Updated: Oct 4, 2022
1. Shen Men: The “Everything” Point
Is it a miracle that one tiny point in the ear wields so much power? Kind of, which is why its nickname is “Heavenly Gate” or “Divine Point”. It promotes deep healing and helps with that calm-but-energized feeling that frequently follows a good meditation. It's also great for pain relief.
As a master point, Shen Men is always “electrically active”, meaning it is always conductive and ready to amplify energy when needed. It’s a point that’s indicated in most auricular therapy and ear reflexology protocols, since it helps with virtually every condition in its own right, but also it’s used to help make other points more efficient. Why? Shen Men is happy to lend its power to boost the effects of other points.
I use this point frequently for outcomes that may at first seem to oppose one another, but each situation calls on the balancing properties of Shen Men. First, I use Shen Men for its calming qualities. When a client arrives who is particularly charged up and is fidgety or chatty, I use Shen Men to instill a sense of calm and quiet, physically and mentally, which allows for the client to yield control and enjoy the session. Secondly, I use Shen Men for its energizing qualities, allowing it to make other points more effective. In other words, I let it use its conductivity to more fully “turn on” other points.
Similarly, it can also be used like a power surge to give the whole system a boost. One version of this approach is like a computer reset. Imagine a computer glitching so that none of the programs are functioning properly. Shutting the computer off, then on, allows it to reset everything. Similarly with auricular reflexology, if other points don’t seem to be actively working, stop stimulating everything else, spend some time with Shen Men only, then start afresh on the other points…they will most likely work better, having been rebooted.
Shen Men would be helpful in treating for anxiety, depression or hypersensitivity; pain, inflammation or muscle tension; addiction support or detox; and heart and blood conditions.
It would be appropriate to press Shen Men at the beginning and end of a session, and it's probably the most common point on which to place an adhesive ear bead, so clients can take advantage of its benefits between sessions.
2. The Sympathetic/Relaxation Point: Balances Fight-or-Flight with Rest-and-Repair
Most commonly referred to as the sympathetic point, I find its name to be a bit misleading, in that it evokes images of hyper-arousal associated with the highly stimulated fight-or-flight response. However, it’s important to reframe the image of this point by understanding that it brings balance to the autonomic system (Granted, the nervous system is most frequently out of whack in favor of too much stress and adrenaline, and this point might have been more aptly named the “coming out of the stress response and into normal functioning” point...but I guess that’s a bit long).
The purpose of this point is not to induce deep relaxation, nor solely to achieve parasympathetic function - although that may happen. Rather, its purpose is to bring about balance and appropriate autonomic response, between these two poles, so the body can have easy access to both survival (sympathetic) and regeneration (parasympathetic) aspects of health. Therefore it's helpful for anything related to sleep and healing.
Since stress is pretty much an epidemic, you’ll probably see it used more frequently to bring the body back to relaxation following the (chronic) stress response. If Shen Men is like a system reset for the whole body, think of the sympathetic point as a reset button for the nervous system.
High stress leads to health problems involving high inflammation and inflammation-related pain, so the sympathetic point is an effective point for pain relief. It’s indicated for any conditions ending in “itis”, and for any conditions where coming out of the stress response would turn back on certain body systems, such as the digestive and integumentary (skin and hair) systems. When we do achieve the parasympathetic state more frequently, deep healing can take place.
I use the sympathetic point for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and post-trauma-related symptoms, stress-related sleep disturbances, or tension reactions like teeth grinding that get worse with increased stress. Conversely (and more rarely) I use this point to help jolt the fight for survival, if basic survival energy is low.
Because a balanced autonomic system returns blood and energy flow to the digestive and integumentary systems, this point is also indicated for treatment of stomach ulcers, acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or Crohn’s disease, and stress-related hair loss such as alopecia.
3. Zero Point: Come Back to Center
One of the most relevant points in every reflexology chart is the solar plexus reflex, known for bringing the body into a deep state of relaxation and repair. In ear reflexology, the solar plexus reflex and zero point are related and interchangeable.
In the body, as part of the nervous system, the solar plexus is a group of nerves that incorporates the largest nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system—the vagus nerve—which connects to most thoracic and abdominal organs (except the adrenal glands). It’s very interesting that, from the gross anatomy perspective, it’s the auricular branch of the vagus nerve that innervates the upper and lower concha of the central auricle, where zero point is located!
Like the solar plexus reflex in foot or hand reflexology, the auricular zero point is found just below the diaphragm reflex, on the dividing ridge between the chest cavity and the abdominal cavity, very close to the stomach reflex. Specifically in relation to ear anatomy, zero point is considered the geometric center of the ear homunculus, and the center point of all 4 quadrants. For all these reasons, this point is primarily known for its centering, grounding and relaxation effects.
Energetically, this point is very helpful for those who may dissociate and daydream, for those who need to center themselves to stabilize emotions, and for those who would benefit from the regenerative healing that happens in the parasympathetic state of deep relaxation. It’s also a great point for pain relief, circulation, and homeostasis—due to its balancing influence for organ, brain and hormone function. Like Shen Men, zero point also acts to ‘reset’ the system, but from a place of centering and a renewed ability to focus.
I once had auricular therapy prior to traveling, during which I would be crossing several time zones. My auricular therapist chose to treat point zero to keep me “grounded to the earth” even while I was in the air, and it did help me feel less effects from jet lag!
A 2013 research article describes a study in which Shen Men and zero point were used to effectively increase parasympathetic function in post-surgical patients with colon cancer. Patients who did not receive treatment had increased heart rates post-surgery, correlating with a higher sympathetic response, while the auricular treatment group maintained a lower heart rate, correlating with a higher parasympathetic response. (1) While this study focused on acupuncture, the points respond to reflexology pressure as well.
Whether you’re making use of these important ear reflexes individually or combined, these three master points are a very powerful addition to your healing kit!
(1). Arai, Y.-C. P., Sakakima, Y., Kawanishi, J., Nishihara, M., Ito, A., Tawada, Y., & Maruyama, Y. (2013). Auricular acupuncture at the "shenmen" and "point zero" points induced parasympathetic activation. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2013. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/945063. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3687596/.
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