It’s the most wonderful time of the year!! Well, for me it is. This is my favorite season and my favorite holiday. And in East Asian Medicine, we have a category of acupuncture points known as Ghost Points. Seems appropriate for this time of year, doesn’t it?
According to the ghost stories of ancient China, ghosts were a very serious matter. When a person died, their soul traveled across a bridge to the afterlife. On this crossing, they were judged as either worthy or unworthy. If considered “good,” they continued on; if deemed “evil,” they plummeted from the bridge into hell.
Depending on one’s beliefs, if they reach the other side, they either reincarnate or go on to live with the gods. Meanwhile, there is the matter of one’s burial and funeral service, and if not performed correctly, would prompt the soul of the deceased to return to earth and haunt the living.
In East Asian Medicine, there are two parts to the soul, the po and the hun. The po was the yin aspect with its association to darkness, water and earth, while the hun was the yang aspect with its association with light, fire and the heavens. These two parts of the soul worked together and made life for a person. The hun (reason) side governed the po (instinct) side, but the hun needed the po for survival. After death, these two aspects could return to the living to cause trouble if proper burial rites had not been observed or for other reasons, such as unfinished business, a vow taken, to right a wrong or just to visit.
Ghost Points were documented in the book the Thousand Ducat Formulas written by the great Chinese physician Sun Si-Miao. He was a prominent physician who lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). The 13 Ghost Points stem from an ancient and esoteric practice in East Asian Medicine. The points were created to combat spiritual possession from gui (ghosts) which caused mental and neurological disorders such as mania, paranoia, addiction, seizures, paralysis, lockjaw, headaches and even nightmares.
Gui also translates into “excess phlegm,” which Sun Si-Miao believed to be the medium for spirits who took residence in the body. In today’s acupuncture, phlegm is considered a pathogenic substance that forms from emotional stress, excess physical overwork, poor diet, drugs, and inflammation (excess heat and / or dampness in the body).
Phlegm can be both material and ethereal. When phlegm is dense in a physical form, it can be tangible like the mucus from nasal congestion or visible though imaging such as amyloid beta plaques in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. However in EAM, Phlegm can also be invisible. In this case, phlegm can cloud the spirit of the heart, which acupuncturists refer to as The Shen.
The Shen governs our consciousness: how we perceive and interact with world around us. If the Shen is disturbed, someone might share how they don’t feel like themselves, act out of character or lose sight of their purpose and life’s dreams. Shen disharmonies can manifest in those who have a hard time letting go of past hurts, or when shame and guilt are carried for years, as well as those who struggle with self-destructive habits.
A clouded shen also appears in those who feel like they lack direction in life or struggle with crippling indecision. Loss, heartache from being “ghosted,” but also deep-seated fear of expressing one’s most authentic self all affect the heart and therefore, the Shen spirit.
All the Ghost Points have applications that affect a patient’s emotional and psychological welfare, and when used together they create a sense of peace, help center and ground them. Here’s the list of the 13 Ghost Points:
ST 6 – Stomach 6
This point is perfect for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Patients with PTSD have tendency to clench their jaw, so ST 6 acts as a jaw relaxer as well. This point is also good for treating deviation of the mouth and eye, epilepsy and inability to open mouth after stroke.
BL 62 – Bladder 62
In clinical practice, I use BL 62 for long standing childhood trauma related to sexual abuse, leading to anxiety and / or depression as an adult. It can also be used for headaches, paralysis and epilepsy.
LI 11 – Large Intestine 11
LI 11 clears heat and balances the digestive system. It’s used for patients who like to be in control but get diarrhea or suffer from IBS when they feel out of control. This point is also good for treating epilepsy.
SP 1 – Spleen 1
Bleeding SP 1 is generally used for patients who have poor body image and eat their feelings (as in Bulimia). It is also needled to treat epilepsy, disorientation and also as a resuscitation point.
PC 7 – Pericardium 7
This acupuncture point is the protector of the heart, which makes it the perfect point to needle for those who are emotionally upset (broken hearted) after the break up of a relationship. This point is used for patients that present with frequent crying, laughing, irritability and an excessive desire for material possessions.
PC 8 – Pericardium 8
This is a good point for patients who have lost a sense of self, are manic with hallucinations, anxious and experience paranoia (like in schizophrenia). Used to treat paranoia, fever and sweating too.
LU 11 – Lung 11
This acupuncture point is perfect, when a vow, contract or an important agreement is broken and anger results. Good during or after a nasty divorce or a business partnership which goes sour.
Ren 1 – Ren 1 / Conception Vessel 1
For patients who are ashamed of their body and their sexuality, and especially for women after childbirth, who suffer from urinary incontinence and low libido or can’t reach orgasm.
Ren 24 – Ren 24 / Conception Vessel 24
This is a great acupuncture point for people who are always worried and are consumed by their dark thoughts for years. They don’t ever smile or laugh. It is also used to treat cachexia (wasting disorder) and nosebleeds.
DU 16 – Du 16 / Governing Vessel 16
A good point for patients who resist change and are inflexible. Effective for treating rigid tongue, lock jaw, loss of voice and headaches.
DU 23 – Du 23 / Governing Vessel 23
For unresponsive people who have years of phlegm misting the mind and become catatonic, such as later stage Alzheimer’s patients.
DU 26 – Du 26 / Governing Vessel 26
Often used for intergenerational trauma, which leads to spontaneous laughing with no reason. Irritability is often present in these patients.
Yin Tang – Yin Tang / Extra Point
This 13th Ghost Point is controversial. In some text, extra point Gui Feng (under the tongue) is deemed a Ghost point, but because of its location, Yin Tang has been used instead. Both are used for enlightening the mind, seeking knowledge and wisdom.
Whether you believe in the spirit world or not, Ghost Points are said to help a soul find their place in the cosmos and they are still used regularly by acupuncturists worldwide. They lend an ancient insight to assist in the treatment of mental and emotional conditions in today’s world. They offer the opportunity to release your real or figurative ghosts, so that whatever has a hold over you, preventing you from connecting to your truth and essence can be addressed and hopefully corrected.