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Acupuncture for Anemia

April 18, 2014

When the body is unable to create adequate amounts of red blood cells (RBCs) to supply oxygen to the other cells of the body for them to function healthily, it suffers from a condition known as anemia.  Anemia is often characterized by tiredness that happens due to the incapacity of the body to function efficiently. This symptom makes anemia sometimes referred to as “tired blood.” Anemia may have several types and they may range from mild or light to extremely severe and can last fleetingly or as long as a person’s entire life. The modalities used by allopathic medicine for anemia are based on the type of anemia the patient suffers from. Alternative medicine specialists such as acupuncturists or practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), on the other hand, utilize acupuncture, different forms of bodywork, herbal remedies or other complementary or other alternative forms of medicine to resolve anemia.

The Use of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Treating Anemia

Allopathic doctors are aware of the different types of anemia, including thalassemia, hemolytic anemia, iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin-deficiency anemia, sickle-cell anemia, and aplastic anemia.  Each form of anemia has distinct causes and hence, different treatments.  Contrast that to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine who think that all forms of anemia are signs that the flow of vital energy or qi, the body’s life giving energy force that makes the body healthy has stagnated because of blockages in its flow or it means that the body produces inadequate amounts of good-quality blood. To address this condition, they adopt certain techniques to energize the organ systems to improve the flow of qi and create more and better quality of blood. What treatment to be used will depend on the patient’s manifested symptoms.

Acupuncture for Anemia

Acupuncture is a kind of TCM modality that involves the application of thin, long needles inserted at specific parts on the body known as acupuncture points to restore the normal flow of qi.  For anemia therapy, acupuncture needles are inserted at the pathways of qi known as meridians to help enhance qi flow to the stomach and spleen system.  Needles can also be inserted at other meridians to enhance the flow of qi to the liver. The liver, according to TCM, is the organ system that maintains good flow of blood throughout the body and is also the organ system where blood is stored.

Acupuncturists often needle these common acupuncture points to treat anemia:

Stomach 36 – The Stomach 36 point is found on the meridian of the stomach system and is known as Foot Three Mile or Zu San Li; this means that treatment of this point can help treat fatigue enabling you to walk much farther, maybe for an extra 3 miles more. The point strengthens both blood and qi and also helps improve the body’s capacity to absorb nutrients and to enhance digestion.

Liver 8 – This is the liver meridian and is known as Spring at the Crook or Qu Quan. This point is a commonly treated point to help tonify the liver system which is usually associated with disorders of the blood. Liver 8 nourishes the blood and strengthens both the blood and yin of the body.

Spleen 10 – this spleen meridian acupuncture point is known as Sea of Blood or Xue Hai and is needled to tonify and invigorate the blood that can result in the treatment of many types of disorders of the blood.

Anemia Therapy Using Chinese Herbal Medicine

For the resolution of anemia using Chinese herbal medicine, single herbs and herbal compound mixtures may be used.  Different kinds of herbs can help boost or improve the production of qi and high quality blood. They may include:

White peony rhizome or Bai Shao – this remedy is to astrnge yin and nourish blood.
Rehmannia or Sheng Di – this formula in its processed form is known as Shu Di. Rehmannia helps generate fluids and nourish yin.
Deer antler or Lu rong – used for tonifying qi and blood and for strengthening yang
Astragalus propinquus or Huang qi – tonifies spleen qi and blood.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) or Gan cao – tonifies stomach qi and spleen.
Pilose asiabell [radix codonopsis pilosulae radix and Codonopsis pilosulae] or Dang shen – to help augment body energy and nourish the blood
Angelica (Archangelica spp.) or Dang gui – helps dispel cold, tonifies blood and harmonizes and invigorates the blood
White Atractylodes rhizome (Atractylodis macrocephalae) or Bai zhu – tonifies the spleen and supplements qi

A lot of times, TCM’s way of treating disorders is to apply Chinese herbal medicine along with complementary modalities.  The TCM remedy that is a classical formula for deficiency of blood is Four Ingredient Decoction or Si Wu Tang. It is made up of Chuan Xiong, Dang Gui, Bai Shao and Shu Di.  Some other equally potent formulas that help produce more blood is Angelica Tonify the Blood Decoction or Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang. This formula contains only two herbs: Huang Qi and Dang Gui.  A number of assorted remedies are available to treat specific aspects of anemia in line with the medical presentation of the patient.  They include Zhou’s Anemia Formula, Zhang’s Anemia Formula, Yi Xue Sheng, Ye Xue Jing, Xue Bao Hau Jia, and Sheng Xue Jiao Nang; these are all herbal formulas that have been experimented on and have been verified to be effective in treating many types of anemia.

Anemia Treatment Using Tui Na Massage

Tui Na massage therapy has been practiced in China for thousands of years and its foundation is similar to that of acupuncture. Like acupuncture Tui Na massage entails the stimulation of the meridians to normalize the flow of qi, and bring balance to yin and yang in the body.  Certain Tui Na therapists may concentrate on hand and foot massage to normalize qi flow throughout the body and better the production of blood in the spleen.