Restoring Hope, Vision & Belonging: Acupuncture and Essential Oils
Healing is about change, transformation, letting go. Physical and mental symptoms are guides as to where we are stuck: indicators as to what may be imbalanced in the body. During the acupuncture process, we try to read the signs of the body, through its symptoms, and promote a change in energy, chemistry and orientation that will create a shift in the person’s life.
One of the famous chapters within the ancient acupuncture medical textbook Ling Shu (“The Spiritual Pivot”) says “in all acupuncture treatment, one must be rooted in spirit.” What this means is it’s never enough to just address a person’s physical symptoms. One must also take into account their lives, feelings, experiences: their mind and spirit.
An acupuncture point utilized often in my practice is GB-37 Guan Ming: “the Bright Light.” There’s a pulse quality I have come to associate with this acupuncture point, and the special channel pathway it creates when imbalanced. The radial pulse is the major method by which an acupuncturist can assess the energy (Qi), blood and fluids within a person’s major internal organs and their acupuncture pathways.
GB-37 is a special type of acupuncture point called “Luo,” which means collateral or connecting vessel. These points and the collaterals they create “fill” when the body has material it cannot process or detox. They act like holding vessels for unresolved issues. When GB-37 fills to saturation, it will empty its contents into another acupuncture point on the foot: ST-42 Chong Yang.
ST-42 is a “source point” for the Stomach which means it has access into the deepest area of the body: the constitution. Chinese medicine sees the body as energetic layers. Within each of these energetic layers are specific acupuncture channels and anatomy. At the deepest, constitutional layer of the body are channels called “Extraordinary Vessels,” which connect to the organs of evolution, called the “Curious Organs” of which the brain, bones, blood vessels and uterus belong.
The word Chong indicates the Extraordinary Vessel Chong Mai, which is seen as the deepest reservoir of energy in the body, but also a place where deep unresolved material can be stored. Chong Mai is also seen as the blueprint of the body: the original code for how our lives will unfold.
The pulse quality I associate with GB-37 as it is moving into ST-42 feels as if the pulse position associated with the Liver and Gallbladder (on the left wrist, in the middle position) is being pulled into the tendon as if it’s trying to hide something.
To fully understand what this might mean, we need to understand GB-37 and its “spirit.”
The Luo points and their vessels are viewed as inactive, full or empty. Each state of the vessels presents symptoms, experiences and states of being.
When a vessel lacks unresolved, unprocessed or material that hasn’t been detoxed, they will be inactive, therefore not creating symptoms.
When GB-37 becomes “full” the symptoms are those of “deficiencies.” This can have many connotations. The person may be deficient in blood, energy, enthusiasm, fluids: always seeming to lack vitality or resources both physically or mentally.
When GB-37 is “empty,” the symptoms can be those of paralysis, described as the inability to rise from a sitting position. As with all Chinese medical imagery, symptoms can be literal or figurative.
The psycho-emotional reading of a “ full” GB-37 is a sense of loneliness and hopelessness, even resigned indifference. The person may feel alienated or cut off from the world, as if they are alone in their suffering with no one to come to their aide. There may also be suicidal ideation or tendencies, usually not to the extent that the person tries to take their life, but their thinking and behavior may be self-destructive.
The “emptiness” of GB-37 is a further development of its “fullness,” but with a deeper sense of despair, where the person feels they no longer have any options. This experience goes so deep that the person becomes paralyzed: they have an extreme loss of “Yang” movement, warmth and vitality. They can’t rouse themselves to engage with the world, deal with their problems, or take any kind of “stance.” They no longer have any “get up and go”; they can’t rise from a seated position. This may become so severe it actually impairs their physical movement capability. Or it can manifest psychologically, causing them to lose hope, drive, enthusiasm and ability or “will” to engage in life.
There are two essential oils that resonate strongly with GB-37. Understanding the oils and their healing abilities helps to further illuminate the spirit of GB-37 and its pathology.
Vetiver essential oil resonates with the Liver and the Heart organs. The Liver is seen as that which “harmonizes” the emotions, and holds onto the past. The Heart “houses” the spirit, empowers animation and curiosity and tends to have a difficult time with “no.”
Vetiver nourishes and invigorates the blood, while also clearing heat that may be agitating the spirit-mind, especially in relation to fear. The blood has a special relationship to the spirit in Chinese medical thinking. Relating to the Heart, the blood nourishes and circulates animation. The Liver stores the blood, which can then be used for a sense of vision, enthusiasm: to “engender” the new in life, to manifest and create. However stasis of blood can cause the inability to let go of trauma and past experience.
When there is heat in the blood, there is often mental-emotional agitation. In addition to clearing fear, Vetiver also regulates the emotions in general due to its ability to regulate the Liver’s energy.
Vetiver also has the ability to make a person feel they “belong” to their environment. It heightens awareness of this environment, and promotes a sense of being part of the world. It is a very anchoring oil, that helps a person gain a greater sense of self. The symptomology of GB-37 relates strongly to a feeling of alienation and loneliness, benefiting from the aromatic quality of Vetiver. The person may feel tainted, or separated. There’s a loss of hope due to lack of connection. Nourishing the Heart’s blood allows the person to feel warmly touched, cared for and included.
Rosemary essential oil invigorates heart circulation, improves memory, promotes energy movement to the surface of the body. It is an oil for creativity and enthusiasm. Like Vetiver, it also helps promote of feeling of belonging to the world. It is an oil that help us want to participate in life, treating a sense of paralysis or “cold.” It helps us feel we have something to creatively contribute to our social world.
Earlier in my career as an acupuncturist I was surprised by how many people exhibited a pulse quality that related to GB-37. Were that many people feeling mild to severe despair and hopelessness? Perhaps it shouldn’t have been so surprising. Many people come to an acupuncturist as a last resort, when nothing else has helped their condition. I had to accept that many of the patients I was seeing had lost hope, more or less. Yet an important aspect to GB-37 is that hope is not completely lost. There is still a glimmer. One just needs a “Yang” push, often by someone else. Something that wakes them up, like the strong smell of Rosemary or the deeply rousing earthly quality of Vetiver. Or by a pushy, loving acupuncturist who helps them open their eyes, to find the “Bright Light” that GB-37 provides when needled.
Needless to say a person’s loss of hope must be addressed early in the healing process. Many people used to ask me if they needed to “believe in” acupuncture for it to work. I didn’t always know what to tell them. Now, after 10+ years experience as an acupuncturist, and 20+ years as a healer I’d answer, “No. Acupuncture doesn’t require belief to work. But healing in general require belief in yourself.” If we don’t believe we can heal, there becomes a great resistance to allowing the body to do what it can naturally do, which is restore itself. By needling GB-37 and restoring the free passage for this point to provide a “Bright Light” for us in our lives, and by strengthening ST-42 so the constitution is strong and the reservoir is secure, we can change the consciousness to promote a sense of hope. The pulse loosens and ceases to hide itself under the tendon. The person feels a greater strength to face their challenges and seek solutions.
ST-42 is a special point said to “ascend the Pure Yang of the Stomach fluids” into the head. What this means is, it brings the fluids rich in sensation to the eyes and ears so we can perceive the world, especially that which we can build and create. By strengthening this point, we strengthen perceptive capacity. GB-37 and ST-42 as a point pair therefore have a very strong effect on the senses, especially the eyes.
Needling GB-37 doesn’t necessarily solve a person’s problems. Often the Kidneys, Stomach-Spleen or Lungs are required to do that. But the Gallbladder channel can help unstick us from the paralysis we find ourselves. It helps us begin moving towards the “light” again. It helps us be able to rise from our powerless seated position.