Acupuncture may provide an important role in the containment and treatment of malaria. A recent article published in The Lancet notes that strains of malaria resistant to medicines made from the Chinese medicine plant, Artemisia annua (Qing Hao), continue to spread. Resistance to chloroquine drugs emerged from its widespread use in the 1970s and now Artemisia derived drugs are facing the same resistant strain phenomena. The World Health Organization continues to recommend artemisinin drug therapies, however, the emergence of resistant strains of malaria points to a need for new drugs to be developed in the pharmaceutical pipeline. Prior to new drugs becoming available, research demonstrating the efficacy of acupuncture in the fight against malaria becomes increasingly more relevant.
In a study of 214 children that was conducted at Shanxi Medical University, it was discovered that acupuncture enhanced the efficacy of malaria treatments and “markedly” increased hematopoietic function thereby helping children to recover more quickly from the exhausting anemic effects of malaria. In another study conducted at the Chengdu City Wenjiang District People's Hospital, it was concluded that a combination of acupuncture, moxibustion and drug therapy was more effective than simple drug therapy. The study found that the combination of acupuncture, moxibustion and drug therapy more readily reduced fevers, shortened the duration of malaria and improved recovery times better than the control group which received only pharmaceutical drugs.
A study published in the Journal of Chinese Medicine concluded that “acupuncture is an effective method for the treatment of gastrointestinal type malaria in Zambia, offering a relatively cheap and simple treatment method without side-effects.” The acupuncture points used in the study were Erjian (M-HN-10), Du14 (Dazhui), CV12 (Zhongwan), St25 (Tianshu), CV6 (Qihai), St36 (Zusanli) and P6 (Neiguan). Of the 46 cases that received acupuncture, 33 patients recovered after one course of treatment and 13 improved significantly. For the 33 patients that recovered after one course of treatment, blood smear examination confirmed a negative result for plasmodia infection. Of the 13 that improved, blood tests confirmed a reduction of plasmodia concentration in the blood.
One course of treatment consisted of one treatment per day for 5 days for a total of 5 acupuncture treatments. Erjian was pricked to allow for 8-10 drops of blood to flow from the point when squeezed. Next, Du14 was pricked 2-3 times and cupping was applied to allow for 10-20 drops of blood to be released through the acupuncture point. With the points and cups removed, the patients were directed to lie down and the acupuncture points CV12, St25, CV6, St36 and P6 were applied and retained for 20 minutes with electroacupuncture at 100 pulses per minute. Intensity was set to the patient’s tolerance levels.
1. The Lancet, 5 April 2012. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60484-X. Emergence of artemisinin-resistant malaria on the western border of Thailand: a longitudinal study. Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand. Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, Mae Sot, Tak, Thailand. Texas Biomedical Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Centre for Tropical Medicine, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, UK. Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network, Oxford, UK.
2. Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion. Dynamic Observation on Anemia Treated by Acupuncture and Moxibustion in the Child Patient of Malaria. Wang Wenying (Department of Pediatrics,The First Clinical College of Shanxi Medical University,Taiyuan).
3. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2007 Nov;27(11):859-61. Randomized and controlled observation on acupuncture and moxibustion combined with western medicine for treatment of malaria of children in Africa]. Lin GJ, Fat Camar. Chengdu City Wenjiang District People's Hospital, Sichuan.
4. Journal of Chinese Medicine, 72, 6-2003. Treatment of Gastrointestinal Malaria By Acupuncture, A Report of 46 Cases. Zhang Hong, Ren Lin.