When I was an intern, my teacher, Althea, told me that the acupuncture needles, when placed in the right places, open our bodies’ exterior for the universal energy, the Qi, to clear out the gunk…the toxins and impurities that congest our bodies.
Now, after 22 years of clinical practice, 3 years of pre-med and 7 years of scientific research I have a scientific explanation for why acupuncture detoxifies the body.
The mechanism behind the action is the local inflammatory response. The local inflammatory response occurs when the skin is invaded by something, such as a needle prick, and the warrior cells inside the body react and attack the invader.
The skin is filled with tiny blood vessels called capillaries. The tiny capillaries are not normally filled with blood, they sit by…waiting to be brought to action when needed. The capillaries are so small that red blood cells have to line up one by one to move through the capillary. They are literally the width of 1 red blood cell. Our immune cells…our cellular warriors are the white blood cells. White blood cells are more than twice the size of the red blood cells. So for the white blood cells to fit inside the capillaries, the capillaries must dilate, or open up larger, to allow the while blood cells to pass through.
When a needle invades the skin the capillaries dilate to more than twice their size to allow white blood cell warriors to come and attack any bacteria that might have invaded the skin and platelets, our clotting cells, to plug up the hole. These cells flow with more red blood cells which explain the pink color we see around a cut or a pin prick.
Blood flows away from the heart…out to the skin through arteries. Then the blood returns back to the heart through our veins. As the blood moves from the arteries to the veins, it picks up extra fluid that’s hanging out in the surrounding tissue around the pin prick. Sometimes, as we get older and less active, blood rarely fills the capillaries and old fluid builds up in our tissues close to the skin. Arteries, veins and capillaries close to the skin become weak from lack of use. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) or venous insufficiency occurs in many aging people and is due to weak unused veins and arteries.
As each acupuncture needle enters the skin, the capillaries dilate and open up to twice their size, blood flows freely and fills the tissue, and as the blood moves from the arteries to the veins, it picks up old fluid in the surrounding tissue, and brings it back to the heart through the veins. That old fluid from the tissues is filtered by the liver and the kidneys and purified before it makes it to the heart. Any leftover impurities are filtered by the lungs and exhaled when we breathe.
Sometimes during a detoxifying acupuncture treatment, we can smell the impurities as they’re moved through the body and exhaled from the lung. Sometimes the smell is very strong!
I had a patient years ago who released a lot of food toxins during acupuncture, while I was working at a western medicine pain center. The patient was a young healthy natural girl who dressed a little like a hippie and told me she ate only organic food. She was seeing me for digestive complaints. I gathered her information, made a diagnosis and inserted about 25 acupuncture needles and allowed her to rest with soft music. When I returned to the room to check on her in 10 minutes, there was a strong smell of fast food that filled the whole pain center. The nurses all smelled it and asked “Who went to McDonalds?” When I removed the needles after 20 minutes, I had to talk to the patient about her secret fast food addiction. At first she tried to lie saying that she never ate fast food, and then she gave up the charade and confessed that for years she’s been addicted to Big Mac’s.
Another time I had a patient who worked at a chocolate shop. After her needles were in for 10 minutes the chocolate smell that filled the room was wonderful! We all loved it when she came for acupuncture because of the wonderful smell of chocolate. She sold very fine quality chocolate at her shop.
Many people think of detoxifying…out with the old…in with the new. If you don’t have access to a good acupuncturist, try some other ways to detoxify using the same principles I’ve discussed. Sit in a sauna or a steam room until you build up a good sweat. Take a hot bath until you sweat. Do some cardiovascular exercise and sweat. If you sweat, it’s a sign that the blood has come to the surface of the skin, and when it returns to the heart, it will collect old gunky fluid from the tissues and bring it to the kidney and liver for purifying.
Written by Jennifer Stone