acupuncture therapy

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Listen to Dr. Neal’s episode on this topic on the podcast Optimal Health Daily.

Do Castor Oil Packs Work?

If you aren’t familiar, castor packs–sometimes called castor oil pack–have been used for a number of different conditions and illnesses. A castor oil pack is made by basically taking a piece of fabric, like a piece of flannel, soaking it in castor oil, and then placing that soaked fabric on the skin. But, that’s not all. The soaked fabric is covered with a sheet of plastic and a hot water bottle is placed over the plastic to provide heat. Usually castor oil is sold as a kit with all of these items so folks don’t have to worry about finding all of these materials on their own. Usually, this pack is then left on the skin for up to an hour, depending on the type of kit that was purchased. Each one has its own instructions.

Now, for liver cleansing, improving lymphatic drainage, and helping the immune system… basically, they couldn’t hurt. Unless someone was allergic to castor oil or the fabric, or if the water bottle was too hot, using this type of treatment likely would do no harm. Whether castor oil packs actually help the liver clean the blood or improve lymphatic drainage and the immune system is hard to say. What often happens when folks use these types of therapies is that they believe it will make them feel better. Sometimes, just that belief will in fact make them feel better, which in turn could make their immune system stronger. Why? Well, if they feel better, maybe they’ll sleep better and eat better, and get up and move… all of these things can improve the immune system. In fact, moving around actually helps improve lymph drainage! So, again, I would say if you enjoy it and it makes you feel better and it’s not harming anyone or anything in the process, go for it! But, without well-designed studies, I simply don’t know if castor oil kits are truly helpful. On the other hand, manual lymphatic drainage therapy–basically, a type of massage that’s designed to help drain our lymph nodes–has been showing promise. But, here again, there aren’t enough studies out there to really know for sure. If it doesn’t cause any harm and makes you feel better, enjoy!

Does Acupuncture Work to Balance Energy to Stay Healthy?

Acupuncture has been around for a long, long time. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken so long for western societies to adopt it. Acupuncture can be a helpful treatment for many conditions and has actually been studied really thoroughly for a number of different illnesses. But there’s not a whole lot of research out there on energy balance and maintaining your health. This is another great example of one of those cases where, if it’s not doing any harm and makes you feel better, stick with it.

Just so I don’t leave you hanging, here’s a list of some conditions that acupuncture has been used to treat and has actually improved people’s health:

  • Allergies
  • Depression
  • Facial pain
  • Headache
  • Hypertension (aka high blood pressure)
  • Hypotension (aka low blood pressure)
  • Inducing labor in pregnant women
  • Knee pain
  • Low back pain
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Dental pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow
  • Abdominal pain
  • Alcoholism
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Earache
  • Eye pain
  