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What is Moxibustion?

Mugwort

Artemesia Vulgaris

Moxibustion is an ancient traditional Chinese treatment (TCM) that involves the burning of Mugwort near the surface of the skin. Mugwort is a common name for several species of aromatic plants belonging to the genus Artemisia. Other names include wormwood and green ginger. Moxibustion is frequently used in conjunction with acupuncture treatments. The main aim is to boost the flow of qi (vital energy) through the meridians (body’s energy pathways), whilst eliminating any unwanted pathological qi concentrations along the meridians. Mugwort is commonly referred to as Moxa and made from the dried-up plant materials. Typically, this process involves shaping the Moxa into a cylindrical cigar-shaped stick or small cones. They can be used directly and indirectly on the skin. Direct moxibustion involves a small amount of Moxa being placed directly on the skin, but it can cause scarring and therefore is less popular. Indirect Moxa involves fixing and burning the Moxa on the top end of the acupuncture needle, or hovering a moxa stick over the skin. This burning edge is then held within approx. 2-inch distance and made to smoulder gently diffusing the heat into the tissue. Other techniques may be burning it on a layer of sliced ginger, garlic or salt on the patient’s skin.

Acupuncturists target specific acupuncture points or meridian pathways corresponding to the condition being treated. Patients often report a flood of warmth at the treatment site which can radiate and along the meridian pathways.

The Moxibustion mechanism

In line with traditional Chinese medicine, Moxibustion functions by delivering a therapeutic effect using a mix of thermal and chemical stimulation. This is reported to lead to a tonification and purgation effect. Experiments have shown that the thermal effects of Moxibustion have proven to be very effective in stimulating not just the superficial, but also the deeper tissues of the skin. Investigations have shown that the burning moxa radiation lies within the infrared portion of the heat spectrum.

Ingredients identified from mugwort leaves and moxa smoke have a variety of biological properties, thus are at the root of Moxibustion effects. It is this dual effect that works along the meridians thereby regulating qi, and helping with disease treatment and prevention. Unlike acupuncture that generally facilitates the elimination of pathogenic qi, moxibustion helps to introduce heat, warming up the meridians and consolidates the body’s qi. Some preclinical studies suggest that moxibustion boosts the immune system and enhances the physiological functions of the body.

In TCM, mental and physical health problems are believed to develop as a result of unexpected blockages in the qi flow pathways. The thermal effect of moxibustion generated along the meridians helps to release these pathways while increasing the flow of vital energy. While arguments could be made either in favour or against its efficacy, preliminary evidence from several studies has shown that moxibustion does indeed provide relief when used in the treatment of a wide range of health issues.

In a 2009 study involving 51 postmenopausal women, the results indicated that 14 sessions of moxibustion were effective in keeping hot flashes at bay. While the actual mechanism and treatment pathway is well-studied, the specific cases where moxibustion can work are still much under speculation. However, this does not mean that moxibustion is ineffective. In fact, as a result of the attention generated from personal reports of people who have experienced acclaimed benefits, there are several studies currently being conducted to investigate the possible efficacy of Moxibustion for a variety of health issues.

 

Benefits of Moxibustion

Common health problems that can benefit from moxibustion includes;

  • Hot flashes – reduced frequency and severity of hot flashes.
  • Ulcerative Colitis – some benefit to symptom relief.
  • Breech birth
  • Arthritis– relieves pain and improves muscle function
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)- benefits symptoms relief
  • Other conditions include insomnia, diarrhoea and chronic pain.

Needless to say, there is a wide range of reported benefits of moxibustion and while studies are still being conducted on the exact range of effectiveness, moxibustion remains a safe treatment and can deliver therapeutic effects that can help heal the body.

References:

  1. Deng H, Shen X. The mechanism of moxibustion: ancient theory and modern research. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013:379291. doi:10.1155/2013/379291
  2. Song-Yi Kim, Younbyoung Chae, Seung Min Lee, Hyejung Lee, Hi-Joon Park. The effectiveness of moxibustion: An overview during 10 years. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011:306515. org/10.1093/ecam/nep163.
  3. Park Ji-Eun, Lee MS, Jung S, Kim A, Kang K, Choi  J, Park J, Choi Sun-Mi. Moxibustion for treating menopausal hot flashes: a randomized clinical trial. 2009, 16; 4:660-665

In medicine we regard pain as a symptom associated with an injury or some type of pathological process. However this excludes a large proportion of sufferers with psychological pain where there is no obvious physical cause. Unlike acute pain which usually has an organic cause, patients with psychological ailments have no obvious cause of the pain. In the same way, chronic pain is also not a benign entity; the pain is continuous, can be disabling, lead to depression and overall the patients have a very poor quality of life. Often it is not just physical but also related to emotional and psychological reasons. Currently, it is estimated that anywhere from 3-7% of the population may have chronic or psychological pain.

psychological pain

Over the years many treatments have evolved for the treatment of psychological pain but none has proven to be effective in all patients. The traditional analgesics do not appear to work and with the current opiate crisis, these agents are no longer recommended. Most other drug therapies that include antidepressants and anticonvulsants do not reliably provide any significant pain relief in all patients. Plus, these drug therapies often have potent adverse effects, are costly and may be addictive.

