A new acupuncture study reviews the history and research associated with the beneficial effects of scalp acupuncture for the treatment of intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH). The researchers note, “The evidence from clinical studies suggested that SA (scalp acupuncture) therapy may produce significant benefits for patients with acute ICH.” ICH is a potentially life-threatening type of stroke with a higher death rate and higher disability rate than ischemic strokes. Strokes and cerebrovascular disease account for approximately 11 percent of all worldwide deaths annually and is second only to heart disease as a cause of death. The researchers note that studies confirm that scalp acupuncture “has rapid and powerful effects to remove limb paralysis caused either by cerebral infarct or by cerebral haemorrhage in rats.” In human studies, ICH patients showed rapid and beneficial responses to scalp acupuncture and scalp acupuncture increases electrical activity in the brain following ICH.
The researchers investigated the mechanisms by which scalp acupuncture prevents pathophysiological responses due to ICH. CT (computerized tomography) shows that acupuncture at GV20 (Baihui) and Taiyang (EX-HN5) improves the “abosorption rate of hematoma.” Research also shows that scalp points GV20 and GB7 (Qubin) reduce “brain edema.” ICH research shows that acupuncture at GV20, GV26 (Shuigou), LI4 (Hegu), and LR3 (Taichong) accelerates “the extenuation of brain edema and diminish(es) cerebral vessel permeability and brain tissue damage.” The research also demonstrates that electroacupuncture from GV20 to Taiyang promotes tissue repair of the blood-brain barrier.
Research shows that acupuncture at GV20 and Taiyang benefits immune system function with measurable increases in CD3 and CD4 levels. CD3 is required for T-cell activation, a type of white blood cell important in cell-mediated immunity responses. CD4 is a subtype of T-cell known as a Helper T-cell.
The researchers note the ability of scalp acupuncture to prevent deleterious chemical responses in the brain due to ICH. Modern research shows that acupuncture at GV20 and GB7 regulates the expression of brain chemicals including protease-activated receptors (PARs), MMP9 and AQP4. The cellular effects of thrombin are mediated by protease-activated receptors and PARs contribute to pro-inflammatory responses. MMP9 is an enzyme involved in ICH and tissue remodeling. AQP4 is a protein that conducts water through cell membranes and is upregulated by disturbances to the central nervous system.
Research also shows that acupuncture at GV20 and GB7 regulates the cascade of endogenous inflammatory chemicals released after a stroke. These acupuncture points prevent inflammation by inhibiting IL-1beta in the brain tissue region of a hematoma. IL-1beta is a pro-inflammatory cytokine, a cell-signaling protein molecule used in intercellular communication. Also, scalp acupuncture causes a rapid decrease of IL-6 (Interleukin-6), another cytokine involved in the inflammatory response. Left unchecked, IL-6’s pro-inflammatory effects are pathological. IL-6 mediates fevers, crosses the blood-brain barrier and is found in high levels in patients with metastatic cancer.
The researchers note that acupuncture at GV20 and Taiyang has an “inhibitory effect on the immune-inflammatory reaction mediated by TNF-(alpha) expression….” TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) is a cytokine that is involved in various biological functions including septic shock and wasting syndrome. Additionally, acupuncture at GV20 and GB7 “promoted heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) mRNA expression in brain tissue….” HSP70’s help cells fold proteins and have the ability to protect cells from stress. Other scalp acupuncture research shows “improved mitochondrial energy metabolism in (the) brain….”
Neuro-electrophysiology scalp acupuncture studies show that that acupuncture at GV20 and Taiyang improves “coordination and compensation functions among cortical functional areas” in ICH patients. Scalp acupuncture has also been shown to beneficially affect the electrical activity of pain-reaction neurons. Also noted, GV20 and GB7 promote the expression of glial cell neurotrophic factor (GDNF). GDNF is a protein that promotes the survival of neurons. Moreover, the researchers note even more biochemical, bioelectrical and biophysiological benefits of scalp acupuncture on brain tissue related to ICH.
History of Scalp Acupuncture
The researchers give an interesting historical account of scalp acupuncture. First recorded in 5 BCE, Bian Que successfully revived the crowned prince of Guo from a near lifeless state using scalp acupuncture. The Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic) notes that the head is the: meeting of all Yang meridians, house of the original spirit, convergence between Qi and Blood. Head acupuncture points regulate: Yin and Yang, Qi and Blood, Zang-Fu Organs. The Huangdi Neijing also notes that the brain is the: sea of marrow, master of Zang-fu organs, master of channel function. Scalp acupuncture continued to develop over the years including extensive writings in the Jin Dynasty work, the Zhenjiujiayijing (A-B Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion).
In the 1970s, scalp acupuncture combined with biomedicine using neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and bioholographic principles. Luminaries such as Jiao Shunfa, Fang Yunpeng, Zhu Longyu, Zhang Mingjiu, Tang Songyan, Dr. Toshikatsu Yamamoto and Lin Xuejian contributed to the early development of this integrated form of scalp acupuncture. Prof. Mingqing Zhu began developing what is now a highly regarded system of scalp acupuncture in the 1970s and published his successes in journals and books. Prof. Mingqing Zhu developed a zone system of scalp acupuncture and incorporated advanced needling techniques into this system. He brought the system to the United States and opened scalp acupuncture centers in Santa Cruz, San Jose and San Francisco, California. Today, many practitioners use at least one of eight different styles of scalp acupuncture in clinical practice.
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative MedicineVolume 2012 (2012), Article ID 895032, 9 pages. doi:10.1155/2012/895032. History and Mechanism for Treatment of Intracerebral Hemorrhage with Scalp Acupuncture. Zhe Liu, Ling Guan, Yan Wang, Cheng-Long Xie, Xian-Ming Lin and Guo-Qing Zheng. The Third Clinical College of Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou. Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, General Hospital, Beijing. Center of Neurology and Rehabilitation, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical College, Wenzhou.