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Can Acupuncture & Herbs treat a Mental condition?

Acupuncture can help with that muscle or joint pain, but can it really help with a mental health condition such as Anxiety or Depression? No it cannot provide a cure to all of life's problems, but YES it can help with certain conditions in so many ways. If Acupuncture has been proven to create a different chemical reaction by releasing anti-inflammatory cells, then surely it can increase our serotonin levels (which is our own natural happy hormone pill).

I find it helps if we understand how the Qi (chee) flows in the body and how it effects our emotions. Qi flowing in a meridian is a like a highway and if an intersection becomes blocked than emotional disturbances occur. Each meridian "houses" a different organ and each organ has particular traits that effect them. For example, the emotion of the liver in Chinese medicine is anger. When we hold on to feelings of anger it can block our Qi, which can cause a liver qi stagnation (where the energy is not flowing properly), this can result in more anger. So by treating these different organs and meridians we will have better success to calm a restless mind through the better flow of Qi.

Here's a list of 5 different conditions that Acupuncture & Herbs can help. NOTE: this is not to replace any medical advice nor is it to recommend getting off any specific medications. It's merely to encourage people to combine the treatments that they are already receiving to produce better results for their overall well being.

Top 5 Mental Health Conditions that Acupuncture & Herbs can help treat:

1. Anxiety:

This is an easy condition to not be diagnosed in our society. We all worry but what is Anxiety? Well, the difference between Fear and Anxiety is that fear has a "post-stimulus" a stimulus generating fear, where anxiety is a "pre-stimulus" when the person feels anxious without a stimulus. It can be very difficult to explain these fears and to deal with it alone can be hard. But the silver lining is that there's help available!

A 2013 article in the Journal of Endocrinology presented the results of a series of animal studies done at Georgetown University Medical Center, which showed that rats who endured stress conditions and then received acupuncture had lowered blood hormone levels secreted by the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis (which controls reactions to stress. They also measured the levels of NPY, a peptide secreted during a “fight or flight” response, which is basically a panic attack, were lowered as well.

The Heart houses our Shen (our mind & soul) so to treat this condition I would target the heart meridian with points such as HT7, PC6, REN15. The Spleen also is affected by excessive worrying therefore I would treat it by using SP6, or DU20. The Herbal formula that I would prescribe are called Gui Pi Tang, which targets both the Heart and Spleen.

2. Depression:

We have all experienced this at some point in our life when we just don't received what we expected, and it's perfectly okay to grieve and to feel disappointed. Yet, when it manifests into feelings of constant sadness, avoiding social events due to this sadness, feelings of emptiness, loss of hope, and even thoughts of suicide, then we need to reach out and seek help in dealing with our emotions.

Studies indicate that acupuncture can have a specific positive effect on depression by altering the brain's mood chemistry, increasing production of serotonin (Sprott 1998) and endorphins (Wang 2010). Acupuncture may also benefit depression by acting through other neurochemical pathways, including those involving dopamine (Scott 1997), noradrenaline (Han 1986), cortisol (Han 2004) and neuropeptide Y (Pohl 2002).The response rates were 63% for specific acupuncture, 37.5% sham acupuncture and 50% massage. They concluded that a short acupuncture protocol demonstrated symptom reduction and a response rate comparable to those of standard depression treatments, and hence could be a viable treatment .

The Liver is the main organ to help calm the mind when it is from long term anger retention. Points I would use are LIV3, LI4. Also if this sadness is felt long term I would use points on the Lung meridian such as LU7. The herbs that I would prescribe are called Xiao Yao San "Free & Easy Wanderer" which clears heat in the liver and moves the Qi.

3. Insomnia:

Of course as we age our sleep diminishes for the amount of hours that are needed. When you start to experience inability to fall asleep, waking up during the night, sleeping restlessly, waking up early in the morning or dream disturbed sleep then this could be a chronic condition and it is time to seek treatments.

Researchers find a specialized acupuncture point prescription highly effective for the treatment of insomnia. Researchers at the China PLA Navy General Hospital determined that Wuhua foot acupuncture combined with body style acupuncture has a 95.24% total effective rate for the treatment of insomnia.

A disturbance between the Heart and Kidney meridians with heat could be present. Therefore the points that I would use are HT6, REN15, KID6. Or other points to help induce sleep are DU20 or ST36. A herbal prescription commonly used is Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan "Heavenly Emperor Tonifying the Heart Pill" that helps to regulate the Heart and Kidney functions.

4. Bi-Polar Disorder:

Bi polar is also known as Manic-depressive, which causes shifts in a person's mood, energy and ability to function. These dramatic mood swings can be from overly high reactions with irritability, to sadness and feeling hopeless, and then back again often with normal periods in between. The periods of high are considered mania and the lows are considered depression.

Symptoms of mania include: elevated and expansive mood, increased energy, restless, euphoric mood, extreme irritability, racing thoughts, talking fast, jumping from one idea to the next, distracted, inability to concentrate, impatience, little sleep, excitable speech, fast thinking, moving from topic to topic, unrealistic beliefs in ones ability's and powers, some can have aggressive behavior. A common medication used is called Lithium, which is mainly taken during the mania stage.

The Acupuncture points that I would use during the mania are LI15, ST25, ST40, PC5, GB13, and Du19 to help calm the mind and stop restless thoughts. There are several herbal prescription to try but the one that I would recommended most is Wen Dan Tang "Warming the Gall Bladder Decoction" which helps to treat the Qi stagnation and phlegm.

5. ADD, or ADHD:

This condition is defined by lack of attention, difficulty in concentrating and impulsiveness. When associated with hyperactivity in children, it is called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is most commonly diagnosed in children. According to the national institute of mental health, between 3 and 5% of all children (in the USA) have ADHD.

Although diagnosed in childhood symptoms can last into adulthood. This causes poor performance in school, inconsistency at work, emotional immaturity and social difficulties. Chinese medicine believes in something called the Ethereal Soul (Hun), which controls your ideas, plans, projects, inspiration and creativity. In ADD/ADHD there is an excess of such "movement" in thoughts from this particular aspect.

The Acupuncture points that I would to calm a scattered mind are HT7, SP3, BL47, DU16. Herbal prescriptions that I would use to help calm hyperactivity is Gui Pi Tang, which targets the Heart and Spleen. Or Kong Sheng Zhen Zhong Dan "Master Kong's Bedside Pill" which nourishes the Heart and Kidney energy, to strengthen the marrow and brain function, which can help with concentration and focus.


In conclusion to all of my findings through out my 10 years in health care, I truly feel that the best thing you can do for someone suffering from a mental health condition is to be supportive in their journey and help them with their recovery from years without a proper diagnosis. Not every condition looks the same and most people are suffering alone. Help others by becoming more accepting of these issues that they are facing, accept that these are real symptoms, which in the end will help the process of healing.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this blog. If you'd like to research more on each condition check out the websites and book references below. Please leave a comment because I'd be happy to hear your thoughts. :)


- "The Psyche in Chinese Medicine" book by Giovanni Maciocia

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