Because of the failure of conventional therapies to manage psychological pain, many patients have been turning to acupuncture. This old Chinese treatment has been used to treat pain from a variety of causes with good success. Most of the literature on the benefits of acupuncture has looked at acute causes of pain but its role in the management of psychological pain has not been fully evaluated. The few studies published on the benefits of acupuncture for psychological pain appear confusing, with some reports indicating that the treatment works and others claiming that acupuncture does not work for psychological pain. Most of the older acupuncture studies with large numbers of participants were not randomized and the outcomes of pain relief were not always quantified, hence data from these studies are difficult to assess. Overall, these older studies have indicated that about 50% of patients with chronic or psychological pain do obtain some pain relief over time. Unfortunately, the studies did not indicate which patient would benefit from the treatment.

So what is the present status of acupuncture for psychological pain?

Recently researchers analyzed 6 studies involving 462 patients who had chronic pain. The patients were between 52-63 years of age and received treatment for a minimum of 8 weeks.

Unfortunately, the quality of evidence from these studies was low because the treatment was not compared to sham acupuncture and the participants were not blinded. The number of participants in some studies was small. Overall, the researchers stated that they simply did not have evidence to refute or support the use of acupuncture for chronic or psychological pain.

However, since the treatment is relatively safe when done by an experienced practitioner, it may be an option for an individual who has failed to respond to other conventional pain treatments.

Dr. Lucy Chen, a specialist in pain medicine and a practicing acupuncturist who works at the Harvard affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital states, “I think the benefit of acupuncture is clear, and the complications and potential adverse effects of acupuncture are low compared with medication.” More important acupuncture is not as costly as drug therapy nor does it cause physical or psychological dependence. So for patients with psychological pain, it may be worth a try.

 

References

  1. Research Finds Acupuncture Effective for Chronic Pain.(2018, May 21) https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20180521acupuncture.html
  2. Vickers AJ, Linde K. Acupuncture for chronic pain. JAMA. 2014;311(9):955–956. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285478
  3. Yang Z, Zhao L, Xie X, et al. The effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain with depression: A systematic review protocol. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(47):e8800. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000008800
  4. Vickers AJ, Vertosick EA, Lewith G et al. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. J Pain. 2018; 19(5): 455-474.
  5. Ingraham P. Does Acupuncture work for pain. (2018, Jun 13). https://www.painscience.com/articles/acupuncture-for-pain.php
  6. Ju ZY, Wang K, Cui HS, et al. Acupuncture for neuropathic pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;12(12):CD012057. Published 2017 Dec 2. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012057.pub2
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Endometriosis is a painful chronic condition that occurs when tissue similar to the endometrium (the tissue that lines the walls of the uterus) begins to grow outside of it e.g. ovaries and fallopian tubes. There is painful inflammation in the surrounding tissue which results in the formation of scar tissue. Typically this leads to pain in the abdomen and lower back, usually worse during menstruation. It is particularly common in women who are well within their reproductive ages (15-49) and reportedly affects about 10% of women worldwide. In women experiencing infertility it can be as high as 30-50%1Uterus- Endometriosis

With over 176 million women affected worldwide, endometriosis is not only an alarming issue, it is also a major cause of infertility. This has led to extensive studies focused on solving and alleviating the root causes. While there are a few courses of treatment that can help resolve the symptoms successfully and boost fertility, they include several types of hormones therapies with varying degrees of side effects, combined with pain relief but even that may only be temporary. Laproscopic surgery (seldom used now) is a definitive way to diagnose endometriosis, but can also be used to remove endometriosis2. In the event where either of these treatments are unsuccessful or only partially successful, there are limited options left to consider.

Being an oestrogen dependent condition, most of the available treatments and medication used to treat endometriosis are oestrogen–gestagen combinations; a potent hormone combination that tends to have side effects, such as menopausal symptoms. This conundrum adds to the already problematic pain symptoms. Additionally, there are the longer term effects of using analgesics also to be considered.  It is vital therefore to try to opt for treatment regimes that are advantageous to the body but also that may be of greater benefit.

Acupuncture is one treatment that could provide not just pain control but reducing inflammation. While there is a lot of anecdotal evidence regarding its efficacy, there have been substantial research studies concluding that regular and consistent acupuncture treatments can help to relieve the pain of this condition.

