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9 Natural Ways to Prevent the Flu

The flu is especially widespread this year. We know you want to stay well. In addition to offering acupuncture to strengthen your immune system to help prevent flu, we here at Purple Dragon will share with you these 9 helpful tips from Deirdre Imus, author and environmental health advocate. This is her article “9 Natural Ways to Prevent the Flu This Winter”:

With the holiday spirit come and gone and 2013 already entering its third week, there’s only one winter milestone left to hit before we plod our way into spring: flu season.

Chances are many of you have already been feeling the flu’s nasty effects. And experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the country’s early flu season has not yet reached its peak.

Whether you’ve received your flu shot or not, there are some natural steps we can all take to ward off influenza and to protect our loved ones from the fever, cough, achiness, and general unpleasantness associated with this nasty bug.

1. Wash your hands
One of the most effective and easiest methods of flu prevention is something we should all do several times a day–simply because it’s good manners. Do it after you use the restroom, of course, but also after you’ve shaken someone’s hand, kissed hello, been on public transportation, attended a party, gone to the gym, and many other situations. You can never be too careful, especially this time of year.

2. Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is important in every season, but it is particularly useful in the winter. It’s easy to forget to drink enough water in the cold weather, as we’re not sweating as much as we do when it’s warmer outside. Steadily drinking six to eight glasses of water a day can boost your immune system, keeping your body strong and ready to fight off illnesses all year round.

3. Exercise
Like water, exercise has immune-boosting effects. It also enhances circulation, reduces stress, and offers another mode of eliminating toxins through perspiration, according to naturopathic doctor Amy Rothenberg. Of course, take care not to overdo it. If you’re really sick, get plenty of rest and consult a medical professional before engaging in any physical activities.

4. Eat an organic, plant-based diet
Increase the amount of organic fruits and vegetables in your diet, particularly those high in vitamin C, such as papaya, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and kale. To be safe, you can also take a vitamin C supplement. I recommend camu camu, a plant-derived antioxidant vitamin that is considered a top source of vitamin C.

5. Take a vitamin D supplement
Have your vitamin D levels checked with a simple blood test from your physician. If they’re low, consider taking a vitamin D supplement to help prevent not only the flu, but also a host of other health conditions–like cancer and cardiovascular disease–that have been linked to vitamin D deficiency.

6. Enlist probiotics
As discussed in my Green Your Tummy blog, these so-called “good bacteria” in your gut have been shown to help fend off colds and the flu and can rebalance the bacteria we need in our bodies that can be destroyed by antibiotics. Probiotics come in pill form, and a typical dosage is in the billions of CF units, but you can also introduce probiotics into your diet through yogurt, miso, tempeh, kimchi, coconut kefir, and sauerkraut.

7. Try elderberry
Elderberry syrup is not only packed with vitamins A, B, and C, but it also stimulates the immune system, has been shown to prevent colds and the flu, and tastes delicious. At The Imus Ranch, we make elderberry syrup from scratch, but you can find a bottle at your local natural foods market. If you feel a tickle in your throat, soothe it with some elderberry tea.

8. Use essential oils
Essential oils are restorative, curative, and natural antibacterial agents. They also happen to smell pretty great. Diffuse grade-A essential oils throughout your home, or apply them topically to your skin. Apply some oregano oil to your back, chest, and the bottoms of your feet. Aside from being a natural antibiotic, it also has bacteria-fighting properties and is a powerful antihistamine.

9. Get your omega-3s
Rather than turn to fish oil for your health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, consider going right to the source and using marine phytoplankton instead. It’s where fish get their omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, as well as their vitamin A. You can enjoy the benefits by simply adding 10 to 15 drops into your water or juice.

If you find yourself getting sick every winter, it’s important to change your habits, and not continue doing what you’ve always done.

The best defense is a good offense, right? This year, take control of your health and start warding off the flu before it rears its ugly head. Beef up your immune system, be kind to yourself, and protect the littlest and most fragile members of your family.

Photo above is from Huffington Post.

13 Ways Acupuncture Can Change Your Life in 2013

Welcome to 2013! This excerpt of a great article by Sara Calabro that appeared in AcuTake yesterday gives specific ways that acupuncture can enhance your life in the new year:

1. It will open your mind.

Acupuncture requires us to think about health in entirely new ways. Despite noble efforts by many to find one, there is no biomedical equivalent for qi or meridians. Acupuncture turns mainstream medical tenets on their head. It will remind you that there are multiple ways of seeing the world.

2. It will make you less stressed.

Acupuncture takes the edge off. It removes you from the perpetual state of sympathetic dominance in which so many of us find ourselves. By mellowing out the nervous system, acupuncture will help you feel less affected by and better equipped to manage the stressful aspects of life.

3. It will inspire you to get outside more.

In acupuncture theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them. Things like weather and seasonal shifts factor significantly into acupuncture diagnoses and treatment plans. When you start thinking about health in this way, realizing the intimate relationship that humans have with nature, it inspires a desire to get outside and commune with your natural habitat.

4. It will give you more energy.

Although it’s common to find yourself in “acu land”—a somewhat dazed, blissfully relaxed state—immediately following acupuncture treatment, the after effect is usually increased energy. Many people report having more energy in the hours, days and even weeks after acupuncture treatment. You may notice that you’re avoiding that post-lunch coma, feeling more motivated to hit the gym, or just sensing a little extra spring in your step.

5. It will clear your head.

In addition to the surge of physical energy that follows emerging from acu land, many people notice improved mental clarity after acupuncture. They’re able to make decisions faster, with greater confidence. They feel more motivated and resolute about tackling items that have been lingering for months on their to-do lists. It’s as if the mental cobwebs have been cleared out. Suddenly, you will be out of your own way.

6. It will allow you to give yourself a break.

Acupuncture looks at how root imbalances affect the whole system. This means that when one thing is out of whack, it can affect you in multiple ways. Many of us are quick to beat ourselves up when we can’t muster energy for something that used to come easy, or when we fail to accomplish all the things we “should” be doing.

By thinking of yourself as a complex, interconnected system, it becomes easier to understand why you might be feeling incomplete or depleted. Acupuncture broadens your awareness of the things that can potentially influence your physical and emotional health. This, hopefully, will help you be a little kinder to yourself.

7. It will help you sleep.

Insomnia is one of the most common complaints seen by acupuncturists, and acupuncture can be highly effective at resolving it. But even in people who do not recognize or mention sleep as a problem, acupuncture has a tendency to produce more restful nights. This often goes unnoticed until asked about on a follow-up visit. Many acupuncturists hear this refrain multiple times a day: “You know, now that you mention it, I have been sleeping a lot better since I started coming for acupuncture.”

8. It will get you thinking differently about food.

Whether you’re Paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, or free of any restrictions, acupuncture will lend some interesting perspective to your food choices. In acupuncture, foods often are thought about in terms of temperature. Some people, because of their constitutions or root imbalances, need warming foods while others need foods that cool. And this can change significantly based on the seasons. Everyone is different. Acupuncture dietary theory sheds light on why some people can eat certain foods and feel unaffected while others can’t even look in their direction.

9. It will help you embrace change.

Conventional medicine requires us to think in absolutes, to label things good or bad, black or white. We’re either sick or we’re healthy. Our numbers are too high or too low. We’re happy or we’re depressed. Yet in between these extremes, subtle yet significant shifts occur. Acupuncture works in this gray area and teaches us to reflect on the small changes happening within and around us all the time. In acupuncture, this is progress.

Unwillingness to accept change is a huge source of stress and anxiety for many people. Through reframing change as a marker of progress rather than something to be scared of, you will learn to love it.

10. It will give you something to talk about at parties.

Acupuncture is a crowd pleaser! Next time you’re feeling awkward or bored at a social gathering, mention that you recently had acupuncture. You’ll be an instant sensation. People love learning about acupuncture. Did it hurt? Did she stick them in your eyes? People also love sharing their own acupuncture experiences, so it’s a quick way find common ground and make friends.

11. It will make you more patient.

We loooove technology. Whether it’s the latest product from Apple or a cutting-edge MRI, we lust after shiny tools that promise to make us better. Technology, while awesome, acclimates us to quick fixes and perpetuates an “I want it now” mentality. This creates chronic impatience.

Acupuncture, because it works but rarely overnight, can help us combat this. Acupuncture is an ongoing process that requires an investment of time and a willingness to let go of our desire for instant gratification. It will make you a more patient person.

12. It will make you tough.

It’s not always easy to embrace acupuncture. Most doctors, as well as some family, friends and colleagues, regard mainstream medicine as the only acceptable form of healthcare. The constant barrage of pharmaceutical advertising is hard to ignore. It takes courage to go against the grain.

Acupuncture, although becoming more popular, is still not the norm. It requires a conscious commitment to understanding ourselves in a way that the majority shuns. This is the harder path toward health but ultimately the most rewarding.

13. It will make you believe in yourself.

The driving idea behind acupuncture is that we’re already in possession of everything we need to be well. Acupuncture does not add or subtract anything. Rather, it prompts the body to do what it already knows how to do. It reminds you that you have the power to heal yourself.

This does not mean that external interventions such as pharmaceuticals or surgery should always be shunned—in many cases, these are life saving measures. But it does mean that becoming healthier, whatever that means to you, is within your control. When it comes to improving our physical and emotional health, most of us are capable of a lot more than we think. By using a therapy like acupuncture, which embraces rather than ignores our innate healing capacity, you’re making a statement that you believe in yourself.

Seattle Community Acupuncture: Humming Can Relieve Sinus Congestion

Did you know that the simple act of humming a familiar tune can reduce sinus congestion and sinus pressure? It’s all explained in this article by Nick Meyer at

Many people suffer from sinus issues and buy various types of over-the-counter and prescription medications to combat them, but there may be a simpler method for relieving sinus blockage.

The simple act of humming is free and has shown promise in providing relief for the problem according to Swedish scientists. According to their study, humming is an effective way to increase ventilation in your sinuses while can help prevent infections.

During the study, 10 healthy males ages 34 to 48 with no history of allergies or diseases with links to sinus issues were tested by Jon Lundberg,  M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and an associate. They exhaled for five seconds at a fixed rate either quietly or while using a tightly-fitted mask covering the nose and a mouthpiece that was specifically designed for exhaling.

Those who hummed boosted their nitric oxide levels 15-fold compared with those who merely practiced quiet exhalations. Testing for nitric oxide concentrations is one way to determine whether sinuses are healthy or not, and humming is one of the best ways to increase such concentrations according to the Swedish study.

The increased ventilation and sinus infection prevention results were also found by American researchers.
A December 2010 article in the New York Times stated that more than 37 million Americans suffer from some sort of sinus infection every year, but moving air through the sinuses and naval cavity via humming is an excellent way to prevent them from occurring according to these two studies. The humming also led to a large increase of overall gas exchange between the nose and sinus cavities.

Some people also work humming into their meditation routines, using it to help dissolve stressful thoughts and to soothe their neck and head while calming their nervous system. It is even reported to reduce blood pressure along with its calming effects.

To hum, simply create a rhythm or “tune” without opening your mouth or using your lips to annunciate the sound any further.

Sinusitis affects about 14 percent of U.S. residents; candida overgrowth is also a potential cause.

But if you suspect that poor airflow is one of the main reasons for your sinus issues, give humming a try in the car on your way to work or any other time you have a few extra minutes, or try adding it to your next meditation routine for an extra bonus. It just might save you a few bucks and protect your health from synthetic over-the-counter drugs.

Photo: Aurora Healthcare

Seattle Community Acupuncture: Large Intestine 11- Why You Often Get Needled at Your Elbow

This is an acupuncture point at your elbow that we use often at Purple Dragon. Read the following article by Sara Calabro to learn why this point is effective and how you can utilize this point at home.

Why Are You Doing That Point? Large Intestine 11

By Sara Calabro

This installment of “Why Are You Doing That Point?” will focus on Large Intestine 11. The point is considered one of the most vital acupuncture points throughout the body due to its wide range of indications.

Large Intestine 11—also known as Quchi (Chinese name), Pool at the Crook (English translation) and LI11 (acupunk lingo)—is located at the lateral (thumb side) edge of the elbow crease (see picture below).

Use the Pool to Cool

When I was in acupuncture school, I made up random rhymes and mnemonic devices to remember functions of acupuncture points. The one I used for Large Intestine 11 was “use the pool to cool.”



Meaning, use Pool at the Crook to cool people off. The best-known use for Large Intestine 11 is to clear heat.

Large Intestine 11 is a go-to point for reducing fevers. In addition, the point is called upon for many other symptoms that, from an acupuncture perspective, stem from excessive heat. These include sore throat, red and itchy eyes, rashes, hypertension, excessive thirst, toothaches and some headaches.

For heat-related symptoms that occur in the lower body, Large Intestine 11 usually is combined with points on other meridians that transverse the legs. For example, Large Intestine 11, along with one or more points along the Spleen channel, is used to address heavy menstrual bleeding, typically considered a heat sign. For constipation due to heat and dryness, Large Intestine 11 might be combined with Stomach 36.

Upper Limb Protector

After heat clearing, addressing upper limb problems is the most common use for Large Intestine 11.

The Large Intestine channel starts at the index finger and runs up the arm to the face, where it ends just outside the nostril. The bulk of the channel resides on the arm. With the exception of Large Intestine 4, Large Intestine 11 is considered the most powerful point for resolving issues along the Large Intestine channel, especially on the elbow and shoulder.

People suffering from tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis), elbow arthritis, and any other kind of elbow pain are sure to get Large Intestine 11. Rotator cuff syndrome, frozen shoulder, and other types of shoulder problems can be helped by the point as well. Certain forms of carpal tunnel may also improve with Large Intestine 11 since it’s located near the forearm extensor muscles, which are often involved in wrist pain.

Boost Your Immunity

Although it is not traditionally known for its immune-boosting properties, Large Intestine 11 is sometimes used prevenatively to help battle colds and flus, and other immune-compromising conditions.

In fact, one well-known style of Japanese acupuncture (Kiiko Matsumoto’s) considers Large Intestine 11 to be the master immune point in the body. It’s actually a point that falls just slightly below and outside Large Intestine 11. The exact location is determined according to the patient’s sensitivity in that area. The most sensitive spot is usually the most effective when treated.

Even when there are no signs of heat or problems in the upper limbs, I often include Large Intestine 11 (or the closest sensitive spot) in my treatments this time of year, when we can all use an immunity boost. If you feel cold or flu symptoms coming on, try feeling around the area of Large Intestine 11 until you hit a sensitive spot. Press, massage and repeat.

Photo by Sara Calabro
LI 11 infographic from A Manual of Acupuncture

Seattle Community Acupuncture: Puncture Cards Are Here!

Get your Puncture Card!


In keeping with Seattle’s affinity for punch cards (thanks to our city’s high density of coffee houses), Purple Dragon is pleased to present our new “Puncture” Cards to reward you for taking care of yourself! For every 10 paid community acupuncture treatments you receive, you get one free treatment with the puncture card.  Feel free to grab a new Puncture Card in our waiting room (by the front door), and make sure we punch it — er, I mean puncture it  — each time you come in for acupuncture. Your fully punctured card may be redeemed for a free treatment by anyone you choose, whether it’s yourself or a friend. Convenient way for frequent flyers to treat a friend or family member to a needle nap.

Seattle Community Acupuncture: Happy Effects of Acupuncture

A colleague in Portland, Oregon shares the “built-in” positive effects of getting poked! Her article appeared in on Aug 15, 2012:

5 Most Common Side Effects of Acupuncture

Article and photo by Sara Calabro

Forget what you’ve been told. Acupuncture does have side effects. The unintended consequences of acupuncture, while not life-threatening, should not be overlooked. The side effects of acupuncture occur frequently and can seriously impact on your quality of life.

Here are the five most common side effects of acupuncture. Consider yourself warned.

Better sleep

Insomnia is one of the most common complaints seen by acupuncturists, and acupuncture can be highly effective at resolving it. But even in people who do not recognize or mention sleep as a problem, acupuncture has a tendency to produce more restful nights. This often goes unnoticed until asked about on a follow-up visit. Many acupuncturists hear this refrain multiple times a day: “You know, now that you mention it, I have been sleeping a lot better since I started coming for acupuncture.”

More energy

Although it’s common to find yourself in “acu land”—a somewhat dazed, blissfully relaxed state—immediately following acupuncture treatment, the after effect is usually increased energy. Many people report having more energy in the hours, days and even weeks after acupuncture treatment. You may notice that you’re avoiding that post-lunch coma, feeling more motivated to hit the gym, or just sensing a little extra spring in your step.

Mental clarity

Acupuncture resolves the stagnation that causes many of us to feel physically and mentally lethargic. In addition to the surge of physical energy that follows emerging from acu land, many people notice improved mental clarity. They’re able to make decisions faster, with greater confidence. They feel more motivated and resolute about tackling items that have been lingering for months on their to-do lists. It’s as if the mental cobwebs have been cleared out. Suddenly, you’re able to get out of your own way.

Better digestion

Digestion is big in acupuncture. The organ systems and meridians that regulate digestion are intimately connected to all other structures and functions throughout the body, so a person’s digestive health says a lot about his or her overall state of health. This is why acupuncturists ask such detailed questions about eating habits and bowel movements. It’s also why getting acupuncture for shoulder pain, for example, might cause you to use the bathroom more regularly, feel less bloated after meals, and experience fewer food cravings.

Less stress

Stress reduction is a common reason for seeking acupuncture. However, not everyone admits or even feels that they have stress in their life. They’ve gotten so used to living with a certain level of stress that it has become their “normal.” It’s only in the absence of stress that they notice how stressed out they were to begin with. Acupuncture heightens our awareness such that stressful events, initially, can actually be felt more acutely. But overtime, by evening out our moods, acupuncture allows us to feel less affected by and better equipped to manage the stressful aspects of our lives.

So there you have it. The truth, once and for all: Acupuncture has side effects that can significantly influence your quality of life.

Seattle Community Acupuncture: Olympic Athletes Get Acupuncture

Acupuncture is great for sports injuries of all kinds, whether you’re someone who works out at a gym or a serious competitor, such as these Olympic greats:

6 Olympians Who Ache For Acupuncture

from The Daily Zeel: Healthy Living via Yahoo Shine continue reading »

Seattle Community Acupuncture: Inflammation Reduction with Acupuncture

Acupuncture relieves pain and inflammation in the body. The thermographic image above shows inflammation reduction in the knee as acupuncture relieves knee pain.

Inflammation is the body’s common response to injury, irritants, toxins, allergic substances, and pathogens.  It is present in most medical conditions and is often the cause of pain. Some of the many conditions that involve inflammation are arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, asthma, cancer, sprains, strains, bruises, carpal tunnel syndrome, allergic reactions to any substance, skin conditions, PMS, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, any digestive disorder, and many kinds of pain.

When the body first detects something is wrong somewhere, whether it is an injury, virus, allergic reaction, or internal disease, it sends extra blood rushing to the affected area with disease- and injury-fighting blood components such as white blood cells (leukocytes) to repair the damage. The warmth, swelling, and/or red skin you might notice are due to the extra blood in the affected area. It is possible – and quite common – to have such inflammation in your body and be unaware of it, such as in early stages of disease and in chronic internal conditions. Inflammation is often the root of pain and other “dis-ease” in the body.  Community acupuncture is a great way to relieve inflammation in your body.

Seattle Community Acupuncture: 5 Acupuncture Myths Debunked


Here is an informative article from It answers questions a lot of people have about acupuncture.

Have You Heard These Acupuncture Myths?

By Ka Hang Leoungk

As an acupuncturist, I do a lot of myth debunking. It’s understandable. After all, acupuncture speaks an entirely different language from the one through which most Westerners learned to see the world. However, with acupuncture continuing to grow in popularity and gain acceptance by mainstream medicine, it’s important to clarify a few myths and misconceptions that have a strong hold on our collective psyche.

Here are the five most common myths and misconceptions I hear about acupuncture.

“Acupuncture is only for pain.”

Ask most people what acupuncture helps with and the overwhelming majority will say pain. It is true that acupuncture can work wonders for back pain, headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, leg pain, postoperative pain, and pretty much any other kind of pain you can think of. However, pain is just one of many ailments for which acupuncture can provide relief.

Acupuncture alleviates digestive problems, menstrual irregularities, allergies, insomnia, stress and anxiety, asthma, and several other conditions. While many acupuncturists are generalists who treat a wide range of ailments, some specialize. So do a little homework before booking an appointment to find out whether an acupuncturist has experience treating whatever you need help with. The AcuTake Acupuncturist Directory, searchable by condition, is a great place to start.

“Acupuncture doesn’t work because I’ve had it once and nothing changed.”

I hear this one a lot. It’s a myth that is easily debunked by thinking about your car. If you go for years without getting your car checked, when you take it to the mechanic it’s going to require more work than if you had come in for regular tune-ups. Similarly, if you’ve been experiencing back pain for six months, it will probably take more than one acupuncture treatment before you notice results.

After your first treatment, an acupuncturist usually will provide an estimate for how many treatments you’re likely to need. This is always an estimate because response times to acupuncture can vary widely, but it’s a good guideline.

Acupuncture is a cumulative process, much like going to the gym: You don’t start running faster or lifting heavier weights after just one trip. That said, most people notice at least some changes after 10 acupuncture treatments. If you haven’t seen any improvement after giving it 10 appointments, I suggest trying another acupuncturist.

“Acupuncture doesn’t work because we don’t know how it works.”

This is an understandable misconception. When it comes to concepts with which we are unfamiliar, it’s comforting to have solid proof. Although there is tentative evidence of acupuncture’s efficacy, definitive, Western-friendly proof of how acupuncture works is unavailable.

There is good reason for this. Controlled, double-blind trials are inappropriate for studying acupuncture. Most acupuncture research models look at a standard selection of acupuncture points to determine if they are effective for a certain condition. But from an acupuncture perspective, one condition can have several different causes—and therefore would require completely different acupuncture points.

Researchers are beginning to look at acupuncture using MRI. I believe this method of studying acupuncture is the most promising yet. Rather than concentrating on people’s perceptions, which can be misled by placebos or prejudices, the MRI studies look directly at how acupuncture changes brain activity. These MRI studies also address findings from previous research that show effects from fake or “sham” acupuncture. Through MRI, we know that both real and sham acupuncture relieve pain but that the effects on the brain are considerably different.

We may not know yet exactly how acupuncture works, but we are gaining a better understanding of the therapeutic effect that acupuncture causes.

“Acupuncture hurts.”

I disagree with acupuncturists who say that acupuncture needles are so thin you can’t even feel them. In my experience, most people feel acupuncture.

When needles are inserted in the right places, they often produce a feeling of heaviness, like a dull ache. Since this sensation is unfamiliar for most people who have never had acupuncture before, it’s commonly interpreted as pain.

If I describe this dull-achy feeling to people before beginning a treatment, they are less likely to experience the sensation as pain. They are prepared, which means their bodies are less tense. Often the “hurt” associated with acupuncture can be attributed to anxiety about the unknown.

I also make a point of telling my patients that acupuncture—rarely, but on occasion—can cause pain after a treatment. Sometimes needles in certain acupuncture points, after they’re removed, can cause a residual feeling of ache, almost like a bruise. When people understand ahead of time that this is a completely normal outcome, their perception of acupuncture as something that hurts seems to shift.

“Acupuncture is religious.” (Also known as “Acupuncture is voodoo.”)

I have been told, “I don’t believe in acupuncture because I’m a Christian.” Although it’s becoming less common as the general public gets more educated about acupuncture, the myth of acupuncture as a religion or supernatural phenomenon remains.

Acupuncture is not religious, nor is it voodoo. There is nothing supernatural or otherworldly happening during an acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture is a healthcare modality designed to help balance your body’s various, interconnected systems.

You don’t need to “believe” in acupuncture in order to experience its benefits because there is nothing to believe in.

I think some of the misinformation surrounding acupuncture’s origins and intentions stems from the word “qi,” which is often described as “vital energy.”

A better interpretation of what ancient Chinese practitioners meant by qi is simply oxygen. They understood that oxygen and nutrients were needed throughout the body in order for it to function properly. They called it qi and Blood, but acupuncture is merely a tool for moving the oxygen and nutrients that our bodies need to thrive.


Seattle Community Acupuncture: 8 Things to Remember Before an Acupuncture Appointment

There are a few things you can do to make the most of each acupuncture treatment. Whether you are new to acupuncture or have been getting poked for quite some time, you could benefit from the tips in the article below. Think of it as a pre-acupuncture checklist.

8 Things to Remember Before an Acupuncture Appointment

by Sara Calabro, acupuncturist and founding editor of AcuTake online acupuncture journal.

Acupuncture isn’t really into hard-and-fast rules. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another. This is the beauty of acupuncture—it meets us wherever we’re at.

However, there are some general rules of thumb when it comes to preparing for an acupuncture appointment. All are tweakable based on your constitution and preferences, but in my experience, these guidelines tend to improve the treatment experience and outcome for most people.

Are you ready to get the most out of your next acupuncture treatment? Remember these eight things.

Schedule wisely.

Avoid scheduling acupuncture before or after something really strenuous. You don’t need to be sedentary on either side of an appointment, but nor should you be going nuts at the gym or suffering through an extremely stressful meeting. Also avoid sandwiching—squeezing in acupuncture immediately between two other events—as this has a tendency to make you either late for or stressed out during your treatment.


This is an important one, and it’s something I get asked about a lot. Everyone metabolizes food at different rates, so adjust as you see fit, but a good guideline is to eat about two hours before an acupuncture appointment. You don’t want to show up really full, or after having eaten something heavy, fried or spicy, but do not go for acupuncture on an empty stomach. It can leave you feeling lightheaded or physically depleted. If you’re debating whether it’s too close to your appointment to eat, eat. Better to be a little full than distracted by hunger during your appointment.

Coffee is not your friend.

That is not to say that coffee is never your friend, but coffee is not your friend immediately before acupuncture. If you have a morning appointment and can’t go without your morning cup, do what you have to do. But if you’re going for acupuncture later in the day, avoid coffee for at least two hours before.

Coffee is a stimulant. It has been shown to release norepinephrine and epinephrine, which kick your body into fight-or-flight mode. Acupuncture works to shift you away from that sympathetic (fight-or-flight) state and toward a parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) one, so coffee inhibits the process. It also makes it difficult for the acupuncturist to get accurate readings on your pulse and tongue, since coffee increases your heart rate and stains your tongue.

Neither is alcohol.

One of acupuncture’s greatest gifts is its ability to help us see more clearly. Not literally, as in improved vision (although it has been known to do that too), but it helps us see situations and our symptoms with more clarity. Alcohol does the opposite. It numbs us, takes the edge off, which during acupuncture is not a good thing. One goal of acupuncture is to bring more awareness to how we feel. Impairing the senses with alcohol is not helpful.

Remember where you’ve been.

Before acupuncture, spend some time thinking about—or even making a list, if that helps—any significant medical events in your life. For example, family disease history, car accidents, broken bones, other serious injuries, long-term illnesses, surgeries, etc. Also make note of any medications you are taking currently as well as any that you took long-term in the past (e.g., birth control pills).

We tend to forget these things, or assume they’re irrelevant, but from an acupuncture perspective they help contribute to your overall picture of health. Your acupuncturist will want to hear about them. When in doubt about whether to include something, it’s always better to mention it.

Wear loose clothing.

This is so the acupuncturist can easily access the places where he or she wants to place needles. It’s especially important if you’re going for a community acupuncture appointment, because treatments are performed in a group setting with clothes on. However, even for private acupuncture appointments, loose clothing usually makes things easier for you and the practitioner.

Don’t rush.

Even when we schedule wisely, there is still a tendency to leave at the last minute for appointments. This makes most appointments more stressful than they need to be, but especially with acupuncture, arriving at your appointment amped-up is counter productive. It’s similar to how coffee works against the process of calming the nervous system. When you rush into an appointment, your pulse is higher than normal, your mind is spinning, and you’re tense with worry about the prospect of being late.

Many of us already deal with these qualities during our regular stress-filled days—and they’re often the reasons for coming to acupuncture in the first place—so why make them worse by rushing? Regardless of when your appointment is, put it in your calendar as 15 minutes earlier. The worst than can happen is you sit for 15 minutes in a quiet waiting room. Finally, time and space to hear yourself think.

Turn off your cellphone.

Last but not least, please turn off your phone. Not on vibrate. Off. Do it before your appointment actually starts, to avoid forgetting and/or getting distracted by a call or message immediately before you’re about to begin. This is your time and no one else’s. Make it count.

Some of these things are easy to forget. Create a pre-acupuncture checklist, something you can glance at on the days you have acupuncture, once first thing in the morning and again just before your appointment.

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