Your gallbladder sits on the right-hand side of your body, roughly if you were to draw a line from your nipple to your belly button it would sit at the bottom of your ribcage. The gallbladder meridian has 44 acupuncture points along its channel (one channel on each side of your body). This meridian wraps itself back and forth around the side of your head (which is why we use this point for migraines), then it travels down the side of your body to your 4th toe. We are going to look at a point called gallbladder 21, GB21 for short, or more poetically known as ‘Shoulder well’.
There are similarities between the traditional and modern view of the gallbladder, but we are going to focus on the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective. The gallbladder is situated and works very closely with the Liver. It stores bile which is then secreted to help you break down fats. So it has an important role to play in digestion. In TCM the gallbladder is also thought to nourish your tendons and connective tissue, so a healthy gallbladder is important for your musculoskeletal health. As well as its physiological function, the gallbladder is thought to help you with decision-making, courage, and flexible thinking.
We know that the gallbladder helps us to break down fat, so if we give our body too much fatty food then it will become sluggish or overworked. Aim for healthier fats - coconut oil, avocado oil, or olive oil. Add more green food to your diet, like avocado, green leafy vegetables, or broccoli. Try more tart foods like a slice of lemon in warm water, or adding a splash of apple cider vinegar and sauerkraut to your salad. And the obvious one - avoid too much alcohol (sorry).
The gallbladder helps to nourish your tendons. Excessive exercise may prevent the tendons from recovering. Not enough exercise means the tendons become almost stuck and lack fluidity. Finding that Goldilock’s point of moving your body without overdoing it will support your connective tissue.
We have learned from Chinese medicine that the liver and gallbladder prefer a smooth flow of qi - and this includes the smooth flow of emotional energy. Unexpressed, unresolved, or repressed anger, in particular, has a negative impact on the liver and gallbladder. We should have access to a full range of emotions and anger is no different. We need anger to protect us or our cubs. But anger should be like fire, we should feel it, express it then it is released. When you feel it but repress it becomes held in the tissues of your body. Explore your relationship with anger - in my practice, I especially think this is important if you are a woman. How did your caregivers express anger? What happened when you were young and you expressed anger. There are different ways to connect to and express your anger. Not every way will work for everyone, but some examples are journaling, dancing it out, or talking it through with a trusted friend or therapist.
Burning the candle at both ends also unbalances the gallbladder energy. According to the ancient Chinese body clock, 11 pm is the time when the gallbladder is most active. If you can be in bed by 11 pm - you don’t need to be asleep, but being horizontal will help - your gallbladder can get on with its repairs. In general, if you improve the quality of your sleep you will make better choices. You don’t crave healthy foods when you’re tired.
As well as a time of day, all of the organs have a time of year when they are more active. The energy of the liver and gallbladder rises during spring. This helps to lift us out of our winter hibernation. But spring also refers to the springtime of your life - that time of no responsibilities and wild abandonment. Forgetting to play, or not knowing how to play because we were made to grow up too soon, can dampen your liver and gallbladder energy. Be playful, whatever that means to you. Maybe jump in the waves or puddles, take your shoes off on the beach, or dance in the kitchen.
Do you know that point that you intuitively massage at the top of your shoulders? Well, that is GB21. You don’t need pinpoint accuracy, you can intuitively feel for tightness or tension around that area. If you work at a desk keep a pot of natural oil at your workstation - coconut oil is perfect because it doesn’t contain any other ingredients and you can use it for so many things. Use the oil to massage around GB21 or into any other tight spot at the top of your shoulders. Of course, it is much nicer if someone else will massage it for you, but self-care is just as nourishing.
The gallbladder channel is there to help with the smooth flow of qi (energy) from the head and neck down the body. If we are stressed, overthinking, or spending too much time on a screen we can get stagnation in the gallbladder channel as it is unable to descend the qi. That tension headache or eye strain may be a blocked gallbladder meridian.
As you can see from the list, you must not use this point if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. This is one of the points that we use if the baby is full-term but mama may need a little oxytocin or relaxation to promote labour. But definitely use it if the baby is earth-side and mama needs some support with breastfeeding as it relaxes the muscles of the back and chest and relaxes mama which can help promote breastfeeding.