How acupuncture helps with endometriosis?

A systematic review in 2017 on the effects of acupuncture on endometriosis and the pain it brings suggests that acupuncture does in fact have a significant effect on alleviating endometriosis symptoms. This review featured 10 separate studies involving 589 patients. The main outcome to be assessed was changes in pain levels, blood CA-125 levels (a biomarker usually elevated in endometriosis), and the rate of clinical effectiveness.  Interestingly, the study revealed a unique correlation between the pain-reducing effect of acupuncture and the reduction of CA-125. While the result from this research may not be entirely conclusive, evidence points to the notion that acupuncture reduces the serum levels of CA-125 alongside the pain that comes with the condition3.

Another research conducted at Tongji University hospital indicated that acupuncture was a lot more effective than hormone drug therapy (mifepristone) in the treatment of endometriosis. As one of the more widely used medication in the treatment of the unusual growth of endometrial tissues, mifepristone helps to prevent the growth of new endometrium on pelvic organs while slowing down its general growth and reducing pain. Overall in both groups there was less pain, smaller masses and improvement in CA-125 levels.  However the effectiveness rate was higher in the acupuncture group 92%, compared to 52% in the mifepristone group. This difference was also proportionate for the recurrence rate as patients treated with acupuncture reported a 20% recurrence rate as opposed to the 36% associated with drug use. It is important to note that this comparative study was conducted using 12.5mg of mifepristone orally ingested daily for 6 months and an acupuncture treatment applied to the acupoints over the same period of time. These acupoints include; CV6 (Qihai), CV4 (Guanyuan), CV3 (Zhongji), Zigong (Extra), SP10 (Xuehai), SP6 (Sanyinjiao), LV2 (Xingjian) and LV3 (Taichong).

While there may still be a lot of research required to conclusively support the use of acupuncture as a stand-alone treatment for endometriosis, evidence has shown that patients experiencing this condition may be best served with acupuncture in the long run.

 

References

  1. Endometriosis. (2019, Jan 18) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/endometriosis/
  2. org. (2015, March 26) http://endometriosis.org/treatments/
  3. Xu Y, Zhao W, Li T, Zhao Y, Bu H, Song S. Effects of acupuncture for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017;12(10):e0186616. Published 2017 Oct 27. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186616
  4. Health CMi. Acupuncture beats drug for endometriosis. (2017, July 11) https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1770-acupuncture-beats-drug-for-endometriosis-relief
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Known as the “Silent Killer”, High blood pressure (BP) or hypertension is quite common and estimated to be responsible for 10.7 million deaths globally each year. In England amongst adults around 31% of men and 26% of women (2015) have been diagnosed with high BP, which equates to 12.5 million individuals.

 

hypertensionHypertension occurs when the pressure of blood flow in your arteries becomes higher than normal. Over a long period of time, it can result in serious damage to the blood vessels leading to the development of further complications, some of which can be life-threatening. Some of these include; heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and other health problems. In all of these cases high BP is a primary cause.

BP is measured as two numbers representing highest and lowest pressure measurements, recorded as millimeters or mercury (mmHg). The top is known as the systolic (on contraction) and the bottom is the diastolic (on relaxation). The ideal adult BP is between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

The good news is that it is quite easy to prevent having high blood pressure. If you are generally in good health then all you need to do is to incorporate some changes in diet and lifestyle. Supplements like potassium and magnesium are helpful for their role in homeostasis by playing a vital role in dilatation of blood vessels. Potassium lowers the high BP by acting on the walls of the blood vessel to relax them. Similarly, magnesium assist in producing prostaglandins (E1), one their function is to, control inflammation and blood flow. It relaxes blood vessels therefore reducing BP. However, magnesium supplement works more effectively when given in combination with potassium supplement1. Further high sodium levels in the body inhibits nitric oxide levels, thus increases the BP. Nitric oxide concentrations help to dilate regulate blood vessel.

Acupuncture lowers blood pressure

Another method for staying in good health or controlling your blood pressure is via Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been used traditionally for over 2000 years for a variety of conditions including BP. Studies have shown that it can aid BP by alleviating stress and stimulating the body’s process through which it can be lowered.

A US trial published in the journal Medical Acupuncture confirmed that acupuncture was helpful for patients with mild to moderate high BP. The study method used electroacupuncture over a period of 6 weeks in patients with hypertension.  In the treatment group blood levels of norepinephrine, a blood vessel constricting hormone dropped significantly (41%), along with a drop in the enzyme renin (67%) and aldosterone (22%). The researchers concluded that with regular use, electroacupuncture could reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in people by managing their BP2.

