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What You Should Know About Acupuncture for Hepatitis C

Nicole Cutler L.Ac.

August 27, 2010

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Learn the facts about how acupuncture can help chronic Hepatitis C – and what feats are beyond its reach.

Acupuncture treatments are often considered to help those with Hepatitis C, the most common chronic blood borne pathogen in the United States. Affecting over four million Americans, chronic Hepatitis C can progress to advanced liver disease – a severe, potentially fatal condition. Although recent pharmaceutical developments look promising, the current treatment for Hepatitis C is effective in only about half of those infected. Without a guaranteed cure, many people look for help outside of the pharmaceutical industry.

Benefiting people with liver diseases for at least 2,000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has many approaches for combating Hepatitis C; the most well known of which is acupuncture. Despite the success many have had with acupuncture, fears and misconceptions still keep others from experiencing its benefits. Several of the myths that perpetuate acupuncture’s misunderstanding, include:

  • Myth - Hepatitis C is easily spread through acupuncture.
  • Truth - While sharing contaminated needles can transmit this blood borne virus, today’s acupuncturists only use sterile, single-use, disposable needles. When used appropriately by a licensed acupuncturist, there is no risk of Hepatitis C transmission.
  • Myth – Acupuncture is painful.
  • Truth – Most acupuncture recipients experience gentle sensations from acupuncture needles that range from warmth to tingling to heaviness. For those who are particularly sensitive to acupuncture, TCM practitioners can use pediatric needles to prevent any painful sensations.
  • Myth – Acupuncture can cure Hepatitis C.
  • Truth – Acupuncture treatments can help many aspects of chronic Hepatitis C infection (ease symptoms, strengthen immunity and improve liver function), but claims that it can cure this virus are not valid.

One of the tenets of TCM is that each person is treated as an individual, based on his or her specific presentation. Thus, acupuncture treatments for Hepatitis C are custom-tailored to the recipient. When it comes to scientifically proving its effectiveness, this customized approach is acupuncture’s predominant weakness. This is because respectable clinical trials rely on treatment uniformity to arrive at a reproducible conclusion. Regardless of this challenge, anecdotal evidence and several studies favor acupuncture’s use for Hepatitis C.

Devised for several of the most common ways Hepatitis C is presented, acupuncture protocols have successfully helped people infected with the virus decrease symptoms, normalize or lower liver enzymes and slow the progression of liver disease:

  • A 1995 pilot study conducted among people co-infected with HIV and viral Hepatitis (B and C) at San Francisco’s Quan Yin Healing Arts Center indicated acupuncture alone may have an effect in lowering and/or normalizing liver enzyme levels.
  • Published in a June 2010 issue of Acupuncture in Medicine, Turkish researchers found that depressive symptoms and myalgia (muscle pain) that are commonly seen in patients with chronic Hepatitis B and C can be relieved significantly with acupuncture.
  • Published in an August 2010 edition of Neuroscience Letters, a Brazilian study found that acupuncture increased T-cell proliferation, an effect known to strengthen the immune system.
  • Published in a June 2010 issue of Medical Acupuncture, researchers from Oregon investigated acupuncture’s effectiveness at reducing adverse side effects from interferon therapy for Hepatitis C. They found that acupuncture offered significant benefits to patients treated with interferon for Hepatitis C in decreasing muscle aches, fatigue, irritability and nausea.

Acupuncture is typically painless and does not carry a risk of disease transmission; however, it is not a reliable means to eliminate Hepatitis C. Instead, acupuncture should be utilized as a powerful adjunct to traditional medical therapies. Until the pharmaceutical industry creates a more effective treatment regimen for Hepatitis C, acupuncture appears to be a drug-free method capable of reducing symptoms, fortifying the immune system and improving liver function.


http://aim.bmj.com/content/early/2010/06/04/aim.2009.002170.abstract, Acupuncture for depression and myalgia in patients with hepatitis: an observational study, Zeliha Kocak Tufan, et al, Acupuncture in Medicine, June 2010.

http://www.acufinder.com/Acupuncture+Information/Detail/Chinese+Traditional+Medicine+for+Hepatitis+C, Chinese Traditional Medicine for Hepatitis C, Dr. Misha Cohen, OMD, L.Ac., Retrieved August 21, 2010, docmisha.com, 2010.

http://www.docmisha.com/applying/hepatitisc/hepatitisc.htm, Hepatitis C Help, Misha Cohen, OMD, L.Ac., Retrieved August 21, 2010, Misha Ruth Cohen, 2010.

http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acu.2010.0740, Acupuncture for Adverse Effects of Interferon Therapy for Hepatitis C Infection, Diane Miller MD, et al, Retrieved August 22, 2010, Medical Acupuncture, June 2010.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20709154, Acupuncture is Effective to Attenuate Stress and Stimulate Lymphocyte Proliferation in the Elderly, Pavao TS, et al, Retrieved August 22, 2010, Neuroscience Letters, August 2010.

http://www.pacificcollege.edu/acupuncture-massage-publications/acupuncture-for-cirrhosis.html, Acupuncture for Cirrhosis, Retrieved August 22, 2010, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, 2010.

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Posted by Nicole Cutler L.Ac. on August 27, 2010

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