Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years in Chinese Medicine to boost the immune system. Not only does acupuncture balance and improve all aspects of health- such as sleep and inflammation, but it seems to have long-lasting, favorable effects on hormones that modulate immunity.
A Holistic Approach
Acupuncture, like most of Traditional Chinese Medicine, utilizes a holistic approach to improve health. This is what is meant by “restoring balance” in the body. Acupuncture techniques have a “global” balancing effect on the body’s regulatory systems- nervous, endocrine and immune.
The result is a boost in innate (non-specific) and adaptive (specific) immunity. It includes a boost in phagocytic cells and natural killers cells, and increased response by T-lymphocytes at the time of infection (1).
Needles and Immunity
Now the big question- How do needles affect immune function? The connection is the skin, an organ that is integrated and modulated by the neuro-endocrine-immune (NEI) network (1).
The NEI network involves the use of a “common biological language” of signaling pathways shared by the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. These three systems coordinate with each other to maintain function in the body and homeostasis. Acupuncture’s effect on the NEI network is proposed as the mechanism of action for improving health.
How Does It Work?
Inserting needles in the skin represents a form of “micro-trauma” to the skin that stimulates an immune response. It leads to the recruitment of immune components and the release of signaling molecules to different areas of the skin.
The signaling molecules (like cytokines and neurotransmitters) released during acupuncture are part of the “common biological language” that modulates the NEI network. In this manner, the insertion of needles in the skin can have a regulating effect on the systems involved and the body.
Acupuncture, like other alternative treatments, is ideal to supplement physical health and emotional well-being. Its global effects on the body are desirable for both the prevention and treatment of disease.
The regulatory effects of acupuncture pertain to nervous, hormonal, and immune function. Hence, acupuncture techniques are ideal for supporting any of these three systems and the functions they regulate. For more information on how acupuncture can improve your health, schedule an appointment with one of our acupuncturists and feel your body thrive.
- Ding, et al. “Acupuncture Modulates the Neuro–Endocrine–Immune Network.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 17 Oct. 2013, academic.oup.com/qjmed/article/107/5/341/1563714.
- Liang, Fengxia, et al. “Acupuncture and Immunity.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4540978/.