web analytics

Acupuncture and Smoking: How Eastern Medicine Supports Attempts to Quit

Smoking may not be as popular as it was back in the 60s, when nearly half of U.S. adults considered themselves regular cigarette smokers. But it’s still a concern according to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That survey found that more than 20 percent of people (aged 12 and over) had smoked or vaped in the previous 30 days. And nearly 10 percent of people were nicotine dependent.

Many of these people will eventually quit, or attempt to quit, their tobacco use. And many of them will find it extremely difficult to deal with the withdrawal symptoms that come with stopping their nicotine addiction. Nicotine-replacement gums and patches can help some, but a large number of people need additional support.

This is where eastern medicine can help. Eastern modalities like acupuncture treatments and herbal therapy have helped patients quit smoking for decades, and the research backing this approach is encouraging.

The Benefits of Stopping Tobacco Use

Among long-term smokers, there is often a sense that quitting after long-term use isn’t worth it. After smoking for decades, how much could quitting actually benefit a person? As it turns out, there are several significant benefits that come with smoking cessation, and these benefits accrue over time. Some of them include:

  • Better cardiovascular health and performance – Smoking and cardiovascular disease are tightly correlated, and even among long-term tobacco users, stopping smoking can boost cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular performance improves over the minutes and hours following your last cigarette, but the bigger impacts start piling up after a year of stopping. Within a year or two of quitting, your chances of a heart attack dramatically decrease.
    After a few years of quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half. In five to 10 years, your chances of stroke also go down significantly. And after 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is similar to someone who has never smoked.

  • Better respiratory health and performance – Coughing, shortness of breath and poor exercise tolerance are all respiratory-related impacts of smoking. Unsurprisingly, when people achieve smoking cessation success, the negative respiratory effects of smoking reverse themselves quickly. Within a year, any smoking-related cough or shortness of breath is likely to be in the rear-view mirror.

  • Reduced risk of many cancers – Smoking is associated with a huge number of cancers, affecting organs throughout the body. By quitting, you’re greatly reducing the likelihood of developing these cancers. After five to 10 years, the risk of developing mouth, voice box or throat cancers is cut in half. After 10 years, the chances of developing esophagus, kidney or bladder cancers also drops. And in 20 years, your risk of developing mouth, throat, voice box and pancreatic cancers is similar to that of someone who has never smoked.

There are several good reasons to toss the cigarettes, but quitting can be tough. If you’re going through the process, acupuncture treatment can improve your chances of getting through withdrawal and stopping nicotine for good.

Here’s how acupuncture can help:

  • It may alter the taste of tobacco – There are many case studies associated with acupuncture and quitting smoking. One common trend among these case studies is a change in taste. Specifically, a large number of patients report tasting tobacco differently after receiving acupuncture at certain acupuncture points. Some of these patients found that they could no longer tolerate the taste of tobacco and found it easier to quit as a result.

  • It can boost endorphin levels – Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the body into releasing feel-good chemicals like endorphins. These chemicals can lift the patient’s mood, reduce pain levels, and reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms.

  • It can reduce stress and help control cravings – Acupuncture is a proven stress-reducer for many people. It’s this reason why acupuncture is recommended for a huge variety of medical conditions, including people suffering from anxiety or depression. As quitting tobacco comes with a lot of stress itself, acupuncture can help smokers control their stress levels and resist using smoking as a coping mechanism.

Herbal Therapy Can Also Help Smokers Ditch the Cigarettes

In addition to acupuncture treatment, eastern medicine practitioners may use herbal and botanical therapies to help smokers quit. The research behind botanicals and smoking cessation isn’t quite as robust, but the studies that do exist show promising results.

At the heart of smoking-related herbal therapy is green tea. There are even studies that have looked into the efficacy of using green tea in cigarette filters. One such study, published in 2010, determined that using green tea in this way greatly increased the chances of quitting smoking among the study’s participants.

The effectiveness of green tea and other botanicals may have to do with their nutritional content. These herbs are packed with critical micronutrients like amino acids, and researchers believe that their presence can offset the nicotine cravings that smokers frequently have trouble with.

Eastern Medical Treatments are Most Effective When Provided by a Licensed Practitioner

While acupuncture and herbal therapies are proven to be effective for nicotine addiction, they must be properly dosed and administered. This will ensure maximum safety and efficacy during treatment.

Fortunately, eastern methods of medicine are growing in popularity in the U.S., and many practitioners now offer both western and eastern modalities through their practices. It’s important, though, to find a practitioner that not only offers both, but is licensed in both. Licensed acupuncturists, for example, know what areas of the body to target for smoking-cessation purposes. Licensed acupuncturists are also trained in the proper selection and use of needles, along with maintaining proper sanitation protocols in treatment areas. Licensed acupuncturists are less likely to cause pain or bleeding during treatment, and their familiarity with eastern medical practices mean they can prescribe herbal therapies safely.

Overcoming a nicotine addiction is tough, but acupuncture and herbal treatments can help. They can help support whole-body health, mitigate stress, reduce the severity of cravings, and even alter the way people taste tobacco. For those struggling with nicotine addiction, those benefits may be enough to get through the withdrawals and onto a smoke-free life.

Skip to content