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How To Treat Amnesia With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

loss of memory amnesia
Anterograde amnesia can make it hard to form new memories.

Are you experiencing unusual forgetfulness? Amnesia due to an injury or a brain disease like Alzheimer’s can cause loss of memory. TCM and acupuncture offer an alternative treatment for problems with memory loss due to different types of amnesia or dementia related to brain diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. 

Amnesia is often depicted in stories as the sudden loss of one’s memory, or even their whole identity, due to a traumatic accident of some sort. That kind of dramatic memory loss is rare in real life. Difficulty remembering events from one’s past is called retrograde amnesia. The most common type of amnesia, however, is anterograde amnesia, which causes short-term memory problems. People with anterograde amnesia may be able to remember facts they learned in school, and how to do things like play a sport or an instrument, but they have trouble remembering what they did earlier this morning, or what day of the week it is. Anterograde amnesia can have a serious impact on a person’s life, as it can make it difficult to retain new information, learn new skills, or form relationships with new people.

Conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can affect memory and cause other types of cognitive impairment. Memory problems can be a part of dementia; the term “dementia” encompasses other kinds of cognitive decline in addition to memory loss. Being more forgetful is considered a common aspect of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is the term for changes in thinking patterns that occur in older adults, sometimes as a precursor to more serious dementia. “Amnestic MCI” pertains to short-term memory problems like forgetting recent events, appointments, and facts or names one might have been able to call up easily in the past.

People suffering from depression and/or anxiety, and those with PTSD often experience short-term memory loss, forgetfulness, or a sense of confusion.

At this point, there is no real medical solution for amnesia or other kinds of memory loss. There are no treatments that cure or reverse dementia or Alzheimer’s. Medications like cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine may help to slow the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters–brain chemicals that relate to memory and learning capacity. Cognitive therapy can help people work on their memory skills and teach them coping mechanisms, like using various forms of reminders and creating stable routines that help them continue to perform their daily tasks.

Research has shown that TCM and acupuncture treatment have a positive impact on cognitive impairment, as measured both by memory assessments, as well as the impact on neurotransmitter activity in the brain.

Top 5 Types of Amnesia

Memory loss amnesia cognitive decline
Memory loss can be a sign of cognitive decline or dementia.

Amnesia is classified into two main categories: neurological amnesia and functional amnesia. Neurological amnesia is caused by some type of physical problem with the brain, either due to an injury, a stroke, a tumor, or diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Amnesia could also result from an infection that affects the brain, such as HIV, Lyme disease, or encephalitis. Functional amnesia is caused by some psychologically damaging event that causes a person to “block out” memories. This type of amnesia is considered a psychiatric disorder.

  1. Retrograde amnesia – this type of amnesia occurs after a traumatic event or injury to the brain. It affects memories that were stored before the inciting event, but not necessarily the entire history of memories. Usually the events leading up the trauma are the ones that are compromised. 
  2. Anterograde amnesia – this type of amnesia causes short-term memory loss. While a person can still pay attention, they have trouble retaining new information or forming new memories related to current events.
  3. Transient global amnesia – this type of amnesia incorporates both retrograde and anterograde types of memory loss, but only for a short period of time (anywhere from a few to 24 hours). This temporary loss of memory usually occurs in older people, perhaps because of some loss of blood flow to the brain (ischemia) or loss of oxygen to the brain (hypoxia), or even because of a seizure. 
  4. Dissociative amnesia – a mental health disorder in which a person blocks out memories or certain facts about their life after an emotionally traumatic event. This is sometimes known as “selective amnesia.” 
  5. Infantile amnesia – (or childhood amnesia) this term refers to the fact that most people do not have memories from the early years of their life.

Other factors that can affect memory to the extent that they cause amnesia are severe alcoholism (when a person gets “blackout drunk” and cannot remember what has happened), severe nutritional deficiencies, thyroid issues, or exposure to radiation. Some drugs, like benzodiazepines, or anti-epileptic medications, can cause memory loss while the drug is in effect. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is sometimes used in psychiatric treatment to induce selective amnesia.

Sometimes amnesia is temporary, such as after an injury. Once the brain heals, memory will often be restored. Amnesia due to brain damage, such as after a stroke, may be permanent, while amnesia caused by a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s, may be progressive in nature. Acupuncture treatment can be beneficial for people with various types of memory loss, both by helping people heal after brain trauma, and helping to protect the brain and other organs from degeneration due to aging or other kinds of disease.

