Quitting tobacco is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health. But the road to get there isn’t always easy. If you’re trying to quit smoking, acupuncture is a natural way to help you curb your nicotine cravings.
Acupuncture, along with Chinese herbs and hypnotherapy, may not be as well-known as nicotine patches or gum. Yet they all can offer relief, especially in the active phase of withdrawal when you’re wrestling with fatigue, irritability and gnawing cravings.
How does acupuncture to help quit smoking work?
Acupuncturists target certain areas of the body for certain conditions. When it comes to helping smokers quit, pressure points in the ears are especially effective in suppressing cravings. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association even has an entire protocol around this set of ear suppression points to combat addiction.
In between acupuncture treatments, you can also use ear seeds at home — which work as a form of acupressure. This involves placing tiny balls on your ear with adhesive tape in targeted areas. This technique allows you to self-treat by applying pressure to points on the ear to help temper the urge to smoke.
After acupuncture, you may have fewer cravings, decreased irritability, improved mood, improved bowel movements and improved sleep.
Will acupuncture help me quit smoking?
In conventional medical terms, we mostly think of cigarette smoking as being harmful to the lungs, due to smoke inhalation, and the cardiovascular system, due to the well-known fast heartbeat we associate with nicotine use. In TCM, we do consider that smoking weakens the lungs, but this, in turn, causes problems in the other major organ systems of the body. A buildup of heat in the Heart and Stomach can lead to stagnant Liver Qi. These forces are what cause the withdrawal symptoms of anxious feelings, heart palpitations, irritability, food cravings, and poor sleep. With acupuncture and herbs, we work to clear heat and detoxify the lungs and all of the organs.
A specific set of points on the outer ear are often used to help combat the cravings associated with overcoming addictions of all kinds, including nicotine dependence. Often we will send a patient home with small ear seeds fixed to these points so that they can be squeezed and stimulated whenever you feel an urge to smoke. This will also help with food cravings and prevent overeating and weight gain when you quit smoking.
Acupuncture helps to release endorphins, replacing the familiar dopamine hit with a different sense of relaxation. Endorphins promote a sense of wellbeing and relieve pain. Dopamine works on the reward center of the brain, causing a mental and emotional reaction that leads to addiction. Acupuncture treatment works holistically to help relieve emotional pain–symptoms of anxiety and depression–by positively impacting neurochemical activity. Shifting from dopamine dependence to more abundant endorphins and serotonin will help restore restful sleep.
A controlled trial study compared patients who received acupuncture, patients who received acupuncture and education and counseling, and patients who received sham acupuncture to help them quit smoking over a period of four weeks. The percentage rate of patients who had quit smoking after 18-month follow up was highest among those who received acupuncture, and especially highest among those who had acupuncture and counseling.
A study of almost 3000 people who received acupuncture treatment for smoking over an eight week period showed that the treatment helped many people abstain from cigarettes, and helped many more to cut back on how many cigarettes they smoked.
Best when used with other methods
Acupuncture is even more effective when used together with other integrative medicine techniques. These may include:
- Hypnotherapy attempts to train the subconscious mind to veer away from tobacco. Acupuncture works to address the physical withdrawal symptoms.
- Chinese herbs are customized by an herbalist for each patient to decrease urges and to help with withdrawal symptoms.
If you would like more information on using Chinese medicine to help quit smoking, call us on 3369 0045.