General Health

Addiction Treatment

The Use of Acupuncture in Drug Addiction Treatment
By Judd R. Spray and Sharon M. Jones


Alternative medicine in the United States is a billion-dollar industry. A 1993 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the American public spent almost as much out of pocket money on alternative medicine in 1990 ($10.3 billion) as they did on hospitalizations ($12.8 billion). In fact, the study estimated that people made more visits to unconventional therapy providers (425 million) than they did to primary care physicians (388 million).[1] Viewed with skepticism by some, and virtually unknown to many, alternative medical techniques deserve serious attention.[2]


Acupuncture, now one of the most popular forms of alternative medicine, was virtually unknown in the United States until recently.[3] In 1971, James Reston, one of the New York Times’ most respected journalists, was traveling in China when he was stricken with acute appendicitis. His subsequent article on the use of acupuncture as an anesthetic turned his misfortune into the spark of much Western interest in acupuncture and other Chinese medicines.[4]


Serious medical research and experimentation with the healing powers of acupuncture has led to the discovery of a highly promising weapon in the fight against chemical dependency. Though there is a consensus in the medical community that more reliable scientific data on the subject need to be collected, anecdotal evidence and clinical success stories strongly suggest that acupuncture can alleviate many of the serious symptoms of withdrawal, thus facilitating detoxification and encouraging acute addicts to continue treatment.


Recent enthusiasm for acupuncture treatment has encouraged some detoxification clinics to incorporate it into their programs. Court systems in several major cities have created “drug courts,” in which a program of intensive counseling and treatment, sometimes including acupuncture, is substituted for traditional prosecution. The need for more effective approaches in dealing with repeat drug offenders, combined with the relatively low cost of maintaining clients in drug court programs, makes some law enforcement officials hopeful that acupuncture will be an effective part of the solution for addicts who find the lure of substance abuse more powerful than the threat of incarceration.


What is Acupuncture?

The aims and approaches of Chinese medicine are utterly unlike those of Western medicine, which presents a major barrier in attempting to synthesize acupuncture and contemporary American addiction treatment. The radically different nature of the Chinese approach to healing makes many Western observers skeptical of the entire process; others expect a miracle cure that acupuncturists themselves do not promise.


A technical review on the subject of acupuncture use in detoxification programs, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1991, stated the problem this way:


It is clear that some of the reasons for the wide divergence of opinion regarding the efficacy of acupuncture result from the non-standard terminology used to describe it, the wide range of procedures that have been called acupuncture, the lack of a clear mechanism to explain the purported benefits of acupuncture treatment and perhaps most importantly, the lack of systematic clinical research in this area.[5]


It is important for practitioners of Western medicine, therefore, to understand the underlying theory of acupuncture before it can have a practical application in detoxification clinics and drug courts.


In the language of Chinese medicine, acupuncture is the stimulation of “Qi” (pronounced “chee”), by the insertion of needles into “meridians,” or vein-like routes under the surface of the skin. Both Qi and the meridias that carry it are invisible. There is no true English translation for Qi, but “vital energy” is often used.[6] When functioning normally, Qi warms and protects the body, smoothes the various transitions of the body from one state to another, and governs retention of the body ‘s substances and organs.[7] Traditional Chinese medicine functions under the assumption that sickness is caused by the inability of Qi to flow freely through meridians. Acupuncture needles unblock the meridians and stimulate the flow of Qi.[8]


In spite of the fact that Qi is a concept not widely accepted outside the world of Chinese medicine, a number of modern developments have helped to synthesize the collected wisdom of Chinese medicine with Western diagnostic techniques, increasing Western acceptance of acupuncture. Recent research suggests, for example, that the insertion of acupuncture needles stimulates the body’s production of beta-endorphins.[9] If this is true, the concept of an invisible life-force flowing through invisible pathways seems like a traditional explanation for a then-unknown physiological process.


Another important discovery occurred in 1955, when French doctor Paul Nogier was testing for electrical activity on the skin’s surface and found that every traditional acupuncture point on the body has a corresponding point on the human ear.[10] Since that discovery, auricular acupuncture, or needle stimulation of points on the ears, has become by far the most popular method of treatment. In the case of drug detoxification, auricular treatment offers the advantage of not requiring privacy, so that many people can be treated at once in the same room.[11]


Today there is debate about the most effective way to administer acupuncture, from the number of needles to their placement in the ear. The 1991 NIDA technical review came to the conclusion that in the interest of uniformity, controlled research conducted in the future should involve five needles in each ear, placed in the traditional acupuncture points: “kidney,” “lung,” “liver,” “sympathetic,” and “shenmen.”[12] The panel found no reason to experiment with electrically charged needles, single-ear treatments, or deviations from the standard detoxification points.


Does acupuncture work to treat drug addiction?

Acupuncture is widely accepted by medical professionals in the United States as a safe treatment for chronic pain.[13] Other applications for acupuncture, such as relief of asthma, arthritis, nausea, and morning sickness are being explored by the scientific community.[14] In the case of drug addiction, conclusive scientific evidence of acupuncture’s efficacy is scarce.


