Stomach 36, also called Zu San Li or Leg Three Mile is a famous and most widely used point in acupuncture for rejuvenation, longevity and vitality.
It’s name, Leg Three Miles, comes from a Chinese legend. It says that when a weary traveler stimulated Zu San Li, he proceeded to become energized enough to be able easily to walk an additional three miles.
The Japanese call this point Ashi-no-san-ri. A Japanese folk tale about farmer Manpei tells that when Manpei was asked whether he had any secret to maintaining long life, he answered that he had no secret other than burning moxa on Stomach 36 every day, just as his ancestors had done. It is recorded that Manpei lived 243 years; his wife, Taku, lived 242 and their son, Mankichi, lived 196 years.
And my favorite is the diary of a Haiku Master Basho Matsuo (1689) where he writes,
I have sewn a torn part of my undergarments.
I have changed the strings of my hat.
I have burnt moxa on my Stomach 36.
My mind is now totally occupied with the moon over the Matsushima islands…
He was now ready for a walk of 1,500 miles.
How To Locate Stomach 36
Four finger width below the kneecap, in the depression between the sheen bone and the leg muscle. ST 36 is leveled with the bottom of tibial tuberosity. Tibia tuberosity is the bone that begins below your knee. Measure 1 hand width from you knee cap down and then go over 1 thumb width towards the outside of the leg (refer to the images). This point is not painful to needle and is a very effective point for doing moxibustion on.
What is Stomach 36 used for?
Whether using moxa or needling, Zu San Li is one point that will rectify any deficient state. Because ST 36 is located on a stomach meridian, it a major point for everything that has to do with digestion and stomach, therefore we use it to treat stomach ache, abdominal distention, vomiting, diarrhea, dysentery, indigestion, appendicitis, flaccidity and numbness of the lower limbs, edema, reproductive system, pain of the lower extremities and other ailments. Zu San Li is also used for building immunity (Wei Qi), for increasing stamina and energy and to maintain a general well being.
There are many other indications for this point – suffice it to say that in Japan ST 36 is called “the point of 100 diseases.” Centuries ago, a Japanese monk Kenko Yoshida pointed out that for people over 40, moxa on ST 36 is absolutely necessary for the maintenance and improvement of health.
If your symptoms are mild, such as occasional indigestion or fatigue, try to massage Stomach 36 when relief is needed. Do so in circular, clockwise motion. Seed acupressure can be applied as well (hint: buckwheat, pepper corns or other grains can be used instead of acupressure seeds). For deeper seated, chronic issues, ongoing acupuncture and moxibustion treatments from a licensed acupuncturist would be the best approach.