One of the under-appreciated effects of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is their ability to influence hormones and the body’s endocrine system. Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They travel in the bloodstream to tissues or organs. Their effect is substantial; stimulating and regulating growth, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and mood. (Medline Plus) We know scientifically that Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can mitigate or enhance hormone function through its effects on the body’s Humeral, Neurological, Nervous and even Cellular systems. One vital hormone that Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine profoundly affect is Cortisol.

Cortisol is an important hormone that responds to stress. Through interaction between part of your brain called the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and your adrenal glands, Cortisol is secreted to manage your needs for “fight or flight”. When working optimally, Cortisol keeps inflammation low, regulates your blood pressure and blood sugar and helps regulate your sleep cycles. When your body is over-stressed and cortisol excretion is excessive, anxiety, depression, insomnia, heart disease and weight gain can occur. The good news is that Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can regulate and maintain appropriate Cortisol excretion.

Dr. Li Zheng, a staff acupuncturist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, cited two studies demonstrating Acupuncture’s success at regulating Cortisol. In the first study, edema in rat paws was reduced using Electro-Acupuncture. The Acupuncture in this study, “significantly increased plasma levels of Cortisol, (relieving the inflammation and edema) but caused no negative signs of stress, such as increased blood sugar levels”.  (Zheng, L. April, 2010. Acupuncture and Adrenal Gland Functions. Retrieved from http://acupuncture.com)

In the second study, patients receiving acupuncture and general anesthesia before undergoing heart and lung surgery showed no significant increase in their plasma Cortisol levels and much smaller increases in their blood glucose levels than patients receiving only anesthesia or only acupuncture. (Zheng, L. April, 2010. Acupuncture and Adrenal Gland Functions. Retrieved from http://acupuncture.com)

Dr. Zheng explains how Acupuncture can achieve these results:

Acupuncture can generally balance thyroid, adrenal gland and other gland functions so bodies need more Cortisol. Acupuncture stimulates the adrenal gland to produce more by enhancing its function instead of exhausting it, as caffeine does. When our bodies produce too much Cortisol to cope with stress, acupuncture reduces Cortisol production by eliminating the stress factor and enhancing liver and kidney function to quickly discharge the extra stress hormone. (Zheng, L. April, 2010. Acupuncture and Adrenal Gland Functions. (Retrieved from http://acupuncture.com)

If regulating your Cortisol or hormone levels through Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is right for you, please contact our office at SOPHIA Natural Health Center for a free consultation at 203-740-9300.


Jim Fitzpatrick L.Ac.
Acupuncture Resident, SOPHIA Natural Health Center

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