San Francisco Acupuncture for Longevity and Anti Aging
Kristen Sparrow, MD; San Francisco Acupuncturist
Reduce Your Stress, Live Long
In Chinese medicine enhanced longevity is seen as a goal of therapy and within the purview of practitioners. There are herbal treatments (see facial rejuvenation section), lifestyle suggestions and acupuncture prescriptions to benefit the “anti-aging” agenda which is part and parcel of acupuncture treatment.
Feel better, Look Better
In China, it has long been recognized that one of the most important uses of acupuncture and herbal medicine is for longevity and to ward off the effects of aging. For centuries, the traditional Chinese medicine system has emphasized the effects of stress, overwork, childrearing, drug and alcohol abuse on the longevity and appearance of an individual. Treatment is aimed at maintaining the patient in utmost condition for as long as possible. Recent advances in physiology reveal that the role of stress and stress response hormones, can adversely affect the human organism in various ways. Stress can lead to a lower pain tolerance, lowered immune response, and accelerated aging. Acupuncture has been shown to calm the autonomic nervous system and decrease the stress response. I have published studies on the effects of the stress response on acupuncture outcomes, and this remains a key area of interest for me. I am convinced that the lowering of the stress response is very much a part of the restorative nature of acupuncture therapy.
For more on anti-aging see my newsletters with links and information.
For more thoughts and tips on aging, please click here.
For aging and arthritis, please click here.
Science of Aging, Telomeres, and the use of Astragalus please click here.
More Science and Evidence
Physiological studies may shed some light on the possibilities of acupuncture treatment in its role in promoting longevity. There was a landmark study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looking at the length of a structure in subjects’ cells called “telomeres” in two populations of mothers. Accelerated telomere shortening may reflect stress-related oxidative damage to cells and accelerated aging, and severe psychosocial stress has been linked to telomere shortening. One group of mothers had normal children, the other had handicapped children. The stress of raising and caring for a handicapped child led to increased stress which showed up as shortened cellular telomeres. Though it seems intuitive that stress could shorten one’s lifespan, this demonstrated the effect at a cellular level (1).
My own research (2) and others’ (3) has shown that acupuncture can attenuate the stress response. Perhaps this is how acupuncture might lead to longevity. There was an additional study from China (4) comparing three groups. One took Vitamin E, one received traditional acupuncture points thought to enhance longevity and one received moxibustion on the navel (a traditional method to increase immunity and energetically nourish the whole body.) The patients receiving moxibustion and acupuncture had increased SOD levels and decreased MDA levels. SOD (superoxide dismutase) is an antioxidant enzyme and MDA (malondialdehyde) is parameter of oxidative stress. This would reinforce the possibility that acupuncture can be beneficial in decreasing oxidative stress and its accompanying ills including accelerated aging.
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1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. ‘ProcNatl Acad Sci U S A2004 Dec 7;101(49):17312-5. Epub 2004 Dec Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress
2. Analysis of Heart Rate Variability in Acupuncture Practice: Can it improve outcomes
3. Auton n Neurosci. 2007 Feb 2Specific acupuncture sensation correlates with EEGs and autonomic changes in human subjects
4. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2007 Jun;27(6):398-402.Clinical observation on drug-separated moxibustion at the navelfor anti-aging