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Acupuncture and the immune system

There is a common misconception that acupuncture is just used for pain relief, but Traditional Acupuncture is the practice of Chinese Medicine, a whole system of medicine which dates back thousands of years, and is still as relevant in our modern day society.

The fundamental principle of Chinese Medicine is to treat the cause or root of an issue, rather than the symptoms that arise from it. Illness, pain and dysfunction are seen as symptoms or branches of this underlying imbalance. By tackling the underlying cause, patients may see improvements to many aspects of their health and wellbeing.

A fully functioning immune system is seen as vital in order to maintain good health and there are a number of things that can affect this, such as chronic stress, poor diet, excessive alcohol, lack of sleep, obesity, lack of exercise etc. Maintaining good health is a complex issue which depends on many different factors and life choices, but ultimately Chinese medicine views our health a bit like a bank account. If we consistently take more out of our bank account, than we put back in, we are likely to run into financial difficulty at some point. Likewise, if we don’t get enough sleep, have a poor diet and don’t take care of ourselves, it is likely to catch up with us. All of these aspects of our lifestyle can interrupt our flow of energy, leading to illness.  Acupuncture treats the mind and body as one, and may boost levels of serotonin and endorphins, calming the nervous system, clearing stagnant energy and helping everything to flow as it should.

It is currently accepted within Western Medicine that prolonged stress and anxiety compromise the immune system. A research paper (Arranz L et al (2007) The effect of acupuncture treatment on the immune function impairment found in anxious women American journal of Chinese medicine 2007;34(1):35-51), concluded that favourable effects of acupuncture appeared 72 hours after the first treatment and persisted one month after the final treatment, with patients seeing an improvement to their immune system, bringing their immune paramenters closer to those of healthy controls.

It is also common in acupuncture practice to use moxa, a Chinese herb taken from the Mugwort plant, which is then dried into a substance with a texture similar to  tobacco. It is generally used by making tiny pyramids which are then burned prior to needling an acupuncture point to help nourish the patient. Many patients enjoy both the warmth and the scent, but there is also research to suggest that the use of moxa on specific points can have a positive impact on the immune system. (Kung YY et al (2006) The different immunomodulation of indirect moxibustion on normal subjects and patients with systematic lupus erythematosus. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2006; 34(1):47-56)

We ensure that our car remains efficient by regular services and MOTs and our body should be no different. There tends to be an impact on the immune system, once optimum balance within the body starts to break down. Prevention is always better than cure, and therefore the closer we can stay to perfect balance, the more effective our immune system will be. Just by correcting sleep issues alone, something that acupuncture is known to be beneficial for, can assist in boosting the immune system.

According to the British Acupuncture Council, the main regulatory body for acupuncture in the UK, there are 2.3 million acupuncture treatments carried out each year, making it one of the most used complementary therapies in the UK. To find out more about how acupuncture could benefit you, visit the British Acupuncture Council at or contact me on 07979854048/

Amy Burrell, Professional Acupuncturist, Lic. Ac., M.B.Ac.C.