A 1989 study published in the British journal The Lancet by Milton L. Bullock concluded that acupuncture was highly effective in treating alcoholism. Eighty severe recidivist alcoholics were treated, receiving either correct-point acupuncture or acupuncture at non-specific points on the ear. 21 of the 40 treatment group patients completed the two-month program, while only one of 40 in the control group did. The control group patients experienced twice as many relapses in the six months following the experiment and the number of control group patients admitted to detoxification centers was well over twice that of treatment group patients.[15]


One analysis of the available research on acupuncture as part of a detoxification protocol published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment called the results of the Bullock study encouraging. The analysis also cited seven experiments done on animals in which acupuncture effectively reduced withdrawal symptoms. Though the authors of this analysis are confident that acupuncture has more than a placebo effect, they suggest further research to confirm such findings.[16]


Though the Bullock study is promising, its reliability has been questioned. The NIDA technical review noted that a similar experiment performed in 1992 showed no significant difference between the true acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups. After a review of all existing studies with a similar focus, it found no conclusive proof that acupuncture is more effective than placebo in treating drug addiction.[17] Nevertheless, the review panel suggested that more research be performed in the area.


Acupuncture practitioners are reluctant to make broad, sweeping claims about their work. “I stop short of saying acupuncture is a panacea and can cure everything, because it’s not and it can’t,” said Dr. Ken Carter, a psychiatrist and acupuncturist who works in a pre-trial detoxification clinic in the District of Columbia Superior Court.[18]


While acupuncture may not be a physiological cure for drug addiction, Dr. Carter told NewsBriefs it does have a soothing, relaxing effect which is extremely helpful to people experiencing any kind of lifestyle change, especially a change of the magnitude of drug withdrawal. However, to truly beat drug addiction, according to Dr. Carter, individuals need to learn to make decisions based on their own sense of self-worth and a confidence that they can change their environment.[19] Many practitioners like Dr. Carter feel that acupuncture is beneficial for addicts seeking this kind of change, even if too few controlled studies have been conducted to confirm that belief.


The Lincoln Clinic

The Lincoln Clinic in New York City is the premiere detoxification center utilizing acupuncture in the U.S. Its director, Dr. Michael Smith, says the need for effective substance abuse treatment in the clinic’s neighborhood is evident:


The South Bronx is a racially marginalized, high poverty, high unemployment, high crime, high infant mortality, low literacy neighborhood devastated by several decades of substance abuse.[20]


When the doctors at the Lincoln Clinic read in 1974 that a neurosurgeon in Hong Kong, Dr. H.L. Wen, had noticed a reduction in the withdrawal symptoms of opiate-addicted patients to whom he had been giving acupuncture treatments, they decided to experiment with the procedure at what had been until then a methadone clinic.[21] Over the years they developed a protocol that they have taught to more than 500 clinicians in 150 different programs.[22]


The Lincoln Clinic protocol relies on four major tools in helping serious addicts recover: acupuncture detoxification, urine testing, individual counseling, and participation in 12-step group-based therapy.[23] Smith argues that the advantages of integrating acupuncture into more traditional treatment programs are overwhelming. The primary value of acupuncture, however, is that its immediate effect is often a cessation of withdrawal symptoms, encouraging patients to come again for treatment in the future.[24]


Smith cites a few remarkable statistics to support the effectiveness of the Lincoln Clinic method. Among pregnant women with a history of abusing crack cocaine, those who receive acupuncture have higher birth weight babies than those who do not receive the treatment. Mothers with more than 10 visits have babies with an average weight of 6lbs. 10oz, while those with less than 10 visits have babies weighing an average of 4lbs. 8oz.[25] A seven-day inpatient drug treatment program in Delaware using the Lincoln Clinic method reported a decline in rates of recidivism from 87% to 18% one year after the date of admission.[26]


Dr. Smith attributes this effectiveness to a number of factors. One of acupuncture’s greatest strengths, he argues, is that it forges a bond between doctor and patient even before verbal communication is established: “acupuncture will be just as effective even when the patient lies to us.”[27] Unlike verbal counseling, during which the patient may be in denial or feel angry or intimidated, acupuncture’s immediate effects are not dependent on the cooperation of the patient.


As stated previously, acupuncture’s primary effect is to stimulate relaxation. “In addition to reducing withdrawal symptoms acupuncture provides a strong calming effect on substance abusers and substantially reduces drug craving. Clients describe the effects of acupuncture as allowing them to feel relaxed yet alert,” according to Dr. Smith.[28] That feeling of relaxation is the essential benefit of the acupuncture protocol. Unlike methadone treatment, acupuncture affects the patient’s state of mind during withdrawal, not the body’s need for a drug.


Drug Court

The reputed success of the Lincoln Clinic made an impact on Chief Judge Gerald Weatherington and Judge Herbert Klein of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, founders of the country’s first drug court in Dade County, Florida.


Weatherington and Klein recognized that their problems with overcrowded jails and high recidivism among drug offenders were not being solved by the judicial system as it then operated. The Dade County Drug Court, which accepted its first arrestees in 1989, allows people facing charges of buying or possessing drugs the opportunity to submit to intensive addiction treatment.[29]


Uncooperative arrestees are often persuaded by the threat of incarceration to undergo the outpatient treatment, even if that treatment includes something as unusual as acupuncture. The primary incentive to comply with the program is that successful graduates have their charges dropped.[30]


Statistics on drug court effectiveness from Dade County’s program and others around the country are, like the studies designed to measure acupuncture’s efficacy, promising but not conclusive. The rearrest rates in the year following release were 60 percent for people who served jail or prison sentences and 11 percent for graduates of drug court.[31] In a review of Dade County’s program, however, the National Institute of Justice found that one of the major stumbling blocks in this approach to dealing with the drug problem is that treatment providers have very different expectations from those of the criminal justice system.[32] People who work daily to help rehabilitate serious addicts understand that it is a difficult process, and a relapse is not a total failure. The criminal justice system, seeing relapse as the equivalent to criminal recidivism, is much less tolerant in this regard. It is difficult to gauge the true effectiveness of a drug court, therefore, because criminal justice and treatment agencies have different concepts of success.