Although the exact mechanism is still not know the one of the effectss of acupuncture on BP is said to be on the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). BP is the body is regulated by RAS. Renin is one of the hormones that help to regulate BP by increasing it (when it is abnormally low). Studies show that acupuncture helps to suppress the production of renin that is produced by kidney.

Other effects of acupuncture are on the vascular system, where it is able to relax the walls of the blood vessels.  It also reduces oxidative stress and therefore any inflammation in the blood vessels. Another effect is via the influence of the neuroendocrine system, by releasing endorphins and activating opiod receptors3.

There is much evidence to support the acupuncture can be used as an adjunct to conventional therapy to manage BP in those with hypertension. With a high incidence worldwide, patients with hypertension endure not just complex health implications but also impact on their personal and social life. At times it can also become a heavy financial burden on their family. For this reason prevention and good BP management is essential.

 

Reference:

  1. Houston, MC, Harper, KJ. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium: their role in both the cause and treatment of hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2008;10(7 suppl 2):2–11
  2. Li Peng et al. Long-lasting reduction of blood pressue by electroacupuncture in patients with hypertension: Randomised controlled trial. Medical Acupuncture, 2015;27(4) : 253-66.
  3. Li J, Sun M, Ye J, Li Y, Jin R, Zheng H, Liang F. The mechanisam of acupuncture in treating essential hypertension: A narrative review. Int J Hypertens. 2019:8676490.
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Chronic pain affects a significant number of people worldwide. The exact number of people with chronic pain is not known but the numbers are not minuscule. For decades, acupuncture has been used to manage several types of acute and chronic pain disorders.  The therapy utilities very fine needles that are inserted at specific anatomical sites in the body for pain relief. When performed by a qualified acupuncturist, the treatment is said to provide pain relief and has a very good safety profile. Over the years, this old Chinese remedy has been used to manage a variety of pain disorders including joint pain, migraine, sciatica, neck pain, and even headaches. 

Recently a meta-analysis of dozens of high-quality clinical trials that involved nearly 18,000 participants showed that acupuncture is an effective treatment for individuals with neck and back pain, chronic headache, osteoarthritis, and shoulder pain. In addition, one large randomized control study revealed that acupuncture significantly lowered symptoms of depression at 12-weeks compared with traditional therapies. Finally there are other studies showing that acupuncture can also lower the depression associated with cancer and enhance the quality of life.

However, to put things into perspective, there are just as many studies showing that acupuncture has none or only mild pain-relieving effects.

Today, the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of pain continues to be debated. The reason why some patients benefit from acupuncture and others do not has not been well explained. So what is the issue? Does the technique work for pain or not?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest complementary therapies to manage pain and there is evidence from clinical trials that the technique can help lower pain. While many factors that influence acupuncture have been studied in the past, the patient’s psyche, his or her relationship with the acupuncturist and beliefs have not been thoroughly studied, until this recent study.

Now a study by researchers from the University of Southampton sheds more light into this controversy. The lead investigator, Dr. Felicity Bishop from the University conducted this study to determine why some individuals with low back pain gained more pain relief from acupuncture and others did not. What the researchers observed is that individuals with low back pain who have apriori low expectations of acupuncture before the start of the treatment generally gain less benefit than those individuals who believe it will work. Overall the study revealed that individuals who have a positive view of their pain and who feel in control of their health condition had led back-related disability over the course of acupuncture treatment. The findings of this study were just published in the Journal of Clinical Pain.

In this study, it was shown that psychological factors were consistently associated with back pain-related disability. Patients who started out with very low expectations of acupuncture and thought that the treatment would not help them, in fact, had the least benefit. Further, the same patients who changed their psyche and started to develop positive feelings about their pain, then went on to experience less back-related disability; and as their desire to understand why they were having pain increased, they experienced less pain. In summary, patients who were less emotional conflicts and fewer negative feelings about acupuncture and their pain had more benefits.

What this study shows is that perhaps clinicians need to start motivating or help change patient perceptions about their pain and the potential benefits of acupuncture. Improving the psyche is the key and this may be the reason why there is such a great variance in past acupuncture studies and pain control.

Dr. Bishop has stated that to improve the outcomes after acupuncture, acupuncturists should now consider improving the patient’s psyche and positivity about their pain as part of the initial consultation.

Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research at Arthritis Research UK, said: “This study emphasizes the influence of the placebo effect on pain. The process whereby the brain’s processing of different emotions in relation to their treatment can influence outcome is a really important area for research.” He went on to add,

“Factors such as the relationship between practitioner and patient can inform this and we should be able to understand the biological pathways by which this happens. This understanding could lead in the future to better targeting of acupuncture and related therapies in order to maximize patient benefit.”

