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Acupuncture for Mental Health - TCM Clinic Toronto


Mental health overview

Our emotional, psychological, and social well-being affect how we feel, think, and act. It is also an important measure in determining how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from infant, childhood through adulthood.

Why is mental health important?

Mental health is as important as physical health to our overall health. For example, depression can increase the risk for many physical health issues, especailly chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. By the same token, the presence of chronic illnesses can increase the risk for mental health problems.

What causes mental health issues?

Our mental health is influenced by many factors, there is no single cause of mental illness. LIfe experiences, medical conditions and medications, use of substances, diet and lifestyle all play a role in the state of mental health.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) theory, diseases occur due to the disharmony of Qi and Blood. Mental illness is not an exemption. TCM believes the mental problem is the result of disharmony between different internal organs such as heart, spleen and liver. Any disturbance, blockage, deficiency or excess energy in those organs can result in mental health issues. These pathological problems can come from trauma, injury, unhealthy diet and lifestyle.

The latest science also reveals that our state of mind is strongly influenced by the health of our gut. Especially the function of Gut-Brain Axis(GBA), the bidirectional neural pathways between the brain and gut, plays an important role in mood and emotional regulation and the development of many mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, autism etc.

Treatments to improve mental health.

Many people suffering from mental illness get helped and recovered through psychotherapy treatment in individual or group settings. Examples of psychotherapy include: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, etc.

Medication is not a cure for mental illness on its own. However, it may help manage the symptoms and give the individual a break and recover. For many individuals, combining medication with psychotherapy is an effective way to recover.

However, there is no treatment(s) that works for everyone, even the one that works has its limits of how far they can help, as well as the side-effects from the medications for some patients.

Alternative treatment options for mental health

Many alternatives can help people to improve their mental health, regulate their emotions such as exercise, meditation, diet etc. Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), a time-honored holistic medicine, has its unique approach to help patients recover from mental illness.

Individuals can and should choose the treatment, or combination of treatments that work best for them. At Kampo Health, we provide Traditional Chinese medicine treatments for individuals who are seeking holistic and natural solutions for their mental health and well being.

How can Chinese medicine improve mental health?

Chinese medicine recognizes the mind-body connections and has developed various techniques to improve the state of mind and emotional balance.

Chinese medicine physicians have noticed the connection between digestive health and brain function. Many herbal formulas that treat mental health issues have digestive herbs in it. In my own clinical experience, many digestive formulas also have positive effects on mental health. In terms of acupuncture, many acupuncture points that used to improve mental health are actually on digestive organ meridians such as stomach, liver and large intestine meridians.

TCM practitioners examine the body, mind and spirit as a whole in order to identify where the disharmony occurs, and then implementing the treatment, in the forms of herbs, acupuncture, physical therapy, body-mind exercises etc to address the issues.

What Chinese herbs can help emotional and mental Health?

Traditionally, Kampo/TCM uses herbs as the main treatment for mental and emotional conditions. TCM herbalists will assess the overall health of the patients to find the underlying issues that disrupt the connections between the organs and affect the state of mind. There are many herbs that can be used to help mental health. Here are some of the herbs that I use in the clinic to address mental health: Pinellia(Ban Xia), Peony root(Shao Yao), Bupleurum(Chai Hu), Cinnamon(Gui Zhi), Licorice root(Gan Cao). To learn more details about how to use Chinese herbs to treat mental health conditions, you can read my post (Blog Post: My go-to Chinese herbs for mental health issues.)

Can acupuncture help anxiety and depression?

Acupuncture is widely used in Asian and Western countries to treat diverse conditions. Recent researches have found that acupuncture can trigger nerve signaling and reduce inflammation. Those findings may be the mechanism behind why people use acupuncture to help their pain and mood issues. In Chinese medicine theory, any dis-eases, physically or mentally, is due to the disturbance of the normal flow of Qi and blood in our body. By applying acupuncture along the meridians that regulate the circulation and organ functions, we can restore the internal balances and therefore relieve physical and emotional dis-ease.

Over-activated sympathetic nervous responses(aka “flight or fight”) is very common in modern society due to chronic stress. Our nervous sytems are “wired” up all the time and we are having a hard time relaxing. In my clinic, I found acupuncture is very effective to turn off the sympathetic nervous system and bring a deep relaxed state to patients. This action has many downstream therapeutic effects including mood, pain, and inflammation management.

How acupuncture helps a variety of mental health issues?

Some mental health issues that acupuncture has explored include:

Anxiety and Stress: Acupuncture may help promote relaxation and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Some people report feeling calmer and more balanced after acupuncture sessions.

Depression: Acupuncture has been studied as a complementary therapy for depression. Some studies suggest that it may help alleviate symptoms and improve mood in some individuals.

Insomnia: Acupuncture may be used to address sleep disturbances and improve sleep quality. It is thought to help regulate the body’s energy flow and promote relaxation, which could contribute to better sleep.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Acupuncture has been investigated as a potential supportive therapy for individuals with PTSD. It may help reduce certain symptoms, such as hyperarousal and anxiety.

Substance Abuse and Addiction: Acupuncture has been explored as an adjunct therapy for substance abuse and addiction. Some research suggests that it could help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Mood Swings and Emotional Imbalances: Acupuncture is thought to influence the body’s energy pathways (meridians) and may help balance emotional states, potentially benefiting mood swings and emotional instability.

Natural Treatment of Insomnia and Anxiety with TCM Acupuncture

Kampo Health provides comprehensive assessment and various treatments for your mental health issues. We utilize acupuncture, herbs and other TCM modalities to improve patients mental and physical health naturally.

As a Kampo herbalist, I have used classic Chinese herbal formulas and acupuncture to treat many mental health issues such as insomnia, anxiety, ADHD, depression. Some patients came in for their mental health, some came for other complaints and found the TCM treatments also helped their mental and emotional well-being.

Please read my clinical case: Natural Treatment of Insomnia and Anxiety with TCM Acupuncture