Treating Inflammation with Acupuncture

Many people are affected by inflammatory conditions  such as allergies, arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Those of us who have received acupuncture regularly for inflammatory issues have experienced firsthand how dramatically it can relieve these conditions. A growing body of scientific research also demonstrates the benefits of acupuncture, and some studies are also investigating its mechanisms of action (how it works). The journal Nature Medicine recently published an article that helps explain how acupuncture works to reduce inflammation.

In the study, researchers at Rutgers University tested acupuncture’s effectiveness at treating sepsis in mice. Sepsis is a dangerous condition that can occur after an infection where inflammation spreads throughout the body, possibly causing organ failure and even death. In fact, other than heart attack, sepsis is the leading cause of death in intensive care units in the United States.

The researchers induced a sepsis-like inflammatory condition in the mice. They treated half of them with acupuncture on a point called Su Zan Li (a.k.a. Stomach-36) and half were treated with acupuncture on non-acupoints. In the first group, half of the mice treated on Su Zan Li survived, while none survived in the group that received acupuncture on non-acupoints. Most studies would have stopped there, but this team went deeper and discovered some of how the acupuncture works at Zusanli.

They found that this point communicates to the brain by way of the sciatic nerve. The brain then sends a signal to the vagus nerve, which triggers the adrenal glands to pump out dopamine.

Using Su Zan Li and other acupoints that help stimulate the body to naturally excrete dopamine and other chemicals is a great way to control pain and inflammation.

The adrenals are critical to the process, which is why acupuncture is often combined with herbs that help to strengthen these vital organs. So, in addition to getting acupuncture for your pain, take good care of your adrenals by supporting them with herbal formulae, supplements like Adrenal Support and by not overtaxing them with stimulants like caffeine. Proper sleep is also critical to allow your adrenals to rest.

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