Treat Yourself: Acupuncture Points & Essential Oils for Anxiety, Depression
As an acupuncturist, the most common complaints I hear from patients are related to anxiety, depression, irritability, or just stress! These uncomfortable states spread out into all areas of life, causing sleep disturbance, digestive problems, eating disorders, headaches, respiratory problems, obsessive-compulsive behavior, addictions, even menstrual irregularities.
We live in a high-pressure world. We are bombarded by stimuli. We are told we can have it all. And so we reach for it. Often at the expense of our own peace of mind. Sometimes at the expense of our sanity.
I’ve been an acupuncturist for many years. I got into the profession after experiencing seemingly miraculous results as an acupuncture patient. I used to be a very anxious person – when I wasn’t depressed. Often I was both – anxious and depressed. I dealt with this by being obsessive-compulsive. I’d try to over-control everything, from food to sex to my relationships. I’d binge on something, then I’d deny it to myself altogether afterwards. I probably wasn’t very fun to be around! Life felt hard and burdensome. There was always so much to control.
I was a bit of a mess, but I did have the desire to heal and change. All I needed was a way to do it.
Over the years, I’ve changed a lot. Most of the debilitating symptoms I used to struggle with are no longer present in my life. I learned why my body and mind developed the symptoms it had. I’ve also learned about my body’s tendencies, so I know what to look at for and I also how to recognize imbalances when they begin to occur. So then, I can correct them before they turn into something serious.
Today I am happy to report that I’m a very healthy, happy person. I sleep well, I have good respiratory and digestive function, and hardly ever experience ongoing anxiety or depression. And when I do, I know how to correct it.
Acupuncture treatment has been essential to my health. I’ve discovered which are the most important, effective acupuncture points for my body and mind. These days, often just massaging these points corrects any problems I have, whether it be anxiety, indigestion, bloating, jaw tension, headache or irritability.
For me, there is a great acupuncture point that treats both anxiety and abdominal bloating. It is called Ren-15, located under the xiphoid bone, below the chest, where the ribs meet.
This point is called the “Turtle Dove Tail.” It is an energy channel that begins at the point below the xiphoid bone and spreads into the abdomen in the shape of the tail of a bird. Just massaging it has a calming effect. It’s a point that is said to “rectify” our thoughts and emotions: guilt, disappointments, confusion. When working with this point, it can be even more powerful to place a drop of either Rose or Clary Sage essential oil on the point. Rose has a chemical make-up that resonates with the heart and the blood: two aspects the point Ren-15 deals with.
Rose oil is a natural anti-depressant. It is a very nourishing oil that opens perceptive capacity: our ability to see and hear more clearly. It also clears away inflammation, which can cause anxiety and irritability.
Clary Sage oil is similar to Rose, but works more on the neurological aspect of anxiety. It can calm panic-feelings, shakiness and the feeling that we have lost control of our emotions. As an oil, it is less nourishing than Rose, but more stabilizing. It’s important to discern for example when we have insomnia: it is coming from the Heart: are we suffering more from a busy mind that won’t stop spinning? If so, Rose is the best oil to calm this. Or, if we are experiencing a body that won’t calm down: shakiness and hyperactivity or restless legs, Clary Sage might be the better oil.
I often combine treatment of Ren-15 with a very special Gallbladder point on the side of the chest, massaging and using Rose or Clary Sage oil on both. This point is GB-22, called “The Armpit Abyss.” A dramatic name for a magic point. This is an area of the body that Chinese medicine says collects all of the stresses and challenges that we cannot find the fortitude to resolve.
GB-22 is a point that strongly impacts blood circulation. It also impacts the joints, and “pain all over the body,” often thought to be similar to conditions like Fibromyalgia. GB-22 is a point that “normalizes” the body, restoring normal cycles like sleep, bowel movements, even the menstrual cycle. For working with body cycles, GB-22 combines well with a Liver point located under the pectoral muscle (or breast), directly in line with the nipple. This point is called LR-14 “Completion Gate.”
Two other points that I find very effective for calming anxiety and stress are the points KI-6 “Illuminating Sea” on the inner ankle, and PC-7 “The Great Mound” on the inner wrist. Jasmine or Fennel essential oil is very powerful on KI-6, while Clary Sage oil is sometimes miraculous in its calming effect on PC-7.
