Acupuncture + Curcumin = Potent Duo for Liver Health
Affecting at least 30 million Americans, chronic liver disease impacts people from all walks of life. There are many possible causes of chronic liver disease, but infection with the Hepatitis C virus is one of the most prevalent and hazardous. In addition to eliminating the source of illness, reducing liver fibrosis is the therapeutic goal for all of those burdened with chronic liver disease. Although there is currently no FDA-approved pharmaceutical agent that can reduce liver fibrosis, a combination of complementary medical methods holds promise.
What Is Liver Fibrosis?
Chronic liver disease causes damage to liver cells. Common causes of chronic liver disease include:
- the Hepatitis B virus
- the Hepatitis C virus
- chemical toxicity
- autoimmune disease
- fatty liver
Normally, damaged liver cells have the ability to regenerate and repair. However, chronic liver disease repeatedly injures liver cells, and the damage outpaces the cells’ regenerative ability. This leads to scarring in the liver, otherwise known as liver fibrosis. On a cellular level, liver fibrosis is the excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins including collagen.
If the fibrosis flourishes and becomes severe, cirrhosis can result. Cirrhosis is the permanent hardening and shrinking of the liver and is indicative of advanced chronic liver disease. Those with cirrhosis have a much bleaker outlook than those who are able to reduce or even reverse liver fibrosis. Cirrhosis can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and portal hypertension and may require liver transplantation for survival.
The Fibrosis-Fighting Duo
Chinese researchers have found that combining acupuncture with curcumin supplementation protects the liver from fibrosis.
- Acupuncture – A form of Chinese medicine that has been practiced for centuries, acupuncture is based on the theory that energy flows through and around your body along specific channels. Acupuncture involves inserting extremely thin needles into the skin along these channels to unblock or balance a person’s energy.
- Curcumin – Curcumin is the active constituent in turmeric, and is responsible for the spice’s bright yellow color. Turmeric is the principle spice in curry, contributing to this dish’s health-promoting properties. Curcumin is a principle polyphenol in Jiang Huang, a member of the ginger family of herbs used for enhancing blood circulation in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The Research Promoting this Duo
Published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine in 2012, Chinese researchers performed an investigation on laboratory rats with liver fibrosis comparing curcumin, true acupuncture, true acupuncture plus curcumin, and sham acupuncture. (Sham acupuncture is the insertion of acupuncture needles at locations that are not located on an acupuncture channel, and not considered therapeutic.) Besides finding significant protective effects of acupuncture on the liver, the researchers discovered a synergistic effect of curcumin plus acupuncture – with this duo demonstrating an even greater level of liver protection. In the researchers’ words, “acupuncture plus curcumin ‘potently protected the liver’ from injury and fibrogenesis.”
- Western – From the Western medical perspective, acupuncture and curcumin were effective because of reductions in laboratory measurements of liver fibrosis markers (serum aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, hyaluronic acid, laminin and procollagen-3, alpha smooth muscle actin, extracellular matrix, fibronection, and alpha-1 collagen). In addition, histologic findings showed changes in collagen, fibronectin proteins, TIMP-1, serum hyaluronic acid and laminin that points to liver fibrosis reduction.
- Chinese – From the Chinese medical perspective, these two are synergistic because the acupuncture protocol used in the study (Acupoints Liver 14, Liver 3, Stomach 36 and Bladder 18) directs energy movement towards the liver while the curcumin stimulates blood circulation. Thus, the increase in blood and energy circulation that is directed at the liver encourages liver cell regeneration while stimulating movement of congested toxins (or viruses or excessive fat) out of the liver.
Luckily, an expensive prescription is not necessary to protect your liver from advancing fibrosis. By shifting out of the Western medical paradigm, you can open up to options that are both logical and effective. Especially for those with Hepatitis C, combining acupuncture treatments with curcumin supplementation will provide some additional insurance against the development of cirrhosis.
Editor’s Note: Turmeric 95, Milk Thistle with Artichoke & Turmeric, LiverSupport & Detox and Clinical LiverSupport all contain turmeric standardized to 95 percent curcumin, the highest curcumin content available.
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http://www.itmonline.org/arts/fibrosis.htm, Treatment and Prevention of Liver Fibrosis, Subhuti Dharmananda, PhD, Retrieved April 3, 2016, Institute for Traditional Medicine, 2016.
http://www.liverfoundation.org/education/liverlowdown/ll1013/bigpicture/, Liver Disease: The Big Picture, Retrieved April 3, 2016, American Liver Foundation, 2016.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22366645, Acupuncture combined with curcumin attenuates carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatic fibrosis in rats, Zhang F, et al, Retrieved April 3, 2016, Acupuncture in Medicine, June 2012.
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