Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine for Hormone Balance

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Written by Robyn Brush, LAc—Licensed Acupuncturist at Wiseman Family Practice

Our hormones are the chemical messengers responsible for regulating nearly every function our bodies perform. It is because of our hormones that we are able to break down and utilize the food we eat, regulate body temperature and blood pressure, fall asleep at night, and wake up in the morning. Hormone imbalance occurs when our body produces too much or too little of specific hormones, and can lead to symptoms such as weight loss or weight gain, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, anxiety, changes in libido or sexual function, or hair loss, among many others. Most people will experience a hormonal imbalance at some point during the course of their lives.

Acupuncture has a long history of being used to treat hormonal imbalance, with a promising amount of medical research documenting its success. For example, one study documented an ability of regular acupuncture treatments to raise estrogen levels, stabilize levels of the hormones involved in ovulation, and restore regular menstruation in patients with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (1). In another study, regular acupuncture treatments proved to be more effective than physical exercise regimens at decreasing testosterone levels, increasing menstrual frequency, and reducing acne in women with PCOS (2). Additionally, an animal model study demonstrated the effectiveness of regular acupuncture in lowering cortisol levels to baseline as well as reducing blood pressure and heart rate in rats that had experienced chronic mild stress (3).

How Does Acupuncture Work to Regulate Hormones?

You may wonder how acupuncture can raise certain hormone levels in some individuals and lower different hormone levels in others. Acupuncture has widespread and varying effects, all of which help to bring the body into a more balanced state. It targets underlying patterns of disharmony in the body, addressing the root cause of dysfunction, while simultaneously alleviating the present symptoms. The human body contains hundreds of acupuncture points, each of which performs a different function. Your acupuncturist will complete a detailed assessment at your visit in order to choose a set of points that is highly tailored to your own individual needs. Insertion of these tiny, sterile needles causes a release of several chemicals, hormones, and signaling molecules, ultimately sending messages to the brain that work to restore homeostasis to the body (4).

Herbal Remedies for Hormone Balance

Another important component of your treatment with a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner is the incorporation of herbal medicine in your treatment plan. Part of the reason that herbs can be so effective at treating hormonal imbalance is that some of these herbs act on hormone receptors. Those that interact with estrogen receptors, for example, are commonly referred to as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens have been shown to bind to estrogen receptors, but with a much weaker effect than estrogen itself. They are therefore thought to be beneficial for both menopausal symptoms associated with naturally dropping estrogen levels as well as the symptoms of estrogen dominance, by blocking the harmful effects of xenoestrogens — endocrine-disrupting pollutants we may be exposed to from our environment (5).  Chinese herbal formulas are also commonly used to promote healthy levels of thyroid hormones, progesterone, testosterone, and more.

Always keep in mind that herbal remedies can have powerful effects on the body, and need to be prescribed in the correct combinations with the right dosage. Certain herbs are contraindicated for particular conditions, such as estrogen-sensitive cancers, and many are not recommended to take during pregnancy. If you would like to use herbal remedies to improve your hormone balance, speak with your TCM practitioner to be evaluated for the correct formula and to check for any possible interactions with your current medication/supplement regimen.

Examples of Hormonal Conditions that Traditional Chinese Medicine Can Help Treat:

• Male and female infertility
• Menopausal and peri-menopausal symptoms
• Clinical or subclinical hyper- or hypothyroidism
• PCOS and ovarian cysts
• Endometriosis
• PMS or PMDD
• Uterine fibroids
• Low testosterone in both males and females
• Adrenal fatigue
• Irregular, absent, heavy, or painful menstrual periods
• Diabetes

We currently provide acupuncture services at Wiseman Family Practice. To learn more about our Wiseman Acupuncture services or to make an appointment with our licensed acupuncturist (LAc), visit  Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine on our website for more information.

 

Sources and References:

  1. Zhou, et al. (2013, Feb 28). Electroacupuncture Modulates Reproductive Hormone Levels in Patients with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency: Results from a Prospective Observational Study
    Retrieved on November 13, 2021 from
    https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/657234
  2. Jedel, et al. (2011, Jan 1). Impact of electro-acupuncture and physical exercise on hyperandrogenism and oligo/amenorrhea in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial
    Retrieved on November 13, 2021 from
    https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpendo.00495.2010?rfr_dat=cr_pub++0pubmed&url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org
  3. Liu, et al. (2013, Jan 29). Effects of Electroacupuncture at Auricular Concha Region on the Depressive Status of Unpredictable Chronic Mild Stress Rat Models
    Retrieved on November 14, 2021 from
    https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/789674/
  4. Burnstock, Geoffrey (2009, July 22). Acupuncture: A novel hypothesis for the involvement of purinergic signalling.
    Retrieved on November 15, 2021 from
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306987709003971
  5. Abernathy, Sarah (2021, July 16). Clearing up the Confusion on Phytoestrogens.
    Retrieved on November 14, 2021 from
    https://natural-fertility-info.com/phytoestrogens-hormones.html