 

References

  1. Vickers AJ, Cronin AM, Maschino AC, et al. Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172(19): 1444-53.
  2. University of Southampton. Psychological factors play a part in acupuncture treatment of back pain. (2015, Feb 12) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150212065036.htm
  3. Felicity L. Bishop, Lucy Yardley, Philip Prescott, Cyrus Cooper, Paul Little, George T. Lewith. Psychological Covariates of Longitudinal Changes in Back-related Disability in Patients Undergoing Acupuncture. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 2015; 31 (3): 254
  4. Fields, Rd. Acupuncture Works–Sort of Acupuncture: Physiology, Psychology, or Placebo? Psychology Today. (2010, Sep 27) https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-new-brain/201009/acupuncture-works-sort
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Insomnia is shocking the world with the alarming rise of its incidence among adults. It is one of the most common sleep disorder. 10-15% of world’s adult population is believed to be suffering from insomnia. If you frequently find yourself tired at work or even after just waking up, you are most probably lacking a goodnight sleep. Lack of good quality sleep leads to weary mornings and with that comes grumpiness and sleepiness. According to the American Sleep Association, an adult person requires 7-9 hours of sleep to function at their best1Acupuncture & Sleep

Headaches, distraction, laziness, and feeling stress is the most common symptoms of insomnia. A goodnight sleep is the secret to performing our best; it is vital to keep us going throughout the day without exhaustion.

We may think so, but medications are often not the most ideal solution; it leads to drug resistance and can cause damage to our memory functions. What we need is a natural, non-drug remedy that provides long-term effective solution to your sleeping woes. World renowned health experts have praised as a modern natural remedy to reinforce health and enhance sleep quality.

Get Your Sleep Worries to Bed with Proven Acupuncture Therapy

The effectiveness of Acupuncture doesn’t need any convincing as research organizations around the world have provided with conclusive evidence that this natural therapy not only provides better sleep at night but also fights off the symptoms that are making you count sheep at night.

This traditional therapy uses tiny needles to access distinct body points to alleviate pain, enhance sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall well-being. By stimulating trigger points, it corresponds to the different aspect of physical health including improving sleep quality.

According to the research data published in 2009 acupuncture is known to increase the content of gamma amino butyric acid to improve sleep quality. The study concluded with the statement that Acupuncture therapy can regulate yang and yin to eliminate the pathogenic and reinforce health to promote a relaxing sleep at night2.

Medical studies conducted by the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University1 in 2018 concluded that acupuncture therapy delivers more effective results in comparison with a certain types of drugs prescribed in the cases associated with insomnia. Its strength is its ability to treat the cause behind sleeping problem.

Another study also concluded that acupuncture induces the onset of sleep by stimulating night time melatonin production, but also reduces sleep disruption while sleeping.  These findings were concluded with 18 anxious adult subjects with a history of insomnia were given five weeks of acupuncture treatment. In addition to the increase of nocturnal melatonin secretion, there was also improvement in sleep onset, sleep arousal, total sleep duration and quality of sleep. Anxiety scores were also reduced3.

Acupressure for a Good Night’s Sleep – Get It Right

Here are some acupuncture targets specific trigger points you can try – but not limited to – for better sleep cycle.

  • Kidney 6 or the Shining Sea – Located the inside of the ankle bone on right side. Helps in relieving anxiety, hypertension, and insomnia.
  • Spirit gate or Heart 7 – Located below your pinkie finger, at the crease on your outer wrist. Promotes better sleep by taming overexcitement associated with the cold sweat, anxiety, and emotional issues.
  • Conception Vessel 17, the Sea of Tranquillity, or CV 17 – Located in the center of the breasts. Helps in relieving insomnia associated with chest congestion, nervousness and anxiety.
  • Urinary Bladder 62, the Extending Vessel, or B62 – Located below the outer anklebone on the right side. Helps in relieving headaches, insomnia, nervousness and stiff neck.
  • Vital Diaphragm (B38) – Located between the spine and the shoulder baled. Helps in balancing out the emotions associated with anxiety, grief, and stress.
  • Pericardium 6 – Located in the central point of the inner side of the forearm. Helps in reducing stress levels, insomnia, and indigestion.
  • Governing Vessel 16 or Wind Mansion – Located in a large hollow under the base of the skull, at the center of the back of the head. Helps in fighting off sleep disorders and reliving the symptoms of insomnia.
  • Urinary Bladder10 – Located on the back of the neck, around the outer spine muscles. Helps in relieving stress, exhaustion, and insomnia.
  • Gall Bladder 20 or the Gates of Consciousness – Located below the base of the skull. Helps in relieving migraine, fatigue, and low energy.
  • Governing Vessel 24.5 or the Third Eye Point – Located directly between the eyebrows. Helps in relaxing the central nervous system.

