Circulatory System

Acupuncture Enhance Local Blood Flow

Tim H. Tanaka, PhD.

December 2005

Our circulatory system maintains efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to our organs and tissues, as well as the removal of metabolic waste. Disturbance of blood flow to our major arteries and vital organs can result in serious health consequences. Various organ dysfunctions, skin conditions, hormonal disorders, and symptoms such as being easily fatigued, lacking concentration, and becoming prone to injuries are often associated with inadequate circulatory functions.

One of the most well known effects of acupuncture is the enhancement of blood flow. A number of human and animal studies have demonstrated the efficacy of acupuncture on circulatory systems in the skin, muscle, brain, and internal organs such as the ovaries and uterus. In most situations, sophisticated medical devices are required to observe such circulatory changes associated with acupuncture stimulation. The influence of acupuncture on skin circulation, however, is immediate and changes can be observed with the naked eye.

The photo depicted was taken 5 minutes after the insertion of an acupuncture needle. It clearly shows a red circle around the needle. This skin color change, known as flare response is an indication of an increase in local skin temperature and enhanced circulation due to small blood vessel dilation. Somatosensory stimulation such as acupuncture or moxibustion causes the release of vasodilative substances such as calcitonin gene-related neuropeptide (CGRP) and substance P through the mechanism of the axon reflex.flare

Although acupuncture and some other therapeutic modalities have a positive effect in improving circulation, it is also important to minimize lifestyle activities that inhibit proper blood flow. Smoking, caffeine intake, and mental stress have immediate peripheral blood vessel constricting effects. Frequent consumption of high caloric foods and animal fats also has detrimental effects on our circulatory systems. Additionally, many anti-inflammatory pain medications have a tendency to inhibit peripheral blood flow.