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Stop Sweating with Acupuncture
By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM

Excessive sweating can make a handshake an embarrassing and dreaded event. It can make wearing shoes with out socks inconceivable and changing bed sheets in the middle of the night a normal occurrence.

While sweating is natural and healthy, excessive perspiration, known as hyperhidrosis, affects over three percent of the population and can cause great distress.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are extremely successful in the treatment of sweating. In fact, how one sweats is a key factor in identifying disharmony within the body. Sweat is considered a fundamental substance in Chinese medical text and is studied in-depth. While sweating disorders can be treated with surgery and drugs, it is worthwhile to know that there is an alternative to invasive and often risky procedures and medications.

What is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis is defined as the production of perspiration beyond what is necessary to cool the body. When it is primary hyperhidrosis, the cause is unknown. The problem has been related to an over reaction of the sweat glands to both changes in temperatures and to physical and emotional stress. Hyperhidrosis can affect the feet, palms, underarms or the whole body.
Secondary hyperhidrosis has a recognized cause such as:

  • Over-active thyroid gland
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Panic Attack
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Some Cancers
  • Obesity
  • Menopause

Sweating and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Before acupuncture and herbal treatment can begin, it is necessary to correctly diagnose the disease:  Sweating is a symptom for many different patterns of disharmony within the body. Oriental Medicine aims to treat each individual uniquely depending on their pattern and symptoms.

Your acupuncturist may do an interview and ask questions about how, what, where and when you perspire, sleep, eat, drink and exercise, to name a few. The practitioner may also feel the pulse and observing the tongue. This interview and physical examination will help create a clear picture on which your practitioners can create a treatment plan specifically for you.

Common Diagnoses and Herbal Formulas for Sweating

This is not for self diagnosis. It is merely to show the great diversity and complexity of the patterns which have sweating as a primary symptom.


Common Diagnoses
Heat accumulation in Stomach and Intestines
Dampness and Spleen Deficiency
Spleen and Stomach Qi Deficiency
Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency

Common Chinese Herbal Formulas
Major Order the Qi Decoction (da cheng qi tang)
Calm the Stomach Powder and Five ingredient with Poria Decoction (wei ling tan)
Four-Gentleman Decoction (si jun zi tang)
Six-Ingredient Pill with Rehmannia (liu wei di huang wan)

Common Diagnoses
Damp-Heat in Liver and/or Gallbaladder Channels
Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency

Common Chinese Herbal Formulas
Gentiana Longdancao Decoction (long dan xie gan tang)
Six-Ingredient Pill with Rehmannia - modified (liu wei di huang wan)


Common Diagnoses
Damp-Heat Accumulation
Kidney Yang Deficiency

Common Chinese Herbal Formulas
Artemisia Yinchenhao and Poria Decoction (yin chen hao tang + wu ling tang)
Frigid Extremities Decoction (si ni tang)


Common Diagnoses
Heart and Spleen Qi Deficiency
Heart and Kidney Yin Deficiency

Common Chinese Herbal Formulas
(gui pi tang)
(tian wang bu xin dan)

Upper Body

Common Diagnoses
Damp-Heat Accumulation

Common Chinese Herbal Formulas
(huang lian jie du tang)

Lower Body

Common Diagnoses
Damp-Heat in Lower Jiao

Common Chinese Herbal Formulas
(long dan xie gan tang)

Half Body

Common Diagnoses
Wind-Damp or Cold-Damp Stagnation
Ying and Wei Disharmony
Qi and Blood Deficiency

Common Chinese Herbal Formulas
(xiao huo lou dan)
(gui zhi tang)
(si wu tang + si jun zi tang)

Night Sweats

Common Diagnoses
Dampness and Spleen Deficiency
Shao Yang Syndrome
Yin Deficient Heat of Kidney and/or Heart
Blood Deficiency of Liver or Heart

Common Chinese Herbal Formulas
Calm the Stomach Powder and Five ingredient with Poria Decoction (wei ling tan
(xiao chai hu tang)
(qing hao bie jia tang) or (liu wei di huang wan) or tian wang bu xin dan) or (gan mai da zao tang)
(si wu tang) or (suan zao ren tang) or (gui pi tang)

Spontaneous Sweating

Common Diagnoses
Qi Deficiency of the Lung and/or Spleen

Common Chinese Herbal Formulas
(gui pi tang) or (bu zhong yi qi tang) or (si jun zi tang)

This shows some, but not all the diagnoses and Chinese herbal formulas that could be used in the treatment of sweating. Each case is unique and it would be difficult to determine how effective acupuncture and herbal medicine will be for you without a full assessment. Please contact a licensed acupuncturist and Oriental medical practitioner in your area for a consultation.

NOTE: The improper use of Chinese Herbs can be dangerous. Please consult with a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist before taking any herbal products.

What Points Are Used?

Each patient is custom-treated according to his or her specific and unique diagnosis. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine will rarely treat the symptom of sweating directly. There are, however, a few "symptomatic points" that are often used in combination for sweating.

  • LI-4 (Hegu), K-7(Fuliu)- For spontaneous sweating. Would be used in combination to regulate energy (Qi) throughout the body, clear dampness and calm the nervous system.
  • SI-3 (Houxi) – For night sweats.

What Lifestyle and Dietary Changes Should I Make?

You can do a number of things on your own to reduce sweating and body odor. The following suggestions may help:

  1. Bathe daily. Regular bathing helps keep the number of bacteria on your skin in check.
  2. Try relaxation techniques. Consider relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or biofeedback. These can help you learn to control the stress that triggers perspiration.
  3. Change your diet. If foods or beverages cause you to sweat more than usual or your perspiration to smell, consider eliminating caffeinated drinks from your diet as well as foods with strong odors, such as garlic and onions.
  4. Choose natural-fiber clothing. Wear natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool and silk, which allow your skin to breathe. When you exercise, you might prefer high-tech fabrics that keeps moisture away from your skin.
  5. Apply antiperspirants nightly. At bedtime, apply antiperspirants to sweaty palms or soles of the feet. Try perfume-free antiperspirants.
  6. Dry your feet thoroughly after you bathe. Microorganisms thrive in the damp spaces between your toes. Use OTC foot powders to help absorb sweat.
  7. Choose shoes and socks made of natural materials. Shoes made of natural materials, such as leather, can help prevent sweaty feet by allowing your feet to breathe.
  8. Rotate your shoes. Shoes won't completely dry overnight, so try not to wear the same pair two days in a row if you have trouble with sweaty feet.
  9. Wear the right socks. Cotton and wool socks help keep your feet dry because they absorb moisture. When you're active, moisture-wicking athletic socks are a good choice.
  10. Change your socks often. Change socks or hose once or twice a day, drying your feet thoroughly each time. Women may try pantyhose with cotton soles.
  11. Air your feet. Go barefoot when you can, or at least slip out of your shoes now and then.

Finding the Right Practitioner

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine work! But your experience with acupuncture will depend largely on the practitioner that you choose.
You want to find an acupuncturist that you click with. If you like and trust your practitioner, your encounter with acupuncture will be more positive.

You will also want to know about the acupuncturists training and experience and what to expect from the acupuncture treatment. Decide in advance what your expectations are and discuss them with your acupuncturist. A chronic illness may need several months of acupuncture treatment to have a noticeable effect. If you are not happy with your progress, think about changing acupuncturists or check with your western doctor for advice about other options.

The clearer you are about who it is that is treating you and exactly what the treatment entails, the more you will be able to relax during the acupuncture session and benefit from this ancient form of health care.

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