"Spirits of the Points: The Small Intestine"
Professor Neil R. Gumenick
M.Ac. (UK), C.T. (Adv.), L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

In prior articles, this author discussed the function of the Small Intestine, known as The Official Who Separates the Pure from the Impure, (Acupuncture Today July 2004, Vol 05, Issue 07) and several specific points on this meridian (AT August 2004, Vol 05, Issue 08). In this article, we will discuss additional points on this meridian, particularly as to their use for the spiritual connotation suggested by their point names.

A Brief Review

The Heart, also known as the Supreme Controller, is the blood sibling to the Small Intestine Official. The early Chinese considered their sovereign to be an expression of the Divine on earth – a truly inspired and enlightened leader. As such, this Official is best equipped to rule over the Kingdom of the body/mind/spirit. He or she must rule with love, compassion, fairness, and wisdom, lest self-interest and desire for personal gain be placed before the needs of the people.

Only that which is pure and good must be allowed to enter the inner sanctum of the Heart. Thus, the Small Intestine, acting like a good and able secretary, sifts through the multiplicity of impressions, demands, questions, complaints, and negativity aimed at the Supreme Controller, and passes on only that which is truly important and essential, discarding the rest. Then, the utterances, proclamations, and leadership of the sovereign are truly aligned with the good. In the Kingdom of the body/mind/spirit, the welfare of all of the Officials, considered to be metaphorical ministers of an imperial court, depends, in large part, on the Supreme Controller's purity, health, and well being.

Three Levels of the Small Intestine


This Official is the also called the "transformer of qi" and is also known as the "Alchemist." Its physical job is to separate what is pure from that which is impure from the food and drink we consume. It allows the good to be absorbed while sending the bad (or impure) to the Colon to be eliminated. To be sure, the state of the Small Intestine has a profound effect on every other Official, for if its function is failing, every Official will become riddled with pollution.


Were we to absorb sufficient negativity at the mental level, our mind would become dirty as well, cynical and pessimistic, seeing the "bad side" of any situation. A sick Small Intestine can make us naοve and gullible, mistaking bad ideas for good ones. The mind loses its agility and cleverness if it is unable to sort. It becomes dark, confused, overwhelmed and muddled, unable to figure things out or prioritize. A healthy Small Intestine, even in the midst of an impure environment, will still find a way to extract what is good and discard the rest.


The spirit level, if polluted, would lose its ability to feel love and compassion, towards oneself and others. Instead, we would tend to feel hatred for others, shame, disconnection, and isolation. Spiritually, with a sick Small Intestine, we might be attracted to toxic spiritual practices, accept dogma blindly, even revel in impurity. If we had a spiritual or religious practice, we might abandon it, seeing no light ahead; there would seem to be no purpose. We would tend to see only the flaws and imperfection in everything and everyone, including ourselves.

In the spiritual realm, this Official, when healthy, allows us to see the essential good in everything and everyone – to see our good and proper spiritual path in life and to know when we are, in fact, on that path. It allows us also to see the good in the spiritual paths of others – to see where we are essentially alike, as well as where we are different in our practices. Good, in this context, means what is right, appropriate, and oriented to the health and well-being of ourselves and others.

At an even deeper level, this Official helps us to separate that part of us that is pure and untainted – consciousness itself – from the processes of the body, mind and emotions, which are always in flux and change, arising and disappearing. Discovery of that part of us that is unchanging is discovering Spirit within us and in everything.

Diagnosing a Fire Imbalance

In Classical Five-Element Acupuncture, we find that points used for their spiritual connotation have the greatest impact if chosen from the meridians of the patient's primary elemental imbalance, which we call the Causative Factor (AKA CF). Every person is born with, or develops early in life, a primary imbalance in one of the 5 Elements. This is diagnosed by assessing the odor, facial color, sound of the voice, and emotion expressed by the patient. As the Small Intestine belongs to the element Fire, the Fire imbalanced patient will exhibit a scorched odor, a red or ashen gray color (best seen on the skin lateral to the eyes), the sound of either excess or lack of laughter, and emotionally either an excess or lack of joy. As the Fire element has 4 Officials within it, it must be further determined which side of Fire is in greatest need of support - the "organ side" (HT and SI) or the "function side" (PC and SJ). This is determined during the comprehensive initial examination by interacting with the patient.

Spirits of the Points

Each point on the meridian of the Separator of the Pure From the Impure will play a part in restoring the health of this Official so that it can do its vital work for the benefit of all, and each has a unique contribution to make.

Small Intestine 1 Little Marsh

This is the Metal point and Entry point of the meridian. The word "Little" in this case does not mean small or diminutive, but refers to what is the "inner" aspect of ourselves, found at our core. A marsh is an area of land that is moist, rich in nutrients, minerals, and trace elements. Marshes are the habitat of many kinds of plants and animals. Taking a Fire imbalanced patient to such a place with this point reminds him/her of the richness that can be found within, enabling her to see what is truly good - both within and without – even in the midst of a nasty or uncomfortable situation. As the ambassador of the Metal element within the Small Intestine, this point brings fresh inspiration, like a breath of fresh air, while helping to eliminate what is toxic, negative, and unnecessary.

