In the West, acupuncture is still sometimes dismissed — even as more western doctors are incorporating the practice into their treatment plans. Nonetheless, acupuncture is becoming increasingly recognized as an effective treatment for relieving pain, easing stress and even combating insomnia. And in the right hands, acupuncture can also be used to treat a wide array of other symptoms and disorders — as it has been in China and many other countries for centuries.
There is nothing magical or superstitious about it. A doctor's office in Shanghai or Hong Kong is not so different from what you'd find in the United States. What is different however, is that acupuncture is a highly respected and frequently used modality for a range of health and medical conditions.
As practitioners and patients in Asia know quite well, the benefits of acupuncture extend much farther, into areas that might even surprise you. Here are five reasons why acupuncture could soon go mainstream as a form of treatment:
While Western medicine focuses on treating the uncomfortable symptoms of allergies, Traditional Chinese Medicine — using a combination of acupuncture and herbal treatments — treats the whole person from the inside out. This approach works not only to treat the acute symptoms felt during an allergic reaction, but to regulate the immune system. A healthy functioning immune system will improve an individual's health overall, and reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms.
2. Weight Loss
The inability to achieve a healthy weight can be one of the most stubborn problems patients face, and part of the problem lies in the hypothalamus — the part of the brain that regulates hunger, among other things. Acupuncture can be used to stimulate the hypothalamus, quieting its hunger signals and normalizing appetite. And because acupuncture also relieves stress, it inhibits "stress-eating" and rids the body of fat-storing stress hormones like cortisol.
3. Chemotherapy Side-Effects
Chemotherapy uses drugs to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, a critically important action in fighting cancer. But its side effects — nausea, sore joints, dry mouth, hot flashes and fatigue — are tough on the patient. Acupuncture and electro-acupuncture work to activate chemicals in the brain that block pain. This creates relaxing, pleasurable sensations that can provide much-needed relief for patientsundergoing treatment. Patients can also choose acupressure and cold laser acupuncture, which achieve similar results without the use of needles.
When the body's physiological systems are impaired by stress, or when neurological connectivity is unbalanced and hormones are being triggered in unhealthy ways, infertility can result. Frustratingly, modern fertility treatments are often hampered by these underlying issues. Acupuncture works to help reset neurological circuits. This can reduce hormonal imbalances and overall stress, and boosts the efficacy of fertility treatments.
5. Smoking Cessation
Nicotine is highly addictive, and the symptoms provoked by quitting smoking include intense cravings, irritability, anxiety, poor sleep, headache, increased appetite, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
Western aids like the nicotine patch merely delay the onset of symptoms. True relief and success in quitting are possible through the use of acupuncture, which can reduce cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. When you add stress relief to the process, quitting smoking can become easier and totally possible. A qualified practitioner will also provide personalized exercise and dietary recommendations, herbal supplements and an analysis of your triggers for smoking and how to avoid them.
Acupuncture has countless applications for patient health. When combined with other modalities from Traditional Chinese Medicine, or in an integrated fashion with western medicine, the results can be highly effective. This ancient discipline treats the whole person, restoring balance, strengthening immunity and helping physiological systems thrive.
This article originally appeared on mindbodygreen.com and was written by Dr. Daniel Hsu