Though the effectiveness of drug courts is open to debate, programs that incorporate acupuncture into their outpatient treatments are almost certainly less expensive than traditional methods of punishment. Federal estimates project that drug treatment programs cost an average of $1,200 per person, substantially lower than the $20,000 it takes to keep a drug offender incarcerated for one year.[33]


While acupuncture is only one component of Drug Court in Dade County or the District of Columbia, administrators have a strong conviction that it is an important part of treatment. In the early part of the program, acupuncture is used to help the patient through detoxification. Later, acupuncture treatments are phased out as the patient stabilizes. In aftercare, acupuncture is seldom used. Instead, the program seeks to build a strong sense of self-reliance with literacy education, GED courses, and vocational training. [34]



The evidence supporting acupuncture’s effectiveness in detoxification treatment is largely anecdotal, and despite its use in some clinics and drug court programs, acupuncture is still considered an alternative medicine. In the 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that acupuncture needles should be classified as “experimental” medical devices. That classification was a blow to the acupuncture industry since insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid are reluctant to make payments for experimental treatments. A small group of the nation’s leading acupuncturists petitioned the FDA in November 1994 to review its ruling. They are waiting for the FDA to decide.[35]


In the meantime, acupuncture continues to attract attention. One acupuncture convert is former United States Senator Dennis DeConcini. In 1994 he addressed the Senate with glowing praise of Dr. Xiao Ming Tian, the acupuncturist who treated DeConcini’s neck pain. “His treatments relieved my pain and I do not hesitate to join other patients who have experience significant improvements under his care to pay tribute to him,” DeConcini said.[36] Dr. Ming is the only practitioner employed by the federal government with a mandate to further explore the uses of acupuncture.


An important development in the field of acupuncture is a new study by Dr. Herbert Kleber of Columbia University’s Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. He is currently coordinating funding, including grants from the Hilton Foundation and NIDA, to do a large-scale, multi-site study of acupuncture’s efficacy in treating drug addiction.


This comprehensive study will provide valuable information about acupuncture’s usefulness in drug treatment. Regardless of the findings, however, more research on acupuncture and other forms of alternative medicine is needed and may reveal other secrets that Western medicine has yet to discover. Perhaps doctors in the United States will soon explain how 250 people experience the benefits of acupuncture at the Lincoln Clinic every day.



