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Immune & Respiratory

Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)
A study on the clinical efficacy and safety of acupuncture in the treatment of Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis was performed at the RMIT University in Australia. Thirty subjects were randomly assigned to two groups with 17 and 13 subjects respectively and treated with real or sham acupuncture (three times per week) for four consecutive weeks and then a crossover for treatments for a further four weeks without a washout period.

CONCLUSION: Twenty-six (26) subjects completed the study. There was a significant improvement (nasal and non-nasal symptoms) in those receiving real acupuncture treatments. No side effects were observed for both groups. The results indicate that acupuncture is an effective and safe alternative treatment for the management of Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis.
PMID: 12067084 PubMed

Chronic Allergic Rhinitis
Another study was published in the June 2002 Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine with 90 patients with chronic allergic rhinitis and 30 healthy volunteers. The allergic subjects showed a significant reduction of IL-10 (allergy-mediated immune cells) after a specific treatment with acupuncture (P < 0.05). On the other hand, in those patients treated with sham acupuncture (B2) as well as in non-treated patients (B3), the IL-I0 values remained high and unchanged. There was also a statistically significant change in IL-2 values at 24 hours (P < 0.05) after real acupuncture (Groups A, B 1).

CONCLUSION: The acupuncture treatment can reduce plasma level of IL-l0 in chronic allergic rhinitis, thereby reducing the allergic reaction.

In an article for the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Kim Jobst, M.D. of Oxford University reported that the use of Acupuncture as an aid in respiratory ailments might be safer than the prolonged use of drugs. Jobst collected research on chronic lung diseases treated by acupuncture for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Evaluating 16 separate studies, he says that acupuncture was effective in 62% of cases. When “sham” acupuncture was re-evaluated, 80% of the research showed that acupuncture may work.

As reported in the World Journal of Acupuncture, 60 patients were assigned to two equal groups, half getting acupuncture and half Western Medicine. After 2 months, the Acupuncture group was significantly better (P<0.05), with IgA and CD8/CD4 lymphocytes in normal range, but not so with the controls.
Chronic Obstructive Bronchitis
Another randomized controlled clinical trial of 70 patients with Chronic Obstructive Bronchitis showed a significant improvement from baseline, as compared to the control group. Airway permeability, pulmonary hemodynamics and the functional state of respiratory muscles all improved, and medications were decreased in the Acupuncture group.

Common Cold
Kawakita K, et al Japan Acupuncture and Moxibustion Center.326 people were randomly placed in two groups: an acupuncture group and a no-treatment control group. Treatments were performed four times during the 2-week experimental period with a 2-week follow-up period. A common cold diary was scored daily for 4 weeks, and a common cold questionnaire was scored before each acupuncture treatment and twice at weekly intervals.

Statistically significantly fewer symptoms were reported by the acupuncture group than by the control group. No severe adverse event was reported. A significantly positive effect of acupuncture was demonstrated in the summed questionnaire data. It was concluded that using acupuncture for symptoms of the common cold symptoms should be considered.

Immune System
1) The Effects of Acupuncture on the Immune Systemm
Acupuncture is effective in treating certain aspects of infectious diseases. Experimental research has clearly shown that acupuncture may reduce fever, increase the production of antibodies, and increase the body's resistance to inflammation.

The use of acupuncture in preventing infections is derived from its effect upon phagocytosis and the production of antibodies. Studies by the Beijing Medical School have shown that when acupuncture points ST-36 and LI-4 are needled on a healthy person, phagocytization of Staphylococcus Aureus by leukocytes increased from one to two times. The ability of the cells to phagocytize is also raised. The highest value occurs twenty-four hours after needling. Using acupuncture to cure bacillary dysentery in the clinic, it was discovered that the phagocytic function of the leukocytes began to increase three hours after needling.

2) Unique immunomodulation by electroacupuncture in humans,
possibly via stimulation of the autonomic nervous system
Mori H, Dept Acupuncture, Tsukuba College of Technology, Tsukuba, Japan

Cumulative evidence suggests that immunologic responses are under the regulation of the autonomic nervous system. Since acupuncture has recently been reported to modulate the autonomic nervous system, we investigated the possibility that acupuncture eventually modulates the immune system. In the present study, electroacupuncture was applied in young volunteer subjects. The proportions of granulocytes and lymphocytes in the blood were divided into three groups: (1) granulocytosis and lymphocytopenia; (2) granulocytopenia and lymphocytosis; and (3) normal pattern.

Interestingly, with the administration of acupuncture, the status of subjects with relatively low levels of granulocytes and high levels of lymphocytes both shifted to Group 1, whereas that of subjects with high levels of granulocytes and low levels of lymphocytes shifted to Group 2.

In other words, acupuncture tended to normalize the pattern of leukocytes. We confirmed that acupuncture induced parasympathetic nerve stimulation, resulting in a decrease in the heart rate. These results suggest possible mechanisms underlying how acupuncture ameliorates the condition of patients with many chronic diseases.

3) Protective Effect of Acupuncture on Immunosuppression
X.D. Cao, M.D., Ph.D. presented at the NIH Acupuncture Consensus Conference
Acupuncture has been clinically useful in treating inflammatory, hypersensitive, and autoimmune diseases. Substantial studies have demonstrated that this given effect of acupuncture results from its diphasic modulation on immune function. Yet, only in recent years has attention been paid to the effect of acupuncture on the interaction of neuroimmune systems. Immune function may be suppressed by surgical trauma or morphine via the central nervous system. Limited research has shown that acupuncture has a profound effect on alleviating this kind of suppression.

Surgical trauma stress and/or epidural injection of morphine depress the immune function. Acupuncture was shown to improve the immunosuppression induced by surgical trauma and/or epidural morphine. The central opioid system is involved in the effect of acupuncture on immune function.

4) Acupuncture: pain management coupled to immune stimulation
Gollub RL, et al., Massachusetts General Hospital-NMR Center, MA, USA

Recent information demonstrates that acupuncture may elicit actions on both pain and immune processes. The coupling of the two systems occurs via common signaling molecules, i.e., opioid peptides. Thus, central nervous system pain circuits may be coupled to immune enhancement.

Furthermore, acupuncture needle manipulation elicited signal increases bilaterally in the region of the primary and secondary somatosensory cortices in the human brain as determined by MRI. The maps reveal marked signal decreases bilaterally in multiple limbic and deep gray structures including the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and ventral tegmental area.

CONCLUSION: Taken together we surmise a major central nervous system pathway, as well as local pain and immune modulation during acupuncture.

1) The effects of treatment with antibiotics, laser and acupuncture upon chronic maxillary sinusitis in children.
In a clinical study we compared three different types of therapy in chronic maxillary sinusitis. 45 patients, 3-40 years old, were treated, 19 with antibiotics, 18 with acupuncture and 8 with Laser-acupuncture.
There was no statistical difference of results between Laser-therapy and antibiotics, but compared to previous treatments with antibiotics, results and duration of improvement was significantly better after acupuncture.
Conclusion: Acupuncture should be tried in chronic and recurrent stages after exclusion of large adenoids in children or bone inhibition of sinus clearance, especially before an invasive operation like removal of sinus mucosa is carried out.
Pothman R, Yeh HL, Am J Chin Med. 1982;10(1-4):55-8.

2) Electroacupuncture in combination with surgical intervention in the treatment of patients with rhinosinusitis polyps
One Russian study revealed that acupuncture could even be of benefit in the severest of cases when surgical intervention is indicated.
Thirty-six patients with polypous rhinosinusitis the olfactory function, mucociliary transport, humoral and local immunity were investigated over a period of two years, before and after treatment that combined surgical intervention and electric acupuncture. The acupuncture points were selected on an individual basis using diagnostic data, i.e. measurement of electric conductivity of representative points.

• In most cases, the combined treatment led to improvement of the olfactory function, mucociliary transport and local immunity.

During two-year follow-up, over eighty five per cent of the group had no recurrence - recurrent polyps were detected in only 4 patients and even in those cases the patients general health condition remained good. The researchers concluded that electric acupuncture could be recommended for the combined therapy of polypous rhinosinusitis.
Mikhireva MM; Otorinolaringol, Mar-Apr 1990v

Wound Healing
In a recent issue of the American Journal of Acupuncture, a pair of researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico conducted a small study on 44 patients (15 male, 29 female) to determine the effectiveness of electroacupuncture stimulation in treating a variety of wound conditions.

• Thirty-four subjects had assorted skin lesions; the other 10 had suffered second-degree burns. Patients were classified as either grade I, grade II or grade III depending on the severity of their lesion and their medical status.
• In each session, patients received 20 minutes of electric stimulation from electrodes clipped to acupuncture needles, along the edges of the lesion. According to the authors, 41 patients (93%) experienced an "excellent" (greater than 90% recovery) outcome; the remaining three patients (7%) experienced a "fair"(between 60-90% recoveries) outcome. No outcomes were scored as "poor."