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Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for Alzheimer's and Dementia

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

While it might not be strange to forget the name of someone you met once at a party or struggle to remember where you last placed your reading glasses, it is a problem when failing mental cognition and memory start to cause disorder or danger in your everyday life.

Dementia is an overarching term describing disorders that cause permanent, irreversible death of brain cells. The symptoms progress slowly and include severe lapses of memory, inability to think reasonably, personality changes, and depression. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia for those over age 65.

Ultimately, in the later stages of dementia, a patient can lose the ability to communicate through words, lose control over their own body, or engage in strange behavior. All too often for many patients, symptoms of depression are also present.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help address the symptoms associated with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. There are powerful acupuncture points located on the head that are celebrated for their capacity to increase dopamine production and reduce the damage brought on by free radicals through the oxidative process.

Free radicals are notorious for the destruction of DNA, opening the door for neurological damage. Dopamine, on the other hand, is an important brain chemical necessary for physical movement, mental clarity, and emotional balance. A lack of it is associated with certain forms of dementia. This is where the illustrious acupuncture point Du 20 can perform its magic.

Stimulation of this point, located at the very top of the head, aids in increasing dopamine levels and cleaning up the mess left behind by oxidation. The English name for Du 20 is Hundred Meetings. This title hints at its ability to impact the many processes needed for revitalizing and healing the brain.

To further support the process for invigorating the encephalon, the technical name for the brain, a grouping of acupuncture points known as Shishencong may also be enlisted. There are four points in total that surround Hundred Meetings in a configuration much like a crown. This combination of Shishencong and Du 20 enhances each other's strength to combat the symptoms of dementia.

Adding in the acupuncture point located on the lower leg called St 36, also known as Three Leg Li, can fortify the blood-brain barrier. This is the brain's natural defense against contamination and noxious agents that can cause neurological damage. Not only can acupuncture work directly to help those suffering from dementia, but it can also address accompanying symptoms of depression and fatigue.

All the acupuncture points mentioned above retain the capacity to harmonize the emotions, even Three Leg Li. Additionally, the acupuncture point Heart 7, translated as Spirit Gate, is remarkable for its ability to 'free the spirit.' Utilizing this point can ease the depression, anxiety, guilt, and other ugly feelings associated with dementia. Releasing these powerful feelings can not be touted as a cure for dementia, but it can promote healing on an emotional level.

It's always a good idea to reduce unhealthy habits and behaviors that are known risk factors attributing to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's. Smoking, heavy intake of alcohol, obesity, and poor sleep are some risk factors that can be controlled. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can assist with all of these problems. This is especially important for patients who have a family history of dementia or over the age of 65.

If you notice an alarming change in your mental state or if you notice symptoms developing in a relative or close friend, find an acupuncturist to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!


Sources:
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). Alzheimer's or depression: Could it be both? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers/art-20048362

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). Dementia. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352013

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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