Small Intestine 2 Forward Valley

This is the Water point of the meridian. As such, it can adjust the amount of Water within this Official. Too much Water puts the Fire out. Too little makes for dryness and excess heat. To properly separate pure from impure, there must be a correct balance of fluidity. In nature, when the snow melts or the rains come, the animal and vegetable wastes, which had accumulated on the hillsides, collect in the valley. With a proper amount of Water, some of it is absorbed into the soil, enriching it; some is washed away through the valley eventually reaching the sea where it is properly recycled by nature. With a flood of Water, the good as well as the toxic would be washed away. Without sufficient water, the toxins would stagnate and pollute the land. In order to confidently move forward on our unique path to health, we need to absorb the good and learn the lessons that are present in every situation. These must not be washed away. Neither must we be stalled in the valley in a stagnant mire of filth, pessimism, and negativity.

Small Intestine 3 Back Ravine

As the Wood and Tonification point of the meridian, SI 3 brings a burst of growth, hope, and optimism to the Small Intestine Official. It essentially puts Wood on the Fire, allowing it to burn stronger and brighter, if the Fire is diminished or faltering (best determined by pulse diagnosis). As the ambassador of the Wood element, it brings a sense of rebirth, a "kick start" to this Official, resolving stagnancy, lack of self assertion and direction to the patient who is stuck in a "Ravine" - a deep gorge of toxicity and has lost the vision and drive to move forward.

The Chinese character translated as "Back" means "to wait for". This relates to one of the gifts of Wood which, when healthy, means that the functions of planning and decision making are so well aligned, orchestrated, and overseen that everything happens smoothly, without problems or obstacles, just waiting for the perfect moment. As applied to the functioning of this Official, what is pure will be clearly seen and retained exactly when the time is right; what is impure will be separated and eliminated – without reckless or premature judgments.

Small Intestine 4 Wrist Bone

This is the Source point of the meridian. As is the case with all Source points, these points affect the entire meridian without drawing or dispersing energy to or from anywhere else. The energy generated with Source points comes from deep within the Official. They are the safest points on the whole of the body, as one cannot over-tonify or over-sedate these points. They have a built-in safety factor, which will "switch off" when the Official has taken or dispersed the correct amount of energy that is needed – no more and no less.

Whenever the name of a point includes a body part, we must consider the function of that part. The wrist is one of the most complex joints in the body, allowing for a broad range of movement, including moving our hands toward and away from us. There are those things that we need to bring to us – the pure and good; there are those things that we need to push away and eliminate, founded on the wisdom to distinguish between the two. When a patient, imbalanced in the Small Intestine, needs help in this regard, using SI 4 is a safe, yet profound choice.

The word "Bone" refers to the deepest and most enduring tissue in our body. We feel things deepest when we feel them in our bones. Bones are foundational for support and movement. Thus, when we use Wrist Bone, we give the Small Intestine the enduring support to identify and retain the good, even in the face of distraction and the temptation of negativity, deception, and evil that surrounds us daily.

Small Intestine 5 Yang Valley

This is the Fire and Horary point of the meridian. Used as a Horary during the hours of 1:00-3:00PM and/or in the summer season, it gives a powerful tonification to this Official and clears away (metaphorically) the dead ash from the Fire. Ash, in this case can refer to past hurts, disappointments, betrayals, from which emotional traumatic residue remains, covering our natural expression of joy, openness, and our ability to connect to others. Just as one would check the state of a fire before cooking on it by blowing away built-up ash, this horary point shakes the dead ashes off the fire so that we can know how much fire is really present. If, upon tonifying the Horary point, the pulses plummet, we know that we may have to rebuild the Fire nearly from scratch. If, contrarily, the pulses substantially strengthen, we know that, under a layer of ash, there is still a good hot fire present. This information helps inform us as to how strong our treatments need to be, what kinds of points may be required, and how often to see the patient for follow-up.

Used for its spiritual connotation, "Yang" in the first character implies the sunny side of a hill, warmth, upward and forward direction. Again, we have a point with the name "Valley", a low lying place which collects the animal and plant waste from the hillside. It is also receptive to the warmth and brightness of the sun. Thus, this point sparks the brilliance and heat of the fire within itself. With the heat and strength of fire, the separation and alchemical transformation of the negative into the good can most effectively take place. This transformation can move a stuck patient forward and through the valley. We would consider it for SI imbalanced patients who have become unable to distinguish good from bad, who are weak, cold, dispirited, depressed, lethargic, lonely, and in need of activity, movement, joy, affection, connection, and enthusiasm.

© 2019 Neil R. Gumenick / The Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture Inc.

Professor Neil R. Gumenick is Founder and Director of The Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture, which offers training in this profound system of body/mind/spirit medicine. He has maintained a private practice in Santa Monica, CA since 1981 and is a Professor at YoSan University and Emperor's College. Neil holds three degrees and an advanced teaching credential from The College of Traditional Acupuncture (UK) awarded by the late Professor J.R. Worsley. Neil was recipient of the 2007 AAAOM Pioneers and Leaders in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Award, and is one of the world's foremost practitioners, teachers, and writers on the subject of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture. He can be reached at or at (310) 453-2235.

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