A fundamental belief of TCM is that we live in a universe where everything is interconnected, and so we cannot separate the internal from the external, or, the mind from the body. Whatever affects one part of the body will automatically affect the other. Likewise, mental and emotional health is directly connected to physical health and visa versa. This foundation of TCM makes it highly effective for ailments that are both physical and mental, such as the addiction to nicotine. Acupuncture for smoking cessation is a natural, effective approach to this common addiction.
Acupuncture is based on the theory that there are channels throughout the body. It is believed that energy, known as “qi”, flows throughout these channels in the psychophysical system in a certain pattern, affecting the essential well-being of a person. Any disruption in this flow of energy will cause malfunctions in the body. Healing begins as acupuncture restores the flow of energy. In an acupuncture treatment, a practitioner will insert small disposable needles into the skin at strategic points situated along the meridians, where energy is thought to be blocked, depending on the person’s ailment. By putting these needles in place at carefully selected acupoints, the energy flow is released to stimulate specific blocked points.
In 1997, the Department of Preventative Medicine, University of Oslo in Norway undertook a study to examine the effects of acupuncture on smoking reduction and cessation. Participants in the study were healthy volunteers, both men and women averaging 39 years of age, who wanted to quit smoking. They had smoked between 20 and 6 cigarettes per day and had smoked for 23 to 8 years each. After been randomly assigned to 2 groups, the first group was given acupuncture treatment at acupoints for smoking cessation, while the other group was given treatment at acupoints that were considered not to have any effect on smoking cessation. Before each treatment, they had to answer questionnaires about their smoking habits. Before the first and after the last treatment the concentrations of serum cotinine, serum thiocyanate, serum peroxides, and plasma fibrinogen were measured in each person’s system.
31% of Group 1 had completely stopped smoking by the end of the treatments, compared with none in Group 2. The concentrations of cotinine and thiocyanate were reduced in Group 1 but there was no significant reduction in Group 2. Both groups experienced a reduction in the desire for nicotine. Neither of the groups experienced a change in peroxides and plasma fibrinogen concentrations.
The conclusion is that acupuncture for smoking is effective and the use of different acupoints will make a difference to the results.
Auricular acupuncture is the most common form of acupuncture treatment used for a smoking addiction. Superfine needles are inserted into the outer parts of the ear lobe, but never the auditory canal. The ear is thought to have numerous therapeutic points, which correspond to various parts of the body. When the acupuncture points, called acupoints, are stimulated, the acupuncture needles send electrical impulses to the brain, which in turn stimulates other areas of the body. This can help regulate internal organs, relieve pains in joints and muscles, and stimulate the brain itself and diminish cravings.
Acupuncture needles are left in place for about 15-20 minutes in the outer ear before being removed. Very often acupuncturists make use of ear seeds as well. These are tiny black seeds of the Vaccaria plant that are taped on specific acupoints of the auricle. Patients are encouraged to apply gentle pressure to these seeds when they experience a craving for nicotine. The pressure on the acupoints will stimulate the release of endorphins, which promotes detoxification and decreases the feeling of anxiety. They are usually left in place for a couple of days.
Acupuncture for smoking is found to be very effective for candidates who are serious about quitting. It is more beneficial if the smoker begins treatment a few days prior to quitting, as it alleviates the cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and dependency on nicotine will be minimized before the candidate actually quits. Smoking is not just addictive but habitual as well, so the best results can be obtained by combining acupuncture for smoking with behavioral management therapy.