Below is an image of the point PC-7 from the Pericardium acupuncture channel on the arm. Nearly every point on this channel (as the “Heart protector”) has a calming effect on the mind and spirit. This channel also regulates blood circulation and the chest. It’s the best channel for chest tightness, be it physical or emotional. The first point on the channel (PC-1) is called the “Heavenly Pool.” It is located just diagonally above the nipple. I often hear from patients that working on this point allows them to feel a major weight off their chests – I’ve seen the most heavy, burdened, hopeless people smile and sigh from this point. Frankincense oil is especially applicable for this point.
The point KI-6 on the Kidney channel is one of the acupuncture points I use most in my practice. Psychologically, it is said to “Clear the spirit-disposition” by the medical manuals. I’ve found “Illuminating Sea” to be very helpful in treating anxiety that comes from fear of ourselves. It also treats obsessive-compulsive behavior, addictions and self-destructive behavior. It’s nicely combined with GB-22 and PC-7. You can locate KI-6 directly under the inner ankle of the foot. Jasmine oil is the best oil for this point: it is an aphrodisiac, a good antidepressant and trauma healer. The combination of Jasmine and KI-6 can be thought of as restoring a lust for life, a deep appreciation for oneself and excitement that you get to be you. It is located on a channel that goes directly into the Brain. It effects brain chemistry and the way you perceive: most in relation to yourself. This point can also direct a person’s attention inward: it is good for those of us who are always looking outside ourselves for excitement, love, comfort. Many of us could stand to become more in love with ourselves. KI-6 helps us cultivate this.
Meditation can also be a very powerful and effective method for calming the mind, easing anxiety and treating insomnia. I recall a time when I was so upset, panicky and anxious; it was right after a breakup. I couldn’t sleep at all – my mind and my body wouldn’t stop firing. The only thing that worked for me was Zen Buddhist style meditation. The practice is simple: I laid in bed and found my breath in my chest. I counted my breaths 1-10, then started over. I’d never given this type of meditation practice much thought before this tumultuous emotional time. And it worked wonders. I calmed and fell asleep soon after. You may need to alter the practice a bit. Sometimes the counting to 10 can keep us awake and alert. If so, try counting your breaths without a limit: just go until you lose your count, and then start over from 1. Sooner or later, you will lose your count by falling asleep.
Here is a link to instructions for ZaZen meditation practice from one of my favorite Zen institutions.
Meditation before bed can be very helpful, as you are putting yourself in a mindful state, which will continue even after you have fallen asleep. You may find that the quality of your sleep improves.
As for the case of loss, whether it be of someone we love, or something that we value, Spikenard Essential oil is very helpful for this. It has a deep, earthy smell to it that is kind of spicy and very soothing. It is said to treat difficulty letting go of something, especially when it is creating tremendous anxiety and agitation. It’s good to put this oil on the palms of the hand at the point PC-8 “Laogong” (shown above) which is translated as the “Palace of Toil and Weariness.” This point represents something in our lives that we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into, which is not working out, draining us of vitality.
Depression can be just as debilitating as anxiety. There are many manifestations of depression. There can be the fuzziness of the head, as if there is cotton in the head and joints, making everything seem slow, causing inability to concentrate. Lemongrass essential oil is helpful for this, especially when put on the top of the head, or when diffused into the room.
Tangerine is also a helpful oil when feeling fatigued. It’s helpful for digestive problems as well. Citrus oils are made from the peels of the fruit. Fruit peels are some of the chief herbs used in Chinese herbal medicine to regulate digestion, especially bloating and abdominal pain. Tangerine is best put on the outer knees on a miraculous “cure-all” point called ST-36, and around the navel.
Another meditation practice that I often suggest, especially for those who feel weak, insecure or vulnerable is standing meditation practice: “Zhan Zhuang.” The focus point within this practice of standing in place in a particular stance is on the soles of the feet, which is the location of a very important acupuncture point: KI-1 “The Bubbling Spring.” The idea is to feel the energy of the earth being absorbed through this point into the Kidney channel – which is the major channel of vitality and strength for the body. I’ve attached a link to an instructional video below:
Acupuncture treatment is a vast science. There are more than 365 points on the body. Using essential oils is a great way to treat yourself at home. And meditation is perhaps the best method of self-cultivation: working with the self. Many meditation techniques are thousands of years old – tried and true.
Use of essential oils is also an ancient practice, a type of topical herbal medicine, which has also been practiced for centuries. These practices have been around for such a long time because they have been proven to work. Nothing lasts for long if it is ineffective. I encourage you to give it a try: take your health into your own hands.