Can Acupuncture Help Amnesia?

acupressure point for memory
These acupressure points on the top of the head can help improve your memory.

TCM theory takes a different view of the organ systems of the body than conventional modern medicine does. Whereas memory loss, cognitive impairment, amnesia, and dementia are seen as primarily having to do with the brain, in TCM we see problems with memory and cognition as also being related to the function of the kidneys, liver, spleen, and heart. The kidneys, in particular, are believed to support the brain, so if the kidneys are weak, or congested with phlegm, this can lead to amnesia. The buildup of phlegm in the body can block the smooth flow of qi and blood, leading to a lack of nourishment to the brain. It can also block the channels of communication between the heart and the brain. This concept of phlegm is roughly analogous to the conventional medical view of how heart disease arises from the buildup of cholesterol clogging the arteries. TCM treatment for amnesia and dementia will often focus, then, on the clearing of phlegm from the channels, and working to resolve other conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes, that are contributing to the problems of memory loss and cognitive deficits.

Herbs have been used for many centuries in TCM to help improve memory function and stave off cognitive decline. In recent years, scientific research has begun to confirm that these herbs can work to reduce neurodegeneration. TCM herbal formulations have the benefit of being highly customizable, while being relatively free of potential negative side effects. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to help patients recover neurological function after traumatic brain injuries.

Top 5 Tips for Improving Your Memory With TCM

stimulating the fingertips
Pressing the fingertips together

Stimulating more blood flow to the brain can help boost your memory. Try these simple home remedies to help promote better cognitive function.

  1. Acupressure Points for Memory – Find the tender spot right in the center of the top of the head. Stimulate this point, and the four points that can be found one inch away from the center in each direction: right, left, front, and back (see photo above). Apply gentle but deep, downward pressure with your finger to each of these five points 50-60 times each day.
  2. Stimulate the Fingertips and Tips of the Toes – Hold the hands so that the tips of the fingers and thumbs touch. Gently press or stroke the corresponding fingers together, each stimulating the other, up to a hundred times. Practice daily. Similarly, gently press/stroke the tip of each toe, up to a hundred times per day.
  3. Keep the Neck Supported – when the neck is stiff or out of alignment, blood flow to the head and brain may be compromised. If you have neck pain or tightness, be sure to address it adequately with acupuncture, a supportive pillow and appropriate sleeping position, and gentle exercise.
  4. Dry Brush the Scalp – use a brush or comb to stimulate the whole scalp every day. This will help bring good blood flow to the head.
  5. Massage the Ears – gently knead the whole outer ear, especially the ear lobe, until it is warm and red. This will stimulate many beneficial acupressure points located on the ear.

Acupuncture Near Me for Memory Loss

Perhaps someone close to you has begun to show worrying signs of cognitive decline or loss of memory. People who are suffering from amnesia and dementia associated with degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s can benefit from an integrative approach that includes acupuncture and herbs.

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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How To Treat ED With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

man smoking
Smoking can contribute to ED in men.

Let’s face it: most men have probably had trouble getting hard on occasion, but if it’s happening 50% of the time, or more often, then it may be a sign of men ED, or erectile dysfunction. ED refers to the inability to get or maintain an erection, making it difficult to have sexual intercourse. Acupuncture and TCM offer a natural solution for low sex drive and reproductive health problems, without over the counter ED pills.

In the past few decades, this condition, which used to be referred to as “impotence,” has come to be perceived as a men’s health issue or a men’s fitness issue that can be treated medically, rather than a personal problem. While it’s great that men can get help from doctors for this condition without embarrassment or shame, ED medications may not solve the problem for everyone. Stress, hormones, nutrition, exercise, emotions, and relationship dynamics all play a role in ED. ED can have a serious impact on a man’s quality of life, as it affects self-esteem, romantic relationships, and fertility.

It is estimated that about 30 million men in the U.S. experience erectile dysfunction (ED). By age 60, over 40% of men will probably experience ED. While ED drugs and over the counter ED pills help some men with ED symptoms, many men cannot use these medications because they interfere with others that are commonly used to treat heart disease. Acupuncture and TCM provide an alternative treatment for ED that can help men with this issue. 