  1. David M. Eisenberg, et al., “Unconventional Medicine in the United States,” The New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 28, 1993, p. 248.
  2. A sign of the growing interest in alternative medicine was a recent Washington Post “Health” section cover story. Robin Herman, “Therapies Outside the Mainstream,” Washington Post, Health, August 1, 1995, p. 10-14.
  3. See Reader’s Digest Family Guide to Natural Medicine, 1993, Introduction by Andrew Weil, MD.
  4. A. G. Brumbaugh, BA, CAC, “Acupuncture: New Perspectives in Chemical Dependency Treatment,” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 1993, v. 10, p. 36; Rick Weiss, “Medicine’s Latest Miracle,” Health, Jan./Feb. 1995, p. 72.
  5. A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, et al., “Acupuncture for Drug Abuse: A Technical Review,” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 1993, v. 10, p. 569.
  6. Kaptchuk, Ted J. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, Congdon and Weed, New York, 1983, p. 35.
  7. Kaptchuk, p. 37. The belief that a vital energy force performs these functions, like holding the body’s organs in place, highlights one of the reasons Western doctors often view Chinese medicine with skepticism.
  8. The concept of Qi is a strange one, because it has no parallel in Western medicine. Like Western doctors, however, practitioners of Chinese medicine are ultimately concerned with the wellness of their patients, though their approach is more holistic. Acupuncturists specifically look for signs of distress in all parts of a patient, because a blockage of Qi in one part could manifest itself in another, rather than focusing on the specific area of injury or illness. (Manfred Porkert, M.D. with Dr. Christian Ullmann, Chinese Medicine, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1982, Chapter 5: “Diagnosis”).
  9. Allyson M. Washburn, PhD., et al., “Acupuncture Heroin Detoxification: A Single-Blind Clinical Trial,” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 1993, v. 10, pp. 345-346. Beta-endorphins, in addition to their other healing qualities, may affect withdrawal symptoms, lessening the body’s craving for drugs.
  10. Brumbaugh, “Acupuncture: New Perspectives in Chemical Dependency Treatment,” p. 36.
  11. Brumbaugh, p. 36.
  12. McLellan, et al. p.575; These points have been identified as being helpful in detoxification. In traditional acupuncture doctrine, each point has it own specific, independent function:
    • the sympathetic needle stimulates relaxation;
    • the kidney needle corresponds to cleansing;
    • the liver needle, which is the most important point in detoxification, corresponds to anger;
    • the lung needle controls depression;
    • the shenmen, which is the least acceptable to Western science, stimulats the almost supernatural aura surrounding healthy people and missing in sick people (Dr. Ken Carter, District of Columbia Superior Court Detoxification Clinic, Personal Interview, June 27, 1995).
  13. “There is something to be said for a medical practice that’s been around for 5,000 years, with billions of satisfied patients. If acupuncture were dangerous, even its stodgiest critics concede, somebody would have noticed by now” (Weiss, “Medicine’s Latest Miracle,” p. 72).
  14. Weiss, “Medicine’s Latest Miracle,” p. 72.
  15. Milton L. Bullock, Patricia D. Culliton, and Robert T. Olander, “Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for Severe Recidivist Alcoholism,” The Lancet, June 24, 1989, p. 1435-1438.
  16. Vincent Brewington, MA, Michael Smith, MD, and Douglas Lipton, PhD, “Acupuncture as a Detoxification Treatment: An Analysis of Controlled Research,” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 1994, vol. 11, no. 4, p. 299.
  17. McLellan, et al. p. 575.
  18. Bill Miller, “Needle Therapy Helps Addicts Stick to Treatment,” Washington Post, May 4, 1995, p. DC3.
  19. Dr. Ken Carter, Personal Interview, June 27, 1995.
  20. Michael Smith, MD and Brian McKenna, OMD, Dipl. Ac., “The Integration of Acupuncture Into Existing Chemical Dependency Treatment Programs,” 21st International Institute on Prevention and Treatment of Drug Dependence, Prague, Czech Republic, June 7, 1994.
  21. Smith and McKenna; Michael Smith, MD, Foreword. The Lincoln Clinic Program: An Alternative Approach to Detoxification Treatment, Bronx, New York, July 1992.
  22. Michael Smith, MD, “Lincoln Hospital Acupuncture Drug Abuse Program,” Testimony presented to the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine and the National Wellness Coalition, May 21, 1993, p. 1.
  23. Smith, The Lincoln Clinic Program: An Alternative Approach to Detoxification and Treatment, Lincoln Hospital Substance Abuse Division, p. 3. [349 East 140th Street, Bronx, NY, 10454, 718-993-3100.]
  24. Smith, The Lincoln Clinic: An Alternative Approach to Detoxification and Treatment. p. 4; Smith and McKenna.
  25. Smith, “Lincoln Hospital Acupuncture Drug Abuse Program,” p. 2.
  26. Smith and McKenna, “The Integration of Acupuncture Into Existing Chemical Dependency Treatment Programs,” p. 4.
  27. Michael Smith, “Acupuncture Helps Programs More than Patients,” National Acupuncture Detoxification Association Conference, May 1993, p. 2.
  28. Smith and McKenna, “The Integration of Acupuncture Into Existing Chemincal Dependency Treatment Programs,” p. 3.
  29. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, “Miami’s ‘Drug Court’ A Different Approach,” June 1993, p. 3.
  30. U.S. Department of Justice, p. 3.
  31. U.S. Department of Justice, p. 13. Another study monitored released inmates from the Santa Barbara County Jail who had received acupuncture treatment during the last 30 days of their incarceration. All of the inmates had a history of substance abuse. Those who had received 24 or more treatments were substantially less likely to be rearrested in the first two months following release than those who had received six or fewer treatments (Brumbaugh, p. 40).
  32. John S. Goldkamp and Doris Weiland, “Assessing the Impact of Dade County’s Felony Drug Court,” National Institute of Justice, December 1993, p. 2-3.
  33. Bill Miller, “Addicts Get a Hand Up From D.C.’s Drug Court,” Washington Post, May 8, 1995, p. B5.
  34. U.S. Department of Justice, p. 5.
  35. Daniel Eskinazi, D.D.S., Deputy Director, Office of Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Telephone interview, June 29, 1995.
  36. Congressional Record, September 22, 1994, S13114.

General Health


Acupuncture and Seasonal Allergies

by Patrick J. LaRiccia, M.D. MARF Board Member


Symptoms of running nose, sneezing, and watery itchy eyes that recur during specific parts of the year (especially Spring and Fall) are a cause of much suffering of a large segment of the U.S. population. Millions of dollars are spent on medications and the allergy shots for the treatment of seasonal allergies.


Western medicine views seasonal allergies as a form of immediate hypersensitivity reaction which occurs when anti-bodies produced by lymphocytes interact with airborne particles such as pollen. Western medicine describes the locations of lymphocytes in addition to being in the blood stream as also in Peyer’s patches in the gastrointestinal tract, spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow. Interestingly in my practice of acupuncture the Spleen, Stomach, and Large Intestine meridians are utilized a great deal. One sees an interesting overlap of Western and Chinese medical thought. Also, Chinese medical thought sees sweets as being harmful to the Spleen (Chinese sense of the Spleen) function. In my practice sweets are often a major factor in the persistence and intensity of seasonal allergy symptoms.


I find it gratifying to treat seasonal allergies with acupuncture. There is often a quick response. Often patients get some relief during the first visit while lying on the exam table with their acupuncture needles in place. Patients are asked to score their nose stuffiness on a zero to ten scale. Zero meaning no stuffiness at all and 10 being the worst possible stuffiness for the patient. A score may be determined before and after the acupuncture treatment. Patients can also determine the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment by tracking the number of sneezes per day and the number of itching episodes around their eyes. After an initial series of treatments, patients come in for further treatments on an as needed basis. Some patients come back in once or twice a year for a booster while others may come more often. In general, patients do better if they avoid sugar and milk in their diets. They have better and longer lasting responses. I have seen many patients who failed medication and allergy shots respond to acupuncture. Patients continue with whatever standard treatments they are currently undergoing while getting acupuncture treatments. Most patients end up significantly reducing or eliminating their dependence on allergy medications.


