Originally published October 29 2009
Acupuncture: Traditional Chinese Medicine Effectively Treats Insomnia
by Melissa Sokulski
(NaturalNews) Insomnia is a common condition in which people have difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep. It is listed by the World Health Organization as a condition which has been shown to be treated effectively by acupuncture (1). Acupuncture, which actually treats the person, not the disease, helps to balance the body's energy, strengthening weak areas and moving energy where it's stuck.
Insomnia can have many causes; figuring out the cause is an important part of diagnosis and treatment. For instance, pain can cause insomnia because the person is not able to get into a comfortable position for sleeping and the pain wakes them up. In that case acupuncturists treat the pain.
Eating late at night is a common cause of insomnia. When people stop eating after 7 pm, sleep often comes much more easily and is more peaceful. According to the Chinese Clock, digestion is the strongest in the morning, between 7 am and 9 am for the Stomach, and 9 am to 11 am for the Spleen/Pancreas. Twelve hours later (7 pm to 11 pm) digestion is the weakest, and eating at this time will cause gas, bloating and indigestion, making it difficult for one to fall asleep easily. Other causes of insomnia according to Traditional Chinese Medicine are yin deficiency, an imbalance of yin and yang, heart imbalance, spleen deficiency and stagnant liver qi.
Acupuncturists take a detailed history, which includes questioning, pulse analysis and tongue diagnosis, to give a complete picture of the patient as a whole. Even if it is determined that two different patients have insomnia as a result of yin deficiency, their treatments may still be different, depending on each person's constitution (strength and type of overall body and health) and other factors.
This is what makes acupuncture so individualized and effective: there is no one prescription for a condition. Each time a patient comes in, they are re-evaluated, and each treatment is specifically selected. This is also why it is so common to see all sorts of symptoms clear up - not just the one someone has come in to treat. Rarely do acupuncturists just work on one symptom alone; in every treatment, the whole person is being addressed and treated.
However, some points are so useful in treating insomnia that they will be strongly considered no matter what the cause, including:
- Heart 7 (Shen Men), on the wrist, which helps calm the heart and spirit
- An Mian, an extra point translated as Peaceful Sleep, which is on the back of the head, where the head meets the neck
- Yin Tang, another extra point which is between the eyebrows and promotes relaxation
Moxibustion, or the burning of an herb over points on the body, can also be useful. There is a point in the middle of the heel known as the insomnia point, where moxa cones can be burned. This helps bring a person into balance and helps sleep. Moxa is a Chinese herb, also called Ai Ye (Artemisia argyi). It is dried and processed into a fiber which can be rolled into cones, placed on the skin and burned until warmth is felt.
Chinese herbal formulas can also be effective in helping balance one's energy and allowing sleep to come more easily. Diagnosing the underlying cause is very important when choosing herbal remedies. There are many formulas which could help treat insomnia; a trained acupuncturist who has studied Chinese herbs could help someone choose what is right for them. The following common formulas can be useful:
- An Mian Pian (Sleep Peaceful Formula) for quieting the spirit
- Gui Pi Tang (Restore the Spleen Decoction) which strengthens the energy and nourishes the heart
- Bao He Wan (Preserves Harmony Pill) which reduces food stagnation and harmonizes digestion (if insomnia is due to eating late at night or indigestion)
No matter what the underlying cause, insomnia is a common condition which acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can have a profound effect on treating.
Bensky, Dan and Gamble, Andrew. Chinese Herbal Medicines: Formulas and Strategies. Eastland Press, Inc. Seattle, WA. 1990
Bensky, Dan and Gamble, Andrew. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica. Eastland Press, Inc. Seattle, WA. 1986.
Xinnong, Cheng, Chief Editor. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Foreign Language Press, Beijing. 1990.
Zhu, Chun-Han. Clinical Handbook of Chinese Prepared Medicines. Paradigm Publications. Brookline, MA. 1989
World Health Organization website page on acupuncture: http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4926...
About the authorMelissa Sokulski is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of the website Food Under Foot, a website devoted entirely to wild edible plants. The website offers plant descriptions, photographs, videos, recipes and more. Her new workbook, Wild Plant Ally, offers an exciting, hands-on way to learn about wild edible plants.
Melissa also runs The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, PA, providing the best in complementary health care: acupuncture, therapeutic massage and herbal medicine.
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