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

Updated May 15, 2003








Acupuncture for Cancer, Asthma, Food Allergies, Multiple Sclerosis - What Does the Research Say?
by Brian Carter, MSci, LAc

Last week, I worked with a freelance journalist on a survey of holistic medicine. Initially, part of her article said:"Some websites claim acupuncture can treat cancer, asthma, food allergies, multiple sclerosis, and myriad other diseases....

...Generally, these sites are reporting evidence based on personal experience rather than scientific documentation. Contrary to reports on the Web and in print, there is no scientific evidence to prove acupuncture is effective in treating such disease processes."

I took that as a challenge. I've found that journalists and skeptics often rely on outdated sources for the state of acupuncture research, so I thought I'd just check with MEDLINE, the National Library of Medicine's database of 12 million scientific journal citations. The results below indicated that, to be accurate, she would have to say that acupuncture has proven its value as an adjunctive (complementary) cancer therapy, and though not effective for all types of asthma, acupuncture does improve allergic asthma. I couldn't find anything on food allergies (and it doesn't make good scientific sense that it would change food allergies, though it might moderate them... but we don't know yet). Though there was no proof that acupuncture could treat multiple sclerosis (MS), there was a study explained how we could use acupuncture points for earlier MS detection.

From Studies and Reviews of the Scientific Literature Found on MEDLINE:

Acupuncture in the Treatment of Cancer

"Acupuncture's use in cancer patients has been recommended by the American Cancer Society (ACS) for the treatment of cancer and treatment-related symptoms. Pain, nausea, breathlessness, vasomotor symptoms and limb edema have all been found to respond to this treatment modality. In addition, the immunomodulatory effects of acupuncture, both via the release of pituitary beta-endorphin and ACTH, as well as alleviating patient stress through relief of symptoms, are anti-carcinogenic (work against factors that lead to cancer)." - source

"Patients with cancer or symptoms referable to cancer therapy were offered acupuncture as potential palliation of their symptoms... Most patients (60%) showed at least 30% improvement in their symptoms. About one-third of patients had no change in severity of symptoms. There were no untoward effects reported related to the acupuncture. When analyzed by diagnosis, these values persist. Irrespective of response to therapy, 86% of respondents considered it 'very important' that we continue to provide acupuncture services. ... Acupuncture may contribute to control of symptoms for cancer patients. Expansion of providers, continued patient follow-up, optimization of techniques and prospective objective measurement of response continue in our clinic." - source

Acupuncture in the Treatment of Asthma

Results depend on the type of asthma. High-quality studies show that acupuncture is not effective for bronchial, or mild persistent asthma, but, it is effective for allergic asthma.

"In a randomized, controlled study we investigated immunologic effects of Chinese acupuncture on patients with allergic asthma.... lymphocyte subpopulations the CD3+ cells (p = 0.005) and CD4+ cells (p = 0.014) increased significantly. There were also significant changes in cytokine concentrations: interleukin (IL)-6 (p = 0.026) and IL-10 (p = 0.001) decreased whereas IL-8 (p = 0.050) rose significantly. Additionally, the in vitro lymphocyte proliferation rate increased significantly (p = 0.035) while the number of eosinophils decreased from 4.4% to 3.3% after acupuncture (p > 0.05). ... results imply that asthma patients benefit from acupuncture treatment given in addition to conventional therapy. Furthermore, acupuncture performed in accordance with the principles of TCM showed significant immune-modulating effects." - source

More information on acupuncture and allergy

Acupuncture in the Detection of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

For earlier detection of MS:

"In this article the peculiar behavior of all treated patients is described: increased sensibility of the skin over the acupuncture loci, while insertion of the acupuncture needles provoke spasms, clonus and even tonic-clonic contractions of the muscles of the extremities. This phenomenon is very specific and can be used as an early sign of this ill-fated illness." - source

More Resources:

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All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.

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