Get to the (moxa) point: St 36 and harmonising the stomach | Simon Altman B.HSc CMA

st 36 moxaMoxibustion is a form of heat therapy originating in Ancient China and used within Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Moxibustion, or Moxa for short, uses the leaves from the Mugwort plant (Artemesia Argyi or Chinese Mugwort) where it is used either indirectly or directly on the skin.  Indirect moxibustion is the more common therapy where the Mugwort plant is processed into large cigar like sticks and held over a region or specific acupuncture point. Whilst direct moxibustion takes the Mugwort plant and delicately processes it into a fine cotton-wool like substance which is rolled into small cones or tiny rice grain size specks and burned directly on the skin with the moxa removed when you start to feel the warmth so that there is no burning or blistering.  Practitioners of moxibustion will monitor the heat level to make sure that the heat is at a therapeutic level and that there is a pleasant level of heat, comfort and safety.

The acupuncture point Stomach 36 has been renowned for using indirect moxibustion to improve longevity and preventing illness.  Stomach 36 is a point located one hands breadth below the knee cap on the outer aspect of your leg.  Another method of locating this point is to put the palm of your hand over your knee cap and your ring finger often falls into a depression which is the rough location of Stomach 36.

Stomach 36 is also known as Zu San Li or “Three Leg Miles” has the traditional indications of harmonising the stomach, increases the Qi and Blood and calming the spirit.  It has been used to increase endurance, builds up stamina or energy, improves digestion and stimulates the immune system.  Classically it is also the Earth element point on the Stomach meridian (also Earth element) so it has a great influence on building up the foundations of health and digestion being an Earth point on an Earth channel.  There is the notion within some schools of Traditional Chinese Medicine that building the “earth” of an individual is the root or core to start regaining health in all other systems of the body.

Recent clinical research has shown that stimulating Stomach 36 increases the production of white blood cells which aids in immunity and also oxygen uptake which improves recovery time from diseases.  The point Stomach 36 is also a main point being used within the MoxAfrica charity and uses moxibustion on Stomach 36 as one part of the process to help treat drug resistant tuberculosis within villages in Africa.

Prevention of illness (Mi Bing in Chinese) is a core component of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Rather then waiting to become sick or experience symptoms, Chinese Medicine encourages exercise, diet and various health routines (Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, etc) to maintain health and prevent sickness.  One of the simple methods to promote health and a general sense of wellbeing is to use Moxibustion on Stomach 36.

Burning a moxa stick for approximately 5 minutes over Stomach 36 activates the point and subsequently the benefits associated with Stomach 36.  Making sure to monitor the heat levels so that it is comfortable and not too strong as holding the Moxa-Stick too close can result in burns.  Moxibustion should be warming, gentle and the concentrated heat should feel relaxing or calming.  Five minutes  a day over Stomach 36 on each leg is enough to notice the benefits of using this fantastic technique and magnificent point within Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Extinguishing the moxa stick is extremely important, at home it can be snuffed out at the bottom of a ceramic or metal cup.  The stick can also be extinguished by quickly passing the burning tip under running cold water and left to dry overnight ready to use the next day.

Simon Altman is available at MCM every Monday, Friday and Saturday. For bookings p: 59736886 or visit

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