Scientifically speaking, your immune system is made up of several parts, situated throughout your body. These include your liver, spleen, thymus gland, your lymphatic system (of which you will find lymph nodes and vessels all throughout your body) and other glands and tissues. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), of which acupuncture is a central modality, your immune system is governed by your Lung energy system (note that the word 'Lung' is capitalized to differentiate between the scientific definition).
According to The Theory of Five Elements in TCM, your Lungs control the protective energy (known as 'Wei Qi') that defends you from invading pathogens. When this energy is deficient or the pathogen is too strong, your body is no longer able to protect itself and you experience illness. This type of illness is caused by Wind invading, which usually carries with it another pathogenic factor such as Cold, Heat, Dryness or Dampness. The nature of the pathogen as well as its strength will determine your symptoms and the severity of your illness.
Acupuncture is excellent for boosting your immune system preventively, as well as for treating pathogens after they've taken hold. While TCM is not a cure for viruses or bacterial infection (due to the slower nature of the medicine), because these types of pathogens do theoretically invade your body via Wind, TCM is very good at treating many of the symptoms associated. So if you're looking for a natural solution to treating headaches, congestion, fatigue, sore throat, cough, and so on, TCM can help you.
As for true immune system disorders, such as allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, the approach to treatment is naturally more complex than treating cold and flu symptoms. Where pain is concerned, acupuncture often works best with the combination of other TCM modalities such as electro-stimulation, cupping, Tui Na massage, and possibly herbs. Other signs and symptoms, such as fatigue, poor circulation, diarrhea, constipation, and so on, are often best treated with acupuncture and sometimes herbs as well. While more complicated, immune system disorders are still treatable with TCM. They may take more time to treat, however – anywhere from one to three months in most cases. The time that it takes for acupuncture to have a profound effect on your immune system usually depends on how long you've been experiencing symptoms, how severe your symptoms are, and what you are doing in regards to your own health care, e.g. diet, exercise, stress, and so on.
Be sure to receive acupuncture treatment from a Registered TCM Practitioner. This person is best trained in pulse diagnosis, the key to proper determination of your energy patterns and how to help correct them and improve your health.
By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner
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