Treat delirium with a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine
05/30/2019 // Evangelyn Rodriguez // Views

The usefulness of traditional Chinese medicine and traditional Japanese herbal medicine, especially in alleviating the unwanted side effects of modern pharmacological and surgical treatments, is becoming widely recognized. Patients who undergo extensive and often harsh treatments receive several benefits from the use of traditional medicine afterwards, particularly in the form of pain relief and improvement in their quality of life. To further explore the areas of application of these traditional forms of medicine, researchers from the Graduate School of Medicine at Gifu University in Japan decided to combine acupuncture and Kampo medicine and study their effects on patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). Their investigation focused on the impact of this combination therapy on the incidence rate of delirium in hospitalized patients who were suffering from cardiovascular disease (CVD). The results of their study were published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine.

Acupuncture with Kampo therapy reduces incidence rate of delirium in ICU

For their study, the Japanese researchers observed 29 patients who had been urgently admitted to the ICU in the control period. These patients received conventional intensive care. In the treatment period, the researchers observed 30 patients who received conventional therapy plus a combination therapy consisting of acupuncture and Kampo medicine. The patients had acupuncture treatment once a day and took an herbal formula orally three times a day during their first week in the ICU.


For the acupuncture group, the researchers reported that the standard acupuncture points used were GV20, Ex-HN3, HT7, LI4, Liv3, and KI3. GV20 is the main acupuncture point used to address headache, dizziness, and hypertension. Ex-HN3 is a point located between the eyebrows that is said to have a mentally stabilizing effect. HT7 or Heart7 is for calming the mind and resolving emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, panic attacks, and heart palpitation. It also regulates heart-related conditions and blood circulation. LI4 is the Large Intestine meridian command point and is also known as the pain point in the body. Liv3, on the other hand, is a significant point used to treat diseases of the internal organs while KI3 is the source point of the Kidney channel and is used to treat age-related problems, such as night sweats, hot flashes, and arthritis.

For the main herbal preparation, the researchers used the Kampo medicine Kamikihito. Kamikihito is a combination of 15 different herbs and is traditionally prescribed to patients suffering from hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, depression, and gastritis. Studies done on the health benefits of this herbal medicine report its potential as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, an adjunct to chemotherapy that alleviates anemia and thrombocytopenia, a remedy for cancer-related fatigue, and an herbal medication that can reduce anxiety.

Delirium is a neuropsychiatric syndrome characterized by concurrent disturbances of consciousness, attention, reasoning, perception, memory, and the sleep-wake cycle. Delirium can be reversible and transient, but for ICU patients, it can result in long-term cognitive dysfunction. When the researchers compared the incident rates of delirium in the treatment and control period, they found that there was a significantly lower incidence rate of delirium in the treatment group than in the control group (6.6 percent vs. 37.9 percent, P<0.01). They also observed that sedative drugs and non-pharmacological approaches against the aggressive behavior of patients who were delirious were used less in the treatment group than in the control group. Although they did not observe serious adverse events in the treatment group, the patients did not show any improvements compared with the group that received a combination of acupuncture and Kampo medicine. (Related: Natural treatments for bronchitis may be found in Kampo medicine.)

These findings suggest that the applications and efficacy of naturopathic medicine are not only limited to giving patients relief from pain after surgery. Using a combination of acupuncture and Kampo medicine is also an effective means of lowering the incidence rate of delirium in patients with CVD in the ICU.

Sources include: 1 2 1 2

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