Sleep deprivation has become a public health epidemic. Don’t let chronic loss of sleep ruin your productivity and everyday energy. Acupuncture is a time-tested, natural treatment therapy which is no less than a boon to enhance sleep quality.

Not only it nourishes the body, but also relaxes your mind to promote a peaceful, restful sleeping cycle. Hailed for centuries for its therapeutic effects, acupuncture  is a potent remedy to counter the side-effects of sleep deprivation. Wholesome diet is another amazing lifestyle choice that not only improves your holistic health but also promotes better sleep at night.

 

References:

  1. Modern Acupuncture. Put sleep disorders to bed with acupuncture. Published online: 22 June 2018. https://www.modernacupuncture.com/news/2018-06-22-put-sleep-disorders-to-bed-with-acupuncture-113
  2. Cao H, Pan X, Li H, Liu J. Acupuncture for treatment fo insomnia: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. J Altern Complement Med. 2009; 15(11): 1171-1186. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156618/
  3. Spence DW, Kyumov L, Chen A, et al. Acupuncture increases nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduces insomnia and anxiety: a preliminary report. 2004. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2004; 16(1): 19-28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14990755

 

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Hormonal imbalance is a common female presentation at most acupuncture practices. The human body produces around 50 different types of hormones. Hormones act as the body’s chemical messengers activating target cells. Tightly linked to the nervous system it controls body functions e.g. growth, metabolism, homeostasis, muscle contraction and sexual activity. The effects of hormonal changes start at puberty and continue throughout a women’s life.

Premenstrual symptoms, both physical and emotional represent hormonal changes. Women struggle with hormonal changes experiencing symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, anxiety and changes in libido. There are many reasons for hormone imbalance such as, age, stress, birth control pills, lifestyle, diet and weight. Symptoms can greatly affect a women’s quality of life.

In women, hormones oestrogen and progesterone work together to maintain the menstrual cycle, both are equally important. When oestrogen levels are abnormally high there is oestrogen dominance causing PMS symptoms, menstrual problems, mood swings, weight gain, and increase in stress hormones, fibroids, ovarian cysts (PCOS), heart disease and breast cancer.

In Chinese medicine hormone imbalance can be linked to menstrual and gynaecological but also to other conditions e.g. mood swings, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia. Depending on the condition conventional medicine offers treatments using birth control pills, anti-depressants, diabetes medication, IVF and fertility treatment drugs. Fortunately, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer a safe and effective option for many health problems including alleviating hormonal imbalance.

  • Acupuncture, balances cortisol levelsand regulates adrenal function to relieve stress and normalize stress response, positively affecting the hormone response1.
  • A study found the acupuncture balances the production of follicle-stimulating hormone in women experiencing menopause related symptoms2.
  • Acupuncture helps fertility issuesdue to hormone imbalance by supporting production of healthy levels of sex hormones3.
  • A study of 30 women with PCOS and decreased insulin resistance found improvement in symptoms after acupuncture treatments4.
  • Researchers analyzed 31 RCT with a total 2,433 participants and found that acupuncture has a homeostatic and regulatory effect on three hormones which significantly5;
    • reduce sleep problems
    • increase oestrogen levels
    • reduce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • One case study of a woman with endometriosis causing infertility saw a decrease in the size of the endometrial cysts and later became pregnant after acupuncture treatment6.

Treating hormone imbalance can be complex and often diet, lifestyle and stress play an important role in its successful management. Acupuncture’s regulating effects on the body enables regaining normal function of the body systems including; energy levels, sleep, mood and digestion. With regular treatments the body realizes a healthy equilibrium by correcting imbalances.

References:

  1. Yang JW, Li QQ, Li F, Fu QN, Zeng XH, Liu CZ. The holistic effects of acupuncture treatment. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:739708. doi:10.1155/2014/739708
  2. Aziz H, Feng Lui Y, Du L, et al. Menopause-related symptoms: traditional Chinese medicine vs hormone therapy. 2011. Altern Ther Health Med. 2011; 17(4): 48-53.
  3. Zhu J, Arsovska B, Kozovska K. Acupuncture Treatment for Fertility. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2018;6(9):1685–1687. Published 2018 Sep 19. doi:10.3889/oamjms.2018.379
  4. Shen LY, Liang CM, Yang WJ, et al. Acupuncture treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome patients with abdominal obesity by regulating dai meridian: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Zhen Ci Yab Jiu. 2018; 43(4): 255-9.
  5. Acupuncture decreases insomnia due to menopause, increases estrogen. (2017, Jan 17) https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1707-acupuncture-decreases-insomnia-due-to-menopause-increases-estrogen
  6. Zhu J, Arsovsk B, Sterjovska-Aleksovska A, Kozovska K. Acupuncture treatment of subfertility and ovarian endometrioma. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2018; 6(3): 519-522.

