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Using Acupuncture Points to Eliminate Jet Lag

By Cindy Micleu, MTCM, LAc.

Jet lag occurs when our body's natural daily circadian rhythm becomes disrupted, due to the crossing of time zones during long airplane flights. The symptoms may last from 1 to 10 days, and range from fatigue, insomnia, headache, edema, nausea, and anorexia, to irrational behavior, mental confusion, and disorientation. Children age five and under do not appear to be as affected as adults.

In general, flights with destinations to the east of their point of embarkation result in more severe symptoms than flights heading to the west. Jet lag only occurs when crossing time zones, not when flying north to south or vice versa. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) estimates that this disturbance to the normal circadian rhythm of the adult body takes approximately one day of recovery per time zone crossed.

The Circadian Cycle

There are many cyclic rhythms that occur in the body. The secretory rates of some hormones are linked to a 24-hour cycle. Laboratory tests suggest evidence that cells can keep time on their own, showing regular cyclic activity even when they are isolated in lab cultures and cut off from outside stimuli.

We have many internal biological "clocks". The ones that pertain to a 24-hour period are referred as circadian cycles. The most familiar of these is the sleep/wake cycle.  Light and darkness (diurnal cycle) trigger the sleep/wake cycle. The hormone melatonin is secreted by the thyroid and produced in the dark while we sleep, fading at daylight as bright light turns the hormone off. When we travel, our circadian rhythm dissociates from the diurnal rhythm.

Diurnal Rhythm chart

During a 24 hour-period, qi circulates through the meridian system in such a way that it peaks in each meridian in 2-hours time increments, then moves on to peak the function of the next meridian, Throughout the diurnal cycle, at any given time a certain meridian will be at its high point while another will be at its lowest. taking 24 hours to complete one full cycle through the 12 meridians. When the qi is in a certain meridian we say that the meridian is at its energetic peak. This 2-hour peak period is called the horary period.

Re-Setting Your Internal Clock

In order to eliminate jet lag the body clock must be reset allowing the horary cycle to function the same time as the local time of their destination. Stimulating specific horary points on the body allows the energy to transfer from one meridian to another, thus helping the biological clock update itself in mid-flight. People who use this system report arriving at their flight destination feeling like they are connected to the time zone of their newly arrived destination, as opposed to the time of their departure location. This technique of using horary point to reset one's internal time clock was developed by a group of D.O. and D.C. acupuncturists, and first introduced by John Amaro, DC, LAc.


3 am - 5 am
Lu 8
Large Intestine
5 am - 7 am
LI 1
7 am - 9 am
St 36
9 am - 11am
Sp 3
11am- 1pm
Ht 8
Small Intestine
1 pm - 3 pm
SI 5
3 pm - 5 pm
UB 66
5 pm - 7 pm
Kd 10
7 pm - 9 pm
P 8 (CX8)
9 pm - 11 pm
SJ 6
11 pm - 1 am
GB 41
1 am - 3 am
Liv 1

1) At the time of departure, set your watch to your destination time
2) Find the current time of your destination on the above chart.
3) Find the acupuncture point that corresponds to that 2-hour time frame.
4) Stimulate this (bilateral) point with a needle for 5 minutes, or by rubbing with the tip of a closed pen, 25-30 times in short blasts of 5 strokes.
5) Continue stimulating the points indicated for each of the ensuing 2-hour periods until you arrive at your destination.
6) Treat the corresponding horary point upon arrival.

In other words if you are boarding the 7:00 pm flight from Los Angeles in route to Beijing, China, it is actually 11:00 am in Beijing the next day. Even though your horary cycle at your present location corresponds to the Pericardium meridian, beginning at 7:00 pm it is actually 11:00 am in Beijing (your destination) which corresponds to the Heart meridian. Thus one stimulates the horary point for the Heart meridian, HT 8.

This same formula is repeated every two hours of flight as the flyer moves through time zones. Therefore, two hours later (9:00 pm on your wristwatch) it is actually 1:00 pm in Beijing, which corresponds to the Small Intestine meridian. You would stimulate SI 5, the horary point for the SI meridian.

Two hours later it would be 4:00 pm in Beijing, corresponding to the Bladder meridian and stimulation of BL66. The rest of the formula simply follows the circulation of qi around the cycle, stimulating the horary point for the meridian associated with the time of day at your destination. Therefore, to continue the example it would be followed by KI, P, TH, GB, Liv, LU, LI, ST, SP, HT.

Should one fall asleep and sleep through several horary zones, the system can be picked up upon awakening by continuing to stimulate the horary point for whatever time it is at your destination.

Point Stimulation

Activating the acupuncture points may be achieved by various means. If using needles, they should be inserted, stimulated moderately, and retained for 5 to 7 minutes. Electronic and laser stimulation may also be used and produce good results. Treat each point bilaterally.

The most commonly-used technique is the application of pressure with a blunt tool such as the end of a closed ball point pen. It is an easy, quick, and painless method and attains the same good result as using needles. With an object such as this, the acupuncture point is stimulated by rubbing the end of the pen briskly back and forth over the point 25-30 times, in short blasts of 5 strokes.

acupuncture point chart for jet lag

John Amaro, "An Ancient Approach to Beating 20th Century Jet Lag" Dynamic Chiropractic, pp.12-17. 

John Amaro, "Cheating Time-An Ancient Approach to Beating 20th Century Jet Lag" Dynamic Chiropractic, pp.14-16.
Jeffrey Benton D.C. and Paul MacKenzie D.C., LAc. Jet Lag Syndrome: Using Horary Points to Relieve the Symptoms of Jet Lag
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