I had the great privilege to work with Dr. Miriam Lee from 1978-1981 in California. I had just come back from studying in China, and was full of theory, but had little practical experience. Dr. Lee had studied with Master Tung of Taiwan. And though she incorporated many “Tung” points, her practice was firmly grounded in TCM.
One of her favorite point combinations, which has also become one of my favorite, is the 3 Emperor ‘Dao Ma’ (combination of 3 points). Miriam used to pronounce “Emperor” as “Empire”, so her students would call them “3 Empire” too. If you look up their indications in the various Tung books available today, you will find a huge list of Western symptoms. But the most important use of these 3 points is for Yin Deficiency, especially dual Kidney/Liver Yin and Blood Deficiency.
Now it’s well known in TCM that you cannot tonify Blood or Yin directly with acupuncture. But you CAN open the body to receive Yin – by reducing Dampness, Heat, Wind, etc. It’s my understanding that this is what these points do best. They free the Six Stagnations, so Yin can be received by the body. Miriam never actually said this, but it was somehow implied or transmitted in working with her. And over 30 years, it has been my observation and understanding. On a typical day in my clinic, I use this combination of points at least twice.
Dr. Lee used to use these combinations of points often, and then prescribe for the patient, a large dose of Liu Wei Di Huang Wan pills, sometimes as much as 80 pills three times a day! Though this is a cloying formula, it was rare to find any of her patients having any problems with this dosage. I think the “3 Empresses” (as I like to call them – after all they’re for Yin Xu) prepares the body to receive the large dose of Liu Wei Di Huang.
Now for their location. (See diagram) You would think about such important points there would be widespread agreement concerning their location. But there is not. When I first started observing with Dr. Lee, I was trailing behind her, secretly measuring with my fingers her point locations. And I noticed that, especially with these 3 points, their location would differ up to 1 cun! It was fun to see new students to her clinic with the same baffled expression on their faces, secretly checking Miriam’s point location.
The truth: you have to feel for these points. The 3 Empresses are, more or less, along the lower Spleen meridian. The most distal point Ren Huang could be said to be at Spleen 6, or at K7 or 5 fen posterior to Spleen 6. The most proximal point Tian Huang Fu is approximately 1.5 cun distal to Spleen 9. Dr. Tan has written it is best to find the A Shi point in this area, and I agree.
The middle point Di Huang is approximately at Spleen 7, but Miriam usually put it halfway between Ren Huang and Tian Huang Fu. Sometimes I substitute Spleen 9 for Tian Huang Fu, when the patient has a lot of Damp Stagnation. And I often use K7 instead of Ren Huang for men. And I’ll often leave out Di Huang – using just the 2 Empresses.
I hope this small article has been of some help in your clinical practice. Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.
-Robert Abrahamson OMD, LAc