I mentioned Small Intestine (SI) 18 in my last post about Stomach 9 for sore throats. SI 18 doesn’t have a glamorous name, but it is one of my go-to points with many clients and definitely for doing acupressure on myself. Before you understand what SI 18 does, you need to understand a little bit about how colds work in the body.
At some point we may in life encounter something that isn’t good for our bodies… a toxin, a virus, some bacteria, a parasite, etc. Essentially in Chinese Medicine we call this an External Pathogenic Factor (EPF). This means that a “pathogen” (something that will make you sick) is coming from outside of you. (NOTE: There are Internal Pathogenic Factors (IPF) too. Can you guess what they are? … EMOTIONS! Yes, Emotions can be toxic and cause illness too.)
When our bodies encounter an EPF, there is a process it goes through to eliminate the EPF. The most common EPF is some kind of agent that causes the common cold. In Chinese Medicine this can be as simple as a climatic factor (the wind blowing on your exposed neck on a cold, damp day, for example) or it can be the kind of agent we think of in the West… the dreaded germ! One of the things I like about Chinese Medicine is that we don’t get hung up on WHAT is causing the illness. We just get down to fixing it. By not focusing on the cause and rather focusing on the solution, we often are much more successful with these kinds of illnesses. That’s because the body has the necessary mechanism to fix it if you don’t get in the way!
So what is that mechanism. Let’s take the common cold. You start by getting a sniffle, or perhaps a sore throat, or a scratchy throat and the feeling like you want to cough. These are common indicators for anyone about to come down with a cold. If the body is unimpeded, it can release the EPF (whatever is causing the cold) before the cold even starts. The body wants to release it out through the head–through what we call in Chinese Medicine… your orifices. Those are your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth in your head (FYI there are also lower orifices… I think you can guess what those are!).
Now here’s the challenge. We often tense up our bodies when we are feeling sick. It’s human nature to want to fight it. What happens when we tense up? We block the natural ability of the body to release the EPF! We talked in the last post about using ST 9 to open up your throat. That relaxes the throat, so it can release the EPF. But then what? Then it starts to go up to your face, to find the path out through your orifices (a runny nose, ticklish and leaky eyes).
Here’s where SI 18 comes in. If you think of SI 18 as the master point for releasing all the EPF through all of your orifices, it will be the first point you go to when you’re feeling unwell. The point is located on the edge of your cheekbone, directly below the outer corner of your eye. There is actually a notch in the cheekbone there, and the alternate name of the point is “Influential Bone Hole.” Not elegant, but practical. Influential is the word that indicates that this is a very important point. It “influences” a lot of what’s going on in the face. So if you start your cold with a sore throat, start with ST 9, followed by SI 18. If you don’t have a sore throat, you can skip ST 9, and start with SI 18 to “open the orifices.”
To treat SI 18 on yourself, you simply hold the points lightly and release or disperse the qi in the point. The way you disperse qi is to make tiny counter-clockwise circles with each finger. While doing it, you can imagine when you take the top off a jar and the air releases. Or you could imagine the air coming out of a pressure cooker. You want the energy to release. If you feel like you have phlegm in your sinuses, I find it really useful to imagine the phlegm evaporating. When it begins to work, you’ll feel a popping sensation as the phlegm begins to drain. In the next post, I will talk about the points for stuffy noses and blocked sinuses.
After you finish the point, I recommend you do Gua Sha on the back of your neck. Gua Sha is very useful to do in addition to the point when you’re possibly coming down with a cold. If you’re not familiar with Gua Sha, please check out our book: The Big “Little” Gua Sha Book. After Gua Sha, it’s also useful to do a jingwell point. The jingwell points are all the points on your fingers and toes, and they release things out of your body. A good companion to SI 18 when you’re coming down with a cold, is the jingwell nail point on the outer (lateral) corner of your pinky. To release this point, you can use the same counter-clockwise method as described above or you can lightly scrape down to the tip of your finger. We will talk more about jingwell points in a future post.
With the power of SI 18 plus Gua Sha, you can stop a common cold in its tracks! The important thing to remember is: The sooner you do the treatment the better! At the first sign of the cold, you should be doing your SI 18 points and try to do Gua Sha as soon as you are able. You want to get it to move out before it progresses to the next stage. Once it moves beyond the initial stage, it’s very hard to release it and often the cold just needs to take its course. So I recommend working on it within the first minutes or hours of the initial symptoms.
Up next–a post on stuffy noses and blocked sinuses!
Leta Herman is an author, Five Elements, and Chinese Medicine teacher, nationally certified acupressure practitioner, and co-author of The Energy of Love (Llewellyn 2014), Connecting Your Circle (Born Perfect® Ink 2014), and The BIG “Little” Gua Sha Book (Born Perfect® Ink 2015). She has immersed herself in the philosophies of Daoism, Alchemical Healing, and Chinese Medicine, as well as many other healing modalities. A Smith College graduate and past nationally syndicated journalist, Herman has devoted the past 15 years to learning everything possible about the Five Elements. She has also co-founded a new media company–Born Perfect® Ink.