Top 10 Causes of ED

ED is a complex problem, which can involve both physical and mental components. A physical problem that causes a man to experience ED a few times may lead to emotional stress around sex and low sex drive, making the problem worse. Because the brain and hormones contribute so vitally to arousal and erection, sometimes depression, anxiety, or interpersonal feelings are the main cause of the issue. Some of the most common physical causes of ED include:

  1. Heart problems, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, high cholesterol
  2. Diabetes
  3. Obesity
  4. Use of certain prescription medications (antihypertensives, antidepressants)
  5. Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis
  6. Alcoholism or excessive consumption of alcohol
  7. Smoking cigarettes/tobacco
  8. Prostate problems like enlarged prostate or prostate cancer
  9. Lack of sleep, sleep disorders
  10. Low testosterone

Sometimes erectile dysfunction is the reason men discover that they have a heart condition or diabetes that they didn’t realize they had. When high cholesterol causes plaque to build up in the blood vessels, it’s not only the heart that is affected. Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) can also affect a man’s ability to get an erection by restricting blood flow to the penis. Inability to maintain an erection can be a sign that a man has hypertension.

What Is the Treatment for ED?

The most common medical treatment for men with ED are PDE-5 medications (like Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra), which work to dilate the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. These ED drugs lower the blood pressure, which is why they cannot be used in conjunction with some other medications, including nitroglycerin or Imdur. If a man were to take both his ED pills and these medications, it could cause dangerously low blood pressure.

Some men experience side effects of taking these ED meds, including: headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, hot flushes, muscle pain, and diarrhea. In rare cases, men may have a painful erection that lasts longer than four hours (priapism), which can require medical treatment and/or cause permanent damage. If necessary, a doctor may numb the penis and use a needle to drain the blood that is trapped there, or use decongestant medications to help relieve the swelling. Other forms of therapy for ED include penile implants and penile injections. TCM acupuncture treatment for ED does not involve any needles inserted into the penis itself.

How Can Acupuncture Help ED?

man exercising in the sun
Acupuncture brings balance to the body, mind ,and emotions

According to TCM theory, ED is classified as a Jin Wei disorder and can follow one of a few patterns:

  1. Liver qi stagnation
  2. Blood stasis
  3. Kidney deficiency

TCM also acknowledges that stress, emotional and mental health disturbances are often a primary cause of ED, and seeks to incorporate counseling and awareness-building, both with the patient, and with the patient’s partner, if applicable. Sessions with a TCM provider usually involve plenty of discussion and feedback; patients feel heard and understood, which can go a long way towards relieving anxiety surrounding the ED or other sexual disorders.

TCM treatment for ED will include both acupuncture and herbs, which, combined, help to address the weakness or blockages that have developed around the liver and kidneys, strengthening the liver qi, relieving stagnation, and clearing dampness.

One study showed that, after a course of treatment including 3-5 acupuncture treatment sessions and daily herbal supplementation, almost half of the men reported satisfaction with the results. 

Another study found that about two-thirds of the men who received TCM treatment reported feeling that they were “cure,” while the other third reported improved erections, but still felt that they needed more help. The group who received placebo treatment did not report improvement.

 

Top 5 Tips for ED Men’s Fitness

man lifting weights
Building muscle can help boost testosterone levels.

The desire to overcome ED and get your sex life back on track can be a great motivation to clean up your diet and get rid of habits you know have been holding you back from peak men’s health. Your acupuncturist can help you plan the best diet for men to help regulate hormones, reduce cholesterol, improve circulation, boost heart health and energy.

  1. Eliminate alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs. You may feel like these substances help you to relax and get in the mood, but on a deeper physiological level, they are compounding the problem. 
  2. Get more exercise. Ideally, balance cardio with some weight training. Losing fat and building muscle will help to balance the hormones and increase testosterone levels.
  3. Take care of your mental health and emotional well-being. Foster open and honest communication about ED with your partner. Acquaint yourself with men’s and women’s health issues, so that you can care for each other with empathy.
  4. Reduce stress. Prioritize a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Making time for yourself through regular exercise, meditation, and healing modalities like acupuncture can help improve your performance in all other areas of your life
  5. Get adequate sleep. When the body doesn’t get the deep rest it needs, it can lose all kinds of functionality. 

Acupuncture Near Me for ED

ED is a sensitive men’s health issue. Knowing that it’s a common problem that affects lots of other men may help a little, but if ED is becoming a sexual problem that is negatively affecting your life and relationships, it’s worth it to seek out help for erectile dysfunction. If conventional medical treatment for ED isn’t working or isn’t an option, or if you want to take a more holistic approach that will help also boost your fertility and longevity, consider acupuncture treatment for ED. 

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 

 

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