There are many different ways of performing acupuncture, for example TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Japanese, Korean, French Energetics, Worsley 5 Elements, ear, hand, etc. In choosing an acupuncturist the specific style a practitioner uses is not so important as the success rate a practitioner obtains with whatever style they use. Prospective patients should speak with the acupuncturist and inquire about past experience in treating seasonal allergies and their success rate.


In conclusion, it is my opinion that acupuncture is an excellent treatment option for seasonal allergies.

General Health

Acupuncture Treatment for Asthma

The incidence of asthma has been steadily increasing in industrialized countries in the past decades. In spite of the introduction of several new drugs for the treatment of asthma, severe asthma is still by far the most common chronic debilitating disease in childhood and its mortality rate has not declined. Some researchers are investigating the possibility that long-term use of some anti-asthma drugs such as bronchodilators may be detrimental and may even have increased the mortality rate from this disease.


To approach this subject I will identify three groupings of asthma, namely :


a. Asthma which starts in early childhood and is often associated with eczema from birth.

b. Asthma which starts early during childhood after repeated chest infections and the over-administration of antibiotics.

c. Asthma which started later on in life due to a number of different factors.


The first group is the most difficult to treat and it related to a type of allergic asthma which is often triggered by common allergens such as house-dust mites, pollen, fungal spores, feathers, etc. It often runs in families and individuals who suffer from this type of asthma have reactions to common allergens. The treatment of this condition will certainly take several months, and, depending on the severity, even years.


The second group of asthma sufferers often have a history of upper respiratory infections which is either not treated properly or treated with antibiotics. This results in the retention of a pathogen (something which causes illness) in the Lungs which then interferes with the correct movement of energy in the Lungs. The presence of this pathogen in the Lungs predisposes the child to further respiratory invasions which makes the situation worse. Thus, a vicious cycle sets in when the child is progressively weakened. This type of asthma is easier to treat than the first group, especially in children. In most cases treatment should not take more than a few weeks.


The third group of asthma sufferers develop asthma later on in life and treatment will take several months at least. The cause of this type of asthma is a mixture of the following ; repeated upper respiratory infections, irregular diet, emotional strain, overwork and excessive sexual activity.


A full consultation is necessary to identify what imbalances there are in the body, and the possible causes. Acupuncture and herbal medicine work by strengthen the function of the lungs and boosting the immune system and it’s ability to deal with pollutants and aggravants.

General Health

Acupuncture for Bronchitis

Bronchitis can involve only the rare acute attack or can be a chronic condition that occurs repeatedly, sometimes starting out as a common cold. Symptoms can include breathlessness, chest pain, a cough with mucus or a dry cough, tightness in the chest and fever.


Acupuncture can strengthen the lung function and guard against future attacks. Herbal medicine and acupuncture can be used together with acute bouts of bronchitis to support the lungs, resolve the infection, and clear the phlegm and mucus.

General Health

Acupuncture for Coughs and Colds

Most people consider it normal to suffer from a few colds each year. The immune system can be strong enough, though, that you can go for an entire year without suffering a cold. Chinese medicine, through acupuncture and the immediate use of herbal medicinal, can stop a cold in its tracks and lessen both the severity and the duration of your cold. It can also help to clear any residual phlegm, mucous or stuffed nose left over once the acute phase of a cold has passed.


Other people experience more than just the occasional cold or flu. They may find that a cold will continue for a long while and the body finds it difficult to fully shrug it off. Or they may well recover from a cold or flu only to find that they contract another shortly thereafter. Western medicines to reduce a fever or free the nasal passages work via suppressing the body’s immune responses to run a fever or produce inflammation and mucus. It is the opinion of Chinese medicine that it is this suppression without truly ridding the body of the cold or flu that leads to an overally weakening of the immune system and the resultant colds that people never seem to be able to shrug off. Chinese medicine, whether acupuncture or herbal medicine, works to strengthen the body’s immune system to help you recover and also protect against future cold or flu. One advantage of herbal medicine is that you can have a herbal prescription ready to be taken immediately on the first sign of a cold without needing to come in for an appointment.


For some people a cold or flu will tend to turn into more serious conditions such as recurring bronchitis or a flare-up of an asthmatic condition. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can boost the immune system in order to prevent colds, thereby breaking the vicious cycle of colds turning into more serious conditions which make the body more run down.

General Health


Diabetes and Acupuncture

by Yin Lo, PhD


U.S. newspapers continuously report the increase in the number of individuals among all age groups who suffer from diabetes. One research group suggests that in the not-too-distant future, half of the Hispanic population may have diabetes. It seems that diabetes becomes more prevalent as society becomes more affluent, as there is more food available.


Diabetes is caused primarily by dysfunction of the pancreas. How can acupuncture help diabetic patients? Scientific studies and clinical tests in international research centers in the past 10 years* have shown that acupuncture can help diabetic patients in the following ways:


  • lower blood glucose content;
  • lower the release of pancreatic glucagons;
  • attenuate symptoms of polyphagia (the urge to eat too much), polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyuria (excessive passage of urine);
  • prevent slowing of motor nerve conduction;
  • improve microcirculation and myocardial contractility;
  • enhance blood outflow and regulate vascular peripheral resistance;
  • exert antiatherogenic, antioxidant and immunomodulating effects;
    obliterate antheroscelerosis of the legs;
  • induce secretion of endogenous beta-endorphin;
  • elevate a lowered pain threshold;
  • and increase cell proliferation and neuropeptide Y levels.

