wind, especially when due to deficiency below.

Zhōngchōng P-9 (mother) has no discernible action on tonifying the Pericardium or Heart zang or the Pericardium channel, whilst Dàlíng P-7 (child) is an important point to clear heat from the Heart and Pericardium and to calm the spirit.

Zhōngzhǔ SJ-3 (mother) has no discernible action on tonifying any aspect of the Sanjiao function or channel, whilst Tiānjǐng SJ-10 (child) has a strong action on resolving phlegm, descending rebellion of Lung and Stomach qi, and calming the spirit.

Both Xiáxī GB-43 (mother) and Yángfǔ GB-38 (child), the water and fire points respectively of the Gall Bladder channel, are important to clear heat and uprising of yang from the Gall Bladder channel, and neither has any discernible tonifying effect.

Although emphasised by some practitioners as a point to tonify the Liver yin and blood, Qūquán LIV-8 (mother) is primarily used to clear damp-heat from the lower jiao and to resolve blood stasis in the uterus. Xíngjiān LIV-2 (child) is an important point to reduce excess in the form of fire, uprising yang and qi stagnation from the Liver zang and channel.