ST29, Gui Lai: What’s in a Name?

In the West, we use an international numbering system to name acupuncture points. One of my favorites to use in practice is called the 29th point on the stomach meridian. Located approximately four inches below and two inches lateral to either side of the belly button, Stomach 29 has numerous uses in the treatment of painful periods, infertility, stomach troubles, poor digestion, and constipation. Some of what makes this point so special is its local anatomy, and calling it (and all others) by its number helps students who have to learn hundreds and hundreds of points easily. If we look only at this numerical name instead of the Chinese one, though, we miss the beautiful poetry that sums up the efficacy of this point, because Chinese names often describe more.

Stomach 29 is actually named Gui Lai (歸來) in Chinese. Gui means to return, to go back to, or to return something to someone. Lai means to come and is used as a verbal complement that indicates movement toward the subject. Put together, Gui Lai means simply to return or come back to.

Stomach 29

Gui Lai’s strategic location on the lower abdomen makes it an excellent point to treat painful periods, whatever the etiology, as it helps move qi and blood in this area. In the treatment of infertility, Gui Lai lies both near the uterus and directly over the ovaries. We often select this point to promote local blood circulation here, which helps induce ovulation, normalize irregular cycles, and generally nourish these structures. In addition, Gui Lai can often help ease stomachaches and constipation by promoting digestion, stimulating the bowels, and encouraging downward movement.

Gui Lai is one of my favorite examples of the descriptive beauty of Chinese acupuncture point names. Rather than merely a meridian name and number, we have a simple and concise summation of the many uses of this point if we analyze its Chinese name. If your tummy hurts, your periods are painful, or you have fertility related concerns, give us a call and let us see what we can “return” back to you.

[written by Molly]