For more than 2,000 years, Chinese healthcare practitioners have been sticking small, super-thin needles into people’s skin to better their health.
Western medical experts initially pooh-poohed the practice, known as acupuncture. They saw it as just another form of placebo-effect, sham medicine.
But they’re not laughing anymore.
Because researchers are now finding that electroacupuncture, the simple technique of applying acupuncture needles into acupuncture points accompanied by a tiny amount of electricity, can have profound benefits for the human body.
I’m a long-time fan of traditional acupuncture, having been treated it with it for decades. I’ve never tried the electrified kind, but after learning about this, I just might. . .
The latest discovery involves stem cells – cells that are vitally important to the body’s ability to repair itself. These basic cells, as you probably know, can help us regenerate a wide range of our body parts when we need healing. A stem cell can turn into almost any other kind of cell – heart, lung, liver, etc.
They’re like money you can use to buy any body part you need. Just as a dollar can buy a car, a loaf of bread, a movie ticket, a haircut or anything else on the market, a stem cell can get for you almost anything your body needs. If you have a large number of stem cells, you’re wealthy indeed.
While some high-tech investigators have been looking into how we can use expensive equipment to generate more of these priceless treasures, researchers at Indiana University have found that electroacupuncture can activate these cells and accelerate healing.1
The result – extra pain relief and the regeneration of injured tissue.
It turns out that this form of acupuncture sets off a neurological mechanism involving the brain that relieves the pain of injuries and speeds up tissue repair to boot.
During the study, the Indiana scientists worked with about 40 other scientists at academic centers in the United States and South Korea.
They tested the effects of electroacupuncture on people, rodents and horses. They tracked the influence of the electric current from the acupuncture points (which can be on a leg, a finger or anywhere) as it made its way up to the area of the brain that was stimulated. They found the treatment led to the release of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) into the bloodstream.
Stimulation For Stem Cells
In humans, the researchers found that electroacupuncture activated the hypothalamus – a section of the brain linked to control of the nervous system and involuntary bodily functions like digestion and heart rate. The hypothalamus began responding within nine to 22 minutes after the electroacupuncture was performed. The stem cells started to enter the circulation after about two hours.
The tests showed that the electroacupuncture therapy reduced pain from injuries and significantly boosted the mobilization of collagen – a protein used to support the body’s connective tissues. The collagen, in turn, promoted the repair of tendons, decreased harmful inflammation and led to faster healing.
In the research, the scientists treated horses that had been injured during training for international dressage competitions, as well as six people who didn’t have injuries. In each case the tests showed that the hypothalamus was activated and extra stem cells were circulating through the body.
“We could potentially capture the MSCs from an individual’s blood following electroacupuncture and save the cells for future re-introduction in the patient post-surgery or to treat chronic pain due to an injury,” says researcher Fletcher A. White.
In short, people might be able to use this technique to generate and bank stem cells for future use, when they’re desperately needed.
Stem Cells Might Save Your Heart
Another study, this one in China, shows that electroacupuncture can also be used to help stem cells repair the heart after a heart attack.
This lab test, on animals, didn’t measure the extra release of stem cells. Instead, after a heart attack, stem cells were injected into animals that also received elctroacupuncture. The tests showed that performing electroacupuncture helped the stem cells survive longer and boosted their ability to restore heart function.2
Moving Energy Around
Traditional Chinese Medicine holds that acupuncture removes blockages to qi (pronounced “chee”), the body’s fundamental energy or life force, if you will. Western medical science so far doesn’t have any room for the concept of qi.
But what has to be accepted is that electroacupuncture produces benefits we can now measure. And that’s another sign that traditional, natural medicine contains health secrets of immense importance.