 

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Medicines are well known life savers; they save millions of lives every year from hundreds of dreadful diseases.

No matter how prepared we are, we can still be susceptible to infectious diseases and they can come back to haunt us.

The human microbiome is an ecosystem that is a collection of trillions of microbes; human and microbial cells, each have a specific genetic expression and collectively make us a ‘super organism’. Newborns start to pick up microbes at birth. This is a selective process and gradually introduces complementary and useful microbes that help the body to undertake essential body functions.   It adds around 8 million genes to the estimated 20,000-25,000 human genome. Within a period of three years a mature microbiome is developed.

The human microbiome resides in the mouth, gut, vagina and on the skin, but varies greatly between the different body sites. As an example the microbiome difference between the mouth and the gut is comparable to the difference in microbes in the ocean and soil.  Skin microbes prevent pathogens from colonising the skin and stimulate the immune system. Similarly gut bacteria functions include; synthesis of vitamins and neurochemicals, assist digestion and strengthen the immune system. For this reason science has firmly established the relationship between a healthy gut microbiome to overall wellness and good health.

Although comparable, the mibrobiome also varies from one person to the other. Likely influencing factors include, host genetics, diet, environment and exposure to specific microbes in early life.

Medicines: A Miracle or a Martyr?

Over decades we have been witnessing a serious rise in antibiotic prescriptions. Historically, antibiotics have a proven role in warring against harmful bacteria/viruses saving us from countless infections. Unfortunately they are not discriminatory and like many battles the price we pay is in the collateral damage to our microbiome.

According to the research data published by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), one out of four antibiotics negatively affects the growth of gut bacteria. The carefully nurtured gut microbiome falls out of balance, thus upsetting our delicate intestinal ecosystem consequently increasing our risk for disease and chronic conditions e.g. IBS, diabetes, leaky gut, food intolerances.

These findings raise another serious question; could these changes also contribute to antibiotic resistance?, and in the same way can other non-antibiotic drugs similarly damage the microbiome ? Commonly prescribed medicines (NSAIDs, antipsychotics, anti-diabetics, proton pump inhibitors, and so on) have been known to create changes in microbiome composition.

To further answer this the EMBL study screened more than 1,000 marketed drugs to try and understand their effects on 40 strains of gut bacteria. The study’s conclusive statement was that more than 24% of the marketed drugs affected the growth of at least one bacterial species.

In 2019, Belenky and his colleagues published a study in Cell Metabolism. The study was conducted in mice. It was found that antibiotics changed the metabolism and composition of the mice gut microbiome.

Although still not the full picture, these studies offer a snap shot of the potential damage common drugs can do to healthy gut microbial function.

Therapy, Diet & Microbiome

Medical studies suggest that a healthy diet; low in simple sugars and high in fiber increases the susceptibility of gut microbiome to certain antibiotics. Researchers found that adding glucose to a mouse’s diet (normally low sugar, high fiber) increased the susceptibility of certain bacteroides to amoxicillin.  This validates the importance of how our diet can protect gut microbiome from the disturbing effects of antibiotics.

Most importantly, any excessive or unnecessary medication can seriously damage your gut function. Changes to your diet, and seeking alternative therapies can help to reduce the need for medicines, whilst the introduction of prebiotic foods (e.g. garlic, onions, yogurt, kefir, fermented food, bone broth) and probiotic supplements will enhance microbiome function.

A new study has shown improvements in mice gut microbiome with electro acupuncture and moxibustion treatments. Similar microfloral changes were reported by another study using electro acupuncture on obese rats.

To further reduce the need for prescription medicines, therapies like acupuncture, massage and hypnotherapy can be effectively used in place of or as an adjunct for many conditions e.g. pain, anxiety, depression and other conditions.

 

Dizziness is a common medical complaint prevalent in 15-30% 1, 2 of the general population. However, it is a non-specific symptom which can refer to light headedness, imbalance, true vertigo or syncope (partial of full loss of consciousness). It can be a symptom of several diseases ranging from minor circulatory problems such as blood pressure fluctuations, inner ear balance problems to more serious nervous system disorders. Unlike dizziness, true vertigo is the sensation of spinning around. This can be migraine related, benign positional paroxysmal vertigo and Meniere’s disease.  Treatment for dizziness and vertigo varies but commonly includes anti-emetics and benzodiazepines, and specifically for vertigo the ‘Epley manuever’ can be useful. In unresponsive or resistant cases longer term and use of stronger medicines increases the threat of unwanted side-effects. 

