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  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

So Near and Yet So Far

Today’s blog entry has little to do with my getting stuck in traffic so near my destination, although that’s the situation that triggers the expression; most especially when nature calls.  In this article’s case, though, I thought it a witty way to catch the audience’s attention towards how acupuncture points can be located so near each other yet have so dissimilar effects.  I had previously blogged about another scientific article that shows the same phenomenon.  (Scientific Proof of Five Transporting Points Selection in Acupuncture, link here).  Here is a beaut from the journal Autonomic Neuroscience.

Basically the study compares the physiologic effects of two acupuncture points CV 17 Danzhong and CV 16 Zhongting.  Both are located along across the front midline.  They are probably just inches from each other.  Even less in smaller folks.  Anyway here’s the abstract:

There is currently no convincing evidence that acupuncture has any specific effects on autonomic nervous function as assessed by heart rate variability (HRV). We examined whether the stimulation of neighboring acupunctural points, Danzhong (CV17) and Zhongting (CV16) on the anterior median line of the thorax, induced different effects on HRV. In 14 healthy males, epifascial acupunctural stimulation (single instantaneous needle stimulation on the fascial surface without producing De-Qi sensation) was performed at CV17 and CV16 on different days in a clinical study utilizing a cross-over design. We found that the stimulation of CV17, but not of CV16, decreased the heart rate (P=0.01, repeated measures ANOVA) and increased the power of the high-frequency component of the HRV, an index of cardiac vagal activity (P=0.01). The low-frequency to high-frequency ratio, an index of sympathetic activity showed no significant changes for either point. Our observations could not be explained as either nonspecific or psychological/placebo effects of needle stimulation. This study provides strong evidence for the presence of a specific acupunctural point that causes the modulation of cardiac autonomic function.  

What this means in everyday English is that two acupuncture points, located near each other along the abdomen, had different effects with regards to heart rate.  Logic would seem to dictate that points near each other would have similar effects.  In this case, they do not, as confirmed by science.

Let’s examine some traditional uses for the two points:

CV 16 Zhongting means “Central Courtyard”.  A Manual of Acupuncture iOS edition lists it’s actions as “Unbinds the Chest” and “regulates the Stomach and descends rebellion.  CV 17 Shanzhong means “Chest Centre” and has similar functions but adds “regulates Qi” “benefits gathering Qi” and “benefits breasts and promotes lactation”. 

The study shows that there is a difference in cardiac effect between the two points.  Given that gathering qi refers to refers to Zong Qi or Qi of the chest, I’m not surprised that science has proven that CV17 does have an effect on circulation as opposed to CV 16.


Kurono Y., et al. “Acupuncture to Danzhong but not to Zhongting increases the cardiac vagal component of heart rate variability.” Auton Neurosci. 2011 Apr 26;161(1-2):116-20. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2010.12.003. Epub 2011 Jan 7. ( link )

A Manual of Acupuncture, iOS edition. 2011 Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications Ltd.

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