Acupuncture & Traditional Oriental Medicine in the Treatment of Thyroid Conditions

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help to significantly reduce some of the signs and symptoms associated with thyroid conditions. In general, disorders of the endocrine system, including the thyroid, are attributable in some way with the Kidney system of Traditional Oriental Medicine.  In Oriental medicine, when we refer to an organ system, we may or may not be referring to the actual organ; rather, a system includes the meridians (pathways along which energy [“Qi”] travels), physiological functions, emotional states of being, and other indications in addition to the organ,

Common symptoms associated with thyroid conditions, with a brief description of how Traditional Oriental Medicine can help, are listed below.

Energy: One of the most common complaints of persons with either an overactive (hyper) or under-active (hypo) thyroid is that of fatigue. In response to having specific acupuncture points stimulated, the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest & digest” system) is activated and blood flow is shunted to organs of detoxification and elimination. After approximately 15 minutes, the brain will begin to secrete opoid-like biochemicals (endorphins), allowing the patient to fall into a deep, restful state. An additional 15 minutes in this deep state of relaxation, according to Chinese medicine, allows the Qi to circulate completely through meridians. After 30 minutes, patients often report feeling both energetic and relaxed.

Hair Thinning/Loss: According to Chinese medicine alopecia (hair loss) is associated with a Blood deficiency and/or Kidney system deficiency. Chinese herbal medicines are highly effective in nourishing Blood and Qi and restoring healthy hair. Acupuncture is used, often with radiant heat application called moxabustion, to tonify a weakened Kidney system.

Dry Skin: Like hair thinning, dry skin is also associated with Blood deficiency and/or Kidney system deficiency, which we refer to as Yin deficiency. Here again, Chinese herbal medicines and acupuncture would be appropriate to replenish moisture.

Insomnia or Irregular Sleep Patterns: Sleep irregularities also can be associated with Blood and/or Yin deficiency. Chinese herbal medicines are prescribed to nourish Blood and calm or sedate the Spirit, and acupuncture would be used to balance energy. 

Weight Changes: Weight gain is often associated with hypothyroidism. Acupuncture points to stimulate the organs of digestion and elimination will help to regulate assimilation and elimination and are combined with appropriate points to tonify a deficient system. Herbal formulae designed to strengthen the digestive system will supplement the treatment. 

Confusion/Depression: In Traditional Oriental Medicine, these symptoms can be attributed to either stagnant Qi, in which there is often an associated sense of irritability, or to an accumulation of Phlegm, which is contributing to the confusion. Acupuncture is highly effective in assisting the free flow of Qi, and herbal remedies are useful in clearing the phlegm.

Changes in Libido: Loss of libido can be associated with hypothyroidism. TOM views this as a symptom of Kidney Yang deficiency, and would prescribe herbal formulae and acupuncture designed to warm the Kidney Gate of Vitality, located at the region of the fourth lumbar vertebrae, as well applying radiant heat using moxabustion to the umbilical region.

Susan Fox, M.S., L.Ac. Dipl.Ac., Dipl.C.H.

 
 

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