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine that has been used to successfully treat many diseases for over thousands of years. Research3 on sixty emergency patients who presented with dizziness or vertigo divided into two groups; one received acupuncture and the other control.  Results showed significant improvements in their overall discomfort, dizziness and vertigo symptoms and lowered heart rate.

How Does Acupuncture Treat Dizziness?

Acupuncture is known to work locally at the point of needle insertion as well as stimulate the nervous system causing the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. It increases the release of endorphins and neuropeptides, thus triggers biochemical changes which works on body’s homeostatic mechanisms to boost emotional and physical health4. These anti-inflammatory and stress reducing mechanisms alleviate factors responsible for causing dizziness, including nervous tension. In uncomplicated cases a 100% recovery is possible. In the case of low blood pressure, acupuncture improves the body’s ability to regulate the blood pressure, and the ability to handle anxiety and stress more effectively.

In the case of vertigo due to Meniere’s disease5 immunomodulatory and vascular elements acts as anti-inflammatory and modulate any related infection, as a result alleviating symptoms. Similarly, in migraine related vertigo changes the way pain is processed in the brain and spinal cord thus reducing the migraine frequency. According to a Cochrane6 review of 22 trails the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for migraines could be as good as prophylactic drugs.

 

You can live without Dizziness or Vertigo

The dreadful feeling of recurring dizziness or spinning is a handicap to normal life. In many cases sufferers are unable to continue to work, or struggle to care for their family and themselves. Where medical treatment is ineffective, people start to believe that they have to live with it, but this is not the case.

Chinese medicine is based on healthy flow of Qi throughout the body. Qi is the body’s vital energy that flows in pathways known as meridians or channels.  From this perspective the cause of dizziness or vertigo is a condition of either a Deficiency or Excess. In the case of Deficiency, there is not enough Kidney Qi reaching the head, whilst a condition of Excess is an accumulation of Phlegm and other pathogenic elements that cause stagnation, preventing the body’s warming Qi from reaching the head. Acupuncture treatment aims to strengthen the body function to remove the Deficiency, or clear any Excess so that Qi can flow freely. Consequently, re-balancing and maximizing the body function.

Acupuncture has the advantage of being a safe treatment option without the risk of side effects or taking additional medication. It focuses on normalizing the body functions by stimulating the body’s parasympathetic nervous system lowering stress, reinstating body homeostasis and promoting healthy blood flow particularly in the head.

 

 

Plantar fasciitis (PF) is a general cause of heel pain affecting 10% of the population. Symptoms of Plantar fasciitis are generally sharp, acute pain in the sole as well as a heel with strain, or when you stand after periods of rest. The portion of the foot that’s inflamed with plantar fasciitis ‘plantar fascia’ is a tendon that connects to the base of the heel bone and lengthens into five bands that joins to the bones of the toes. As a weight-holding structure, it is influenced by over-use through recurring strain or too little exercise and movement. Small injuries to the tendon after a while cause inflammation and pain. Frequently, a slight bony growth (known as a spur) also develops on your heel bone (calcaneus). This heel pain can also be caused by arthritic conditions, for example, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners, in jobs involving prolonged standing or walking, overweight people, and individuals with foot alignment issues or those who have one leg longer than the other. Most cases recover with moderately conservative treatment, which includes home remedies, for instance, rest, stretching and massage, followed by conventional treatments including pain killers, shockwave therapy and steroid injections. However, for many these treatments offer no benefit and they have to seek alternative options. Research tells us that much can be gained by seeking acupuncture treatment.

A review published in Acupuncture in Medicine assessed eight clinical trials on acupuncture for plantar fasciitis. One study found significant improvement when it is combined with standard treatment, whilst in another treatment on acupuncture point PC7 improved threshold for pain and pressure (compared to LI4). Other studies were of lower quality, but consistently reported benefits from acupuncture.  Researchers at Guangxi People’s Hospital found that when acupuncture is added to the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) foot baths significantly decreases pain and swelling, as well as relapse rates. Another more recent review on 4 studies found that there was significant benefit between 4-8 wks after treatment.

Acupuncture treats plantar fasciitis through a self-healing phenomenon via a few pathways. Needle insertion activates the body’s own opioids, while also increasing the brain’s sensitivity to them. Other pain reducing biochemicals like ATP, adenosine, GABA and substance P are also released. Acupuncture needle manipulation techniques also stimulate cellular responses in the subcutaneous connective tissue increasing the spread and production of fibroblasts, an important healing component. Another mechanism is via the release of nitrous oxide at the acupuncture sites that enable the healing process.

Plantar fasciitis can be extremely debilitating. Acupuncture treatment is effective, however sometimes response can be slow. Therefore a minimum of 6-8 treatments is essential before any significant results can be expected. A combined treatment with acupressure massage can increase the benefits greatly.