Nausea & vomiting are conditions that are often associated with chemotherapy, pregnancy, or eating disorders, and even influenza. While sometimes unavoidable, the feeling of nausea and vomiting can be abated with acupuncture treatments. Here’s how acupuncture works for nausea and vomiting.
Acupuncture & TCM Treatment
In order to understand why acupuncture for nausea/vomiting works, we have to understand how & why nausea comes about in the first place.
Nausea comes from having the Chemoreceptor Trigger Zone (CTZ) and vomiting center in the brain stimulated.
Does Acupuncture Help Nausea?
Acupuncture treatment has anti-emetic effects that stem from the increase of beta-endorphins and ACTH hormones (adrenocorticotropic hormone), ultimately halting the CTZ and vomiting center. In addition, acupuncture affects the upper GI tract, lowering acid secretion and easing abnormal rhythms in the stomach.
Traditional Chinese medicine treatment includes a certain set of acupuncture points that are best suited for the treatment of nausea & vomiting in eastern medicine.
There is one point that is popular for the particular condition of nausea & vomiting whether with acupuncture or acupressure and that’s PC6 or Neiguan. PC6 is known in English as the Inner Pass, and located 2 cun above the wrist crease between the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis.
PC6 point is easy to reach, so many patients can be instructed to apply acupressure at home to reduce nausea. Other common indications of this point include cardiac & chest pain, palpitations, hiccups, mental disorders, epilepsy related seizures, fevers, insomnia, and, of course, nausea & vomiting.
It should be noted that PC6 is right above the median nerve and needling may elicit an electric sensation. If this happens, this indicates that further manipulation of the needle is not needed and should stop to avoid overstimulation of the region of nerves.
Acupuncture Points for Nausea:
- KD19 – Yin Metropolis – Yin Du – 4 cun above CV8, .5 cun lateral to CV12
- KD26 – Lively Center – Yuzhong – in the 1st ICS, 2 cun lateral to CV20
- ST36 – Leg Three Li – Zusanli – 3 cun below ST35, one finger width lateral from the anterior border of the tibia.
There are not as many points specifically for nausea alone. Most points are involving both nausea and vomiting or are for vomiting alone.
Acupuncture Points for Vomiting:
- KD18 – Stone Pass – Shiguan – 3 cun above CV8, .5 cun lateral to CV11
- LU1 – Central Treasury – Zhong Fu – 6 cun lateral to the anterior midline, level with the 1st ICS
- ST19 – Not Contained – Burong – 2 cun lateral to the AML level with CV14
- UB19 – Gallbladder Shu – Dan Shu – 1.5 cun lateral to the GV7, level with T10
- KD26 – Lively Center – Yuzhong – in the 1st ICS 2 cun lateral to CV20
Herbs for Nausea & Vomiting
In addition to acupuncture for nausea & vomiting, the use of herbs and herbal formulas have been known to be useful for these particular conditions. Again, these items seem to be much more mainstream than perhaps some other herbs for different conditions. The use of herbs for nausea & vomiting seem to be widely accepted by the western world, and, in fact, favored as western medicine is also looking for more natural remedies for these conditions.
Traditional Chinese Herbs for Nausea & Vomiting:
- Chinese Basil
- Fermented Soybean
Furthermore, there are Chinese herbal formulas that are known to help nausea & vomiting. If you are well-versed and licensed in herbology, these could definitely be recommended to your patients depending on their needs.
Herbal Formulas for Nausea & Vomiting:
- Huo Xiang – Patchouli – this is an aromatic herb that transforms dampness; it has a warm & acrid taste; influencing the lung, spleen, & stomach channels.
- Mu Xiang – Costus Root – this is a herb that regulates qi; warm, bitter, & acrid taste; influencing the gall bladder, large intestine, spleen, & stomach channels.
- Chai Hu – Thorowax Root, Bupleurum – this is an herb that releases exterior wind heat; it has a bitter, acrid, & cool taste; influencing the gall bladder, liver, pericardium, & triple heather channels.
- Pei Lan – Orchid – this is an aromatic herb that transforms dampness; it has a neutral & acrid taste; influencing the spleen & stomach channels.
Not to be discounted are some at home remedies patients can try. There are many herbs and/or simple herbal formulas that you can prescribe patients that will aid in their recovery from nausea and vomiting. A big concern, especially with vomiting, is dehydration, so recommending an herb that can maintain hydration is key.
Home Remedies for Nausea & Vomiting:
- Homemade Ginger Tea – use 2 inch long slices of fresh ginger and boil it in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Strain and sip slowly. Drink as often as need to keep nausea at bay, and can be sweetened with honey if the ginger is too spicy.
- Homemade Cinnamon Clove Tea – into 3 cups of boiling water add 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 teaspoon of ground cloves, steeping in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain and drink 3 cups a day.
Research on Acupuncture for Nausea & Vomiting
Acupuncture’s ability to boost energy flow, send the proper signals & hormones to the brain, and halt the chemicals in the body that create nausea is nothing short of miraculous; not to mention helpful to the world at large. Luckily, the western world has noticed its benefits for quite some time now for the conditions of nausea & vomiting. To date, there are more than three dozen randomized controlled trial studies that have been published in regards to the benefits of acupuncture point stimulation to treat and prevent nausea & vomiting.
Just to name a few, a meta-analysis conducted in 2013 reviewed acupuncture’s efficiency involving 30 randomized control trial groups, finding acupuncture to be efficient, safe, and economically wise for prevention and treatment of nausea & vomiting.
Another study in 2015 on acupuncture for the prevention of chemotherapy induced nausea found acupuncture to be effective while promoting better quality of life for chemotherapy patients.
Lastly, a study done in 2019 on acupuncture for vomiting induced by chemotherapy of lung cancer found it to have a positive effect on the prevention and treatment of it. To top it off, researchers are currently working on a systematic review & meta-analysis on acupuncture for prevention of chemotherapy induced nausea & vomiting launched just this January in 2020.
It is an exciting subject to keep up with in the field of acupuncture as much of the western world is on board with it. More large scale studies are on the way to add to the already positive outcomes received for acupuncture for nausea & vomiting.
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