As discussed in my first article in the June issue, the effects of acupuncture are immediate after each session. Pictured below are infrared images (before and after acupuncture treatment) of a diabetic patient who had laser surgery on the eyes (without much success). The effect of acupuncture is dramatically illustrated by the change in the patient’s color pattern. The color code is as follows: White is the highest temperature, followed by red; orange; yellow; green; blue; and black.


The patient was treated twice. The second treatment occurred about one week after the first.


Photographic Analysis


The maximum temperatures around the eyes, forehead and the mouth were reduced by 1.32 C, 1.26 C and 1.0 C after the first treatment, respectively. Maximum temperatures around the eyes, forehead and the mouth were reduced by 0.65 C, 0.26 C and 0.46 C after the second treatment. The reduction in maximum temperatures was less for the second treatment than for the first treatment.


Before the first treatment, the differences between maximum and minimum temperature around the eyes, mouth and forehead were 2.65 C, -0.07 C and 1.49 C. Before the second treatment, the differences between maximum and minimum temperatures were 1.81 C, 0.06 C and 0.27 C.


We detected improvement on the eyes and the forehead based on the reductions of their difference in maximum and minimum temperature. We attributed the improvement of 0.64 C around the eyes and 1.22 C around the forehead to the first treatment with acupuncture and massage. There was hardly any change to the difference of maximum and minimum temperature around the mouth.


The high temperature around the forehead probably was due to high blood pressure. Since the improvement was rapid, one expects the high blood pressure can be controlled much easier.


The high temperature around the eyes was due to damage from diabetes and the surgical operations on the eyes. Nevertheless, there was an improvement of 0.64 C. This is a very good indication that the patient responded positively to acupuncture treatment.


For another serious diabetic patient who had acupuncture continuously twice a week for a year, there was continuous improvement of eyesight and bodily function.

General Health

Acupuncture for Constipation

Bowel habits differ considerably from one individual to another. Some people would consider themselves constipated if they opened their bowels once every other day, others would only consider themselves constipated if they didn’t open their bowels for a week. Constipation can also come in the form of stools with normal frequency but which are dry and hard, or even painful, to pass. Whatever the nature of your constipation, a sluggish bowel can cause not only local discomfort, but also a feeling of fullness and overall sluggishness.


In order to form an appropriate treatment for you, an acupuncturist will ask you about your bowel habits as well as try to get a more general understanding of your digestion and your diet. Acupuncture, together with herbal medicine, can encourage easier passage of stools as well as return a sense of regularity to your bowels. Acupuncture in conjunction with herbal medicine is useful in strengthening your overall digestive process from the metabolism of your food to the absorption of nutrients and the voiding of the bowel.


Constipation responds well to acupuncture and herbal medicine treatment.


Chinese treatment for infertility is based not just on these medical terms but on traditional pattern discrimination. The first step is to look at the menstrual cycle and attempt to regulate it. This may involve changing the length or regularity of the cycle, the heaviness of the period, removing period pains or premenstrual symptoms. See the discussion of the menstrual cycle for further explanation. Making these improvements can improve egg quality, fertile mucus and the endometrium which in turn increase the likelyhood of fertilisation and implantation.


In Jie Shen Chinese Acupuncture Center, Dr. Shen pays close attention to every detail of the cycle and by studying the subtle changes in symptoms and temperature we can provide a very targetted treatment. Our aims with each treatment depend on where you are in your cycle and what the body needs to be doing at that time.


Acupuncture and herbal medicine do not have to be an alternative to western medicine. Used in conjunction with medication like Clomid or Metfromin or as in the case of IVF, the chances of conception can increase even further.


Treatment with herbal medicine and acupuncture can be very effective in treating endometriosis for both improving the menstrual cycle and the chances of conceiving.

General Health

Acupuncture for Diarrhea

Whatever the cause or nature of the diarrhea, the result is poor absorption of nutrients and water loss. Diarrhea can be acute as with food poisoning. It can also be an indication of a food intolerance causing difficulty digesting certain foods. Alternatively it could be a chronic weakness in the digestive system. It can just be a case of loose stools or it can be watery diarrhea. It can also alternate with constipation.


In order to form an appropriate treatment for you, an acupuncturist will ask you about the frequency and timing of your diarrhea as well as try to get a more general understanding of your digestive system and your diet. Acupuncture can be used to lessen the frequency and severity of bouts of diarrhea in order to prevent further water and nutrient loss. Acupuncture in conjunction with herbal medicine is useful in strengthening your digestion overall.


Acupuncture and herbal medicine offer effective treatment for all sorts of diarrhea.

General Health

Acupuncture Treatment for Dizziness

Dizziness may range from a very slight dizziness (sometimes on changing posture), to very severe vertigo with loss of balance when everything around seems to be spinning. The term ‘dizziness’ in Chinese medicine also includes the very common sensation of ‘muzziness’ or fuzziness’ and a heavy feeling as if the head was full of cotton wool with inability to think properly and concentrate.

The Chinese have observed that emotions such as anger, frustration, resentment, and bottled-up hatred can all cause dizziness. This type of dizziness is known as ‘Liver Yang Rising ‘. An imbalance in the Liver organ causes energy to suddenly rise to the head and cause dizziness. This type of dizziness can be quite severe, depending on just how much the Liver is affected.

Dizziness can also appear after many years of overworking and/ or excessive sexual activity. Gradually the body becomes depleted of energy and dizziness occurs.

In addition, diet has an important part to play. If the digestive system (Spleen in Chinese medicine) is weakened for whatever reason and the patient has a diet rich in food that is difficult for the body to digest, then the digestive system becomes ‘clogged up’. This results in the production of ‘Damp’ or ‘Phlegm’ which can be seen on the tongue as a thick white/ yellow coating. This Phlegm lodges in the head and gives rise to a type of dizziness that is often very severe and can come on suddenly. There may also be blurred vision and a sensation of muzziness and heaviness of the head.

These are the main causes of dizziness in Chinese Medicine. Each requires a different treatment approach and appropriate lifestyle/ dietary changes.

General Health

Acupuncture Treatment for Tiredness

Tiredness is one of the most common presenting conditions in western patients. Very often tiredness is seen in Chinese medicine as a deficiency condition, although it may also be caused by and excess state as well.


The causes of tiredness can be from a variety of sources. A weak constitution, overwork, physical overexertion, poor diet, severe illness and childbirth to name a few can all cause tiredness.


From the Chinese perspective it is important to find out where these causes are affecting the body. For example it may manifest in the lungs where along with the tiredness a patient may feel slightly breathless, have a propensity to catching colds and have spontaneous sweating; or it may manifest in the spleen where there is also a poor appetite, muscular weakness, bloating and loose stools. These are just two examples of a large number of patterns caused by a deficiency of ‘qi’. A person under great stress may however suffer from an excess form of tiredness. Here, rather than having too little energy or ‘qi’ it is actually that the qi is stagnant and causes blockages. In this way energy cannot flow freely around the body and get to where it needs to. People suffering from this may also present with tiredness that is worse in the afternoon with a “wound up” feeling, distension or soreness of the ribs, PMT or headaches.


It may be that a patient falls largely into one category of cause but it may easily be that it is a combination of causes that leads to the tiredness.


From a western perspective, chronic nephritis, glandular fever, ME, Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism, diabetes and anaemia are considered some of the most common causes of tiredness. These may all present with other symptoms as well but can still be treated successfully with Chinese medicine. Both acupuncture and herbal medicine can be very effective in boosting the energy.

General Health

Acupuncture for Eczema

Eczema is a complex skin condition which can be triggered by the external environment as with contact dermatitis or it can appear without any apparent external cause. It can involve both chronic and acute lesions to the skin. The lesions invariably involve dryness and itching of the skin which can be quite intense. Some lesions may begin as vesicles which burst and weep a clear fluid. The condition can be improved or exacerbated by certain weather conditions, and heating stimulants like caffeine and alcohol can worsen the condition. Drug treatment tends to involve local or systemic anti-inflammatory which aid in acute flare-ups but do not prevent recurrence of lesions. The body often becomes less and less responsive to drug treatment of this kind.


Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be very effective in treating eczema. Chinese medicine views eczema as heat drying the body’s normal cooling and soothing mechanisms. Acupuncture and herbal medicines (creams applied externally and herbal medicinals taken internally) work to cool the body and soothe the tissues locally in order to treat acute flare-ups as well as provide long-term improvement in the condition.

General Health

Acupuncture Treatment for Hayfever

Hayfever, otherwise referred to as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is considered to be a hypersensitivity of the nasal mucosa to certain substances such as the pollens of grasses, trees or flowers. When the severity of symptoms do not correspond directly to fluctuations in pollen counts, other important factors can be weather conditions, dietary considerations and emotional stress. Allergic rhinitis which is not so linked to the seasons can be linked to allergens such as dust, mites, pollution, perfumes, sprays or animal dander.


Hayfever manifests as frequent, sudden attacks of sneezing, stuffy nose, itching of the roof of the mouth and sometimes red, watery, itchy eyes. There may be a feeling of heat, even if a thermometer does not indicate fever. There may also be cough with wheezing. Chinese medicine recognises the acute symptoms of hayfever as a reaction to an external factor and so acupuncture seeks to strengthen the body’s defenses so that it is no longer threatened by the external allergen. This is the focus of acupuncture treatment during the season where symptoms are acutely present. Herbal medicines can also be given to strengthen the body’s ability to deal with the allergen. There is also, however, an internal weakness in the body underlying this acute reaction of hayfever in response to the external environment. This weakness is the focus of treatment when acupuncture treatment is given during the off season.


Successful treatment with acupuncture and herbal medicine carries the long term benefits of symptom relief, without the side effects or resistance to medication that occurs with long term use of substances such as corticosteroids. Some improvements in the hayfever may be seen in the first season of acupuncture treatment, but major improvements will be seen only in the second season of treatment.

General Health

Acupuncture Treatment for Sinusitis

There are four pairs of sinuses and the ones which are most prone to infection and inflammation are located between the eyes and either side of the nose.


The condition of sinusitis broadly corresponds to an old Chinese medical category called ‘Bi Yuan’ which literally means ‘nose pool’.


The main symptoms of sinusitis are a purulent, yellow nasal discharge from the front and back of the nose (into the throat), a stuffed nose, a frontal headache, facial pain and a feeling of muzziness and heaviness of the head. The sinuses may be tender to touch.


Long term sinusitis is often caused by repeated infections by the common cold or influenza viruses. Part of the problem with this condition is anatomical. The openings into the nasal cavity are narrow and so if there is already inflammation, then further infection and inflammation makes the cavities prone to blockage. This results in stagnation of fluids in the nose and sinuses.


Within Chinese medicine, repeated invasions of common cold & influenza viruses occur because the Lung energy is weakened. In addition, these infections interfere with the movement of Lung energy which in turn causes the fluids in the nose and sinuses to collect.


Diet can also play an important factor in the development of chronic sinusitis. Food items which are difficult to digest and are consumed on a regular basis will lead to the development and retention of Phlegm which will predispose one to sinusitis.


Acupuncture treatment for sinusitis is based on the presenting symptoms. When the symptoms are acute then treatment is aimed at clearing the phlegm from the nasal cavities and regulating the flow of Lung energy. If the Phlegm is Yellow in colour then this indicates heat and points are selected to help the body clear this heat.


During symptom-free periods, or when the symptoms are mild, acupuncture treatment is aimed at strengthening the Lung energy to prevent invasion of pathogens (viruses). Other points will also be selecting according to the imbalance in the body. It is also important to strengthen the digestive system and avoid food which is difficult to digest. This is because there is a very important saying in Chinese medicine, Phlegm is produced by the Spleen and stored in the ‘Lungs’. The Spleen refers to the digestive system.


Chronic sinusitis can be difficult to treat and require a lot of treatment. Sometimes it does respond quickly as well. The difficulty in treating chronic sinusitis is because Phlegm is a thick, sticky substance which is difficult to shift. There is also an underlying weakness in the body’s energy which results in repeated invasions of viruses. To treat this condition it is important to help the body eliminate the pathogen (Phlegm), and to strengthen the body’s Lung energy (and Spleen) to prevent future infections. Due to it stubborn nature, the combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine is often best for the treatment of sinusitis. Treatment would be on a weekly basis initially.

General Health

Urine Disorder

Study Suggests Acupuncture May Help Prevent UTI’s


Six percent of adult women in the U.S. suffer from repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs). Besides the discomfort and loss of work, antibiotic treatments cost an average of $1.6 billion annually. Now new research suggests that hope may come from an unconventional source. Acupuncture may help to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections in adult women.


The study, conducted in Norway, reports that women with previous UTIs who were treated with acupuncture had fewer recurrences than women without this treatment. The acupuncture points were located on the lower abdomen or back according to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. The women treated with acupuncture had half as many UTI episodes over a six-month period as women in a control group. The researchers attributed the reduction in UTIs to the fact that the acupuncture group had 50 percent less residual urine in their bladders. Residual urine may increase the risk for recurrent UTIs.


According to the National Kidney Foundation, residual urine is a known risk factor for recurrent lower UTIs among postmenopausal women. The researchers suggested that this study, which included 100 women aged 18 to 60, may indicate this to be true among adult women in general. In this study, 75 percent of the women had residual urine levels above 10 cc. Residual urine may trigger a UTI by allowing bacteria a chance to grow and multiply.


The bladder is an organ that stores urine. Under normal conditions, you can urinate when your brain senses that the bladder is full. When something disrupts this process, urine may be retained in the bladder. A blockage to the flow of urine can make you unable to empty your bladder. Alternatively, problems with nerves or muscles that regulate bladder function cause urinary retention. Certain medications also can cause urinary retention, such as over-the-counter cold and allergy preparations. Some antidepressants can relax the bladder too much and cause urination problems.


Here are the symptoms of a UTI:

  • An urgent need to urinate, often with only a few drops of urine to pass
  • A burning feeling when urinating
  • An aching feeling, pressure or pain in the lower abdomen
  • Cloudy or blood tinged urine
  • A strong odor in the urine


In Acupuncture Center of Horizon Family Medical Group and J&S Chinese Acupuncture Clinic Center, Dr. Shen has successfully helped a lot of male and female patients get rid of suffering from urine disorder. For bladder disorder, Dr. Shen uses electric acupuncture. For infection like UTI or prostate infection, Dr. Shen integrates electric acupuncture with Chinese herbal medicine. Most patients can feel the effect right after the first treatment.

General Health

Acupuncture for Weight Loss

It is first important to make clear that acupuncture is not a magic solution to weight gain. Diet and exercise still remain the most important factors in weight loss.


However acupuncture and herbal medicine can provide an excellent compliment in this case. By making a traditional diagnosis, the acupuncturist can see if there is any underlying problems which could be hindering weight loss. Thyroid dysfunction, polycystic ovaries, sluggish metabolisms, or diabetes could all be examples where an underlying condition affects your weight. By attempting to tackle the underlying issue, we can make it easier to resolve the symptoms and lose the weight.


Within acupuncture and herbal medicine, there are also methods to reduce cravings and increase will power which can be used in this area.


Chinese dietary advice is a whole subject on it’s own and plays a major role in weight loss. By seeing what the body is missing we attempt to rebalance the body. It is therefore impossible to go to an acupuncturist without paying close attention to what is being eaten.


It should be noted that you may see Chinese herbalists advertising weight loss pills in their windows and we would strongly advise against these. They are often diuretics which simply make you lose water. While it may show short term improvement on the scales this is actually a very detrimental method and would leave the metabolism more sluggish making the weight increase more quickly. Again there is not such thing as weight loss pills, only appropriate herbal medicine for the individual to help with their particular case.


This can be a very effective area of treatment and Daniel Elliott spent a brief period of time working in the weight loss clinic of a hospital in China.

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