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Acupuncture for Dry Mouth: Point Increases Saliva Production and Brain Activity

By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM

A study published in the July, 2008 issue of BMC Complementary Alternative Medicine found that the acupuncture point, Large Intestine 2 (LI 2), increased saliva production as well as brain activity that is associated with saliva production.

Researchers from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York decided to study the effects of stimulating the acupuncture point, LI 2, because previous clinical trials showed that acupuncture appeared to reduce dry mouth or xerostomia in patients previously treated with head and neck radiation therapy.  This study involved the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to analyze the extent to which stimulating LI 2 affected saliva production.  

Large Intestine 2 (LI 2) is an acupuncture point located just above the knuckle on the side of the index finger.  It is part of the Large Intestine meridian, an energetic pathway that traverses the neck, cheek and mouth.

For this study, volunteers underwent true acupuncture the acupuncture point LI-2 and sham acupuncture while their saliva production and brain activity were measured. The researchers reported that saliva production was significantly higher during true acupuncture than during sham acupuncture.  Activation of the parietal operculum, rolandic operculum, frontal operculum, and insula bilaterally were noted, whereas sham acupuncture did not activate these or any other regions.  There was a good correlation between saliva production and insula/operculum activation.

Source: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2008, 8:37

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