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“Luo-Connecting Vessels for Spring

In the classical Chinese Medicine texts it is recommended in the winter months that practitioners focus treatment more on diet and herbal medicine and less on acupuncture. In the fall months it is recommended to use more “he-sea points,” generally found by the elbows and knees, in the summer on “shu-stream” points by the finger and toe joints, and in the spring treatments are centered around the “luo (Lew-oh) vessels” located in the middle.

Of course this does not mean each of these point selections or modalities cannot be used throughout the year, nor that they should be avoided during the other seasons. Ultimately a person’s unique presentation are the most important determining factors for treatment, however knowing these traditional principles can offer guidance towards beginning thought processes in the clinic. nnPer the writings of acupuncturist, Nicholas Sieben, the luo-connecting vessels are said to be “channels of latency” – that by the time a pathogen reaches this point in the body our immune system has failed, albeit to varying degrees, and the body is in danger of transforming something potentially simple into a chronic imbalance. Instead, we can utilize the “luo point” on each organ channel to prevent a particular pathogen from traveling deeper, and choose to hold it in latency until the immune system is robust enough to properly expel it (an excellent approach to metabolizing the antibodies formed by a vaccine, for example).

In my opinion, this is part of the reason why these points are so indicated during the spring: Regardless of how quarantined we’ve been, winter is still the winter, and our immune systems are at their weakest as we emerge from the cold. As animals on the outside awaken from their hibernation so too might the living bacteria within our bodies. We can use luo points either to expel that which has been waiting all winter to leave, otherwise to elegantly redirect that which has been threatening to progress systemically deeper. nnMany of you are experientially aware that one of my favorite (luo-connecting) points to use is Pericardium 6, named “Inner Pass,” located about two inches above the wrist crease between the tendons along the median nerve, and is most effective when you feel that mild tingling sensation on the fingers. Reasons to use this point are infinite, but what excites me most about it is what I learned from Dr. Ayla Wolff about its effect on our brains: fMRI studies have shown it to activate the ascending reticular activating system, which is most activated during REM sleep. It increases connectivity between our “default mode network” and our midbrain’s periaqueductal gray matter, the latter of which is the control center for our naturally occurring opioids, the former of which is our majority state of consciousness, or what people perceive to be our personality. What does this mean, and how does it translate? It means that needling Pericardium 6 should make our experience of life more painless, whether physically or emotionally – also that the responsibility of the channels of latency is to neurologically re-define our state of consciousness as it pertains to our suffering, which makes such treatments a great time for meditation!


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