Author: Tiejun Tang
Acupuncture is an effective therapy and it is getting more and more popular in the world. The World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies spent 3 years investigating 202 Countries and regions, and found that there are 183 countries practice acupuncture. Most of the World's acupuncturists in the world apply acupuncture on it's own, they never use herbs. Only a small proportion of practitioners combine acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine together. Is it necessary to combine herbs during the acupuncture treatment?
The answer is yes. I will tell you six reasons why acupuncture needs herbs:
(1) HISTORY TELLS US THAT ACUPUNCTURE IS AN INSEPARABLE PART OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
It originated in China. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are based on the same philosophy, same diagnosis method and same treatment principles. They were inseparable for thousands of years of history. Like your left hand needs your right hand to be truly effective.
(2) EVERY FAMOUS TCM MASTER IN HISTORY COMBINED NEEDLES AND HERBS TOGETHER IN THEIR CLINICAL PRACTICE
From Hua Tuo (145-208AD) and Zhang Zhongjing (150-219AD) to Sun Simiao (581-682AD) and Li Shizhen (1518-1593). They all are good at both acupuncture and herbs.
(3) HERBS CAN EXTEND ACUPUNCTURE'S THERAPEUTIC DURATION
When treating most conditions the effect of acupuncture effect lasts from a few hours to a few days. The treatment effect is unlikely to last a whole week. Some patients feel better after acupuncture treatment, but 2-3 days later their symptoms come back. In China some patients get acupuncture every day or every other day to maintain the effects, but it is very difficult to have such frequent acupuncture sessions for most patients. Chinese herbs can enhance the effect and extend acupuncture's therapeutic duration.
(4) HERBS CAN EXPAND THE SCOPE OF INDICATIONS OF ACUPUNCTURE
Although acupuncture can treat many diseases, there are still some diseases for which acupuncture is not suitable, or cannot be relied upon solely. Acupuncture is superior for treating musculoskeletal pain, emotional disorder and functional disorder of internal organs, but if there is organ function failure and in some severe conditions, acupuncture must be combined with herbs to achieve good effect.
(5) SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE SHOWS ACUPUNCTURE AND HERBS CAN ENHANCE EACH OTHER
Randomized clinical trial showed acupuncture combined with herbs will lead to better treatment results. Laboratory research shows that the combination of acupuncture and Chinese medicinal herbs can significantly enhance curative effects in treating model rats with PCOS. Other research results indicated that acupuncture has a synergistic effect on the pharmacokinetics of Chinese herb medicine .
(6) MULTIPLE TREATMENTS ARE MORE CONVENIENT AND FLEXIBLE TO THE PATIENTS
Some patients are too busy to have weekly acupuncture treatment or they have to terminate their treatment because of a business trip or holiday. Some patients live too far from a practitioner. In these situations they can take some herb tablets or powders so we can still bring the symptoms under control until the disease is cured.
In clinical work acupuncture and herbs can be applied separately for some conditions, but under most circumstances better effect will be achieved if combined together. To develop the hand analogy; some things you can do with your left hand or right hand only, but you must do most things with both hands. Two hands are always better than one hand.
1. You XM. Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Efficacy of Simo Decoction and Acupuncture or Chewing Gum Alone on Postoperative Ileus in Patients With Hepatocellular Carcinoma After Hepatectomy. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015; 94(45):1968
2. Ma RJ Combination of acupuncture and Chinese medicinal herbs in treating model rats with polycystic ovary syndrome. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(4):353-61.
3. Wu X. ,Comparative pharmacokinetics and tissue distribution of schisandrin, deoxyschisandrin and schisandrin B in rats after combining acupuncture and herb medicine (schisandra chinensis). Biomed Chromatogr. 2014; 28(8):1075-83