Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks









Acupuncture for the Liver
by Brian Benjamin Carter, MSci, LAc

Hi, Brian.

Back from the dead. It's so hard to work with limited energy, and I've been working really hard lately. Actually, been talking to some producers about doing a documentary on Hep C and I'd love it if you consulted on it, but that's in the future,

I really liked the acupuncturist that you recommended to me, Al Stone out of Santa Monica.

Al Stone told me that it'll really be the herbs that act on hepatitis, and that the acupuncture really is more for my menopause and anxiety. Although it can help the liver a bit. Do you agree with this analysis?



I can only guess, because it really depends on too many factors for me to review without seeing you as a patient, going through your medical history, etc. I would trust Al's clinical judgment.

Using Multiple Therapies for More Healing

I can tell you that sometimes I divide the healing work amongst several therapies. You can use the acupuncture for one chief complaint, and the herbs for another. This is a way to get more done, since you often can't effectively treat everything at once with one therapy. From what we know so far, herbs are more effective against Hep C than acupuncture, so it makes sense to use the acupuncture for the other complaints.

How does acupuncture work on the liver, in layman's terms? In a few sentences?

I can answer that, but it'll take more than a few sentences. ;-)

One Life Two Livers

There's the western medicine (WM) liver, and the Chinese medicine (CM) Liver system (the liver organ, plus associated areas of the Liver meridian, and tissues governed and maintained by the Liver system such as the eyes, and the tendons or sinews).

When Al talks about the liver in relation to the anxiety and menopause, he's most likely talking about the Chinese medicine Liver system. There is some overlap- the WM liver is included in the CM Liver system. That may be confusing- sorry.

I assume that your question is about the WM liver, since we're talking about hepatitis.

How Acupuncture Works

The short answer is that each acupoint has a specific significance to the brain, and directs the brain through the nervous and immune systems to change activity in specific parts of the body. The points are like keys on a keyboard- we use them to input new information and instructions to the central nervous system.

The body is set up this way- acupoints are both diagnostic and therapeutic. If there is a bodily problem that indicates the use of a certain acupoint, it is often more tender on palpation (pressing) than other points.

The CM system uses the anology of qi and a complex system of physiology (qi, xue, yin, yang, etc.) and pathology to describe and use this amazing aspect of our bodies.

Scientific Information from Acupuncture Research:

  • Acupuncture treated liver injury in rats.
    (Am J Chin Med. 2001;29(2):221-6)
  • Electroacupuncture on hamsters with gallstones (the gallbladder is related to the liver in CM) reduced the contents of cholesterol in plasma and bile, and increased the volumes of secretion of cholic acid, thus inhibiting the crystallization of cholesterol from bile
    (Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 1996;21(4):68-72)
  • A specific acupoint (Du 26) changed enzymatic activity and energy metabolism in the liver in rabbits.
  • After chronic treatment with electroacupuncture of B23, B25, and ST36,
    • (a) protein, RNA, phospholipid, and cholesterol contents of whole liver and liver microsomal fraction increased significantly,
    • (b) liver microsomal G-6-Pase activity increased significantly,
    • (c) microsomal lipid peroxidation value decreased,
    • (d) lipase activity increased. After acute treatment,
    • (e) phospholipid, and cholesterol contents of the whole liver and liver microsomal fraction increased significantly,
    • (f) liver microsomal G-6-Pase activity increased significantly,
    • (g) liver microsomal lipid peroxidation value decreased,
    • (h) GPT and lipase activity of liver increased. The parameters unchanged in acute treatment were as follows:
    • (i) protein, RNA content,
    • (j) GOT activity of the liver,
    • (k) SGOT and SGPT activity, (1) hepatic triglyceride. The parameters unchanged in chronic treatment were as follows:
    • (m) GOT and GPT activity of the liver,
    • (n) SGOT and SGPT activity,
    • (o) hepatic triglyceride.
      (Acupunct Electrother Res. 1983;8(2):111-26)

Also, I remember taking this supplement powder, and it made my right kidney ache. Then I took a blood test and my uric levels were slightly off balance. So I stopped the powder and that went away. Have you heard that herbs can stress the kidneys at all?

Were you taking that powder under the direction of an herbalist? It's rare that that would happen when the herb formula is indicated by your pattern discrimination (diagnosis). There were some cases of kidney problems due to the use of the wrong species of herbs (companies without experts bought the wrong kind) that had aristolochic acid in them. Reliable herb companies run by specialized Chinese herb experts don't make those mistakes. For more, see this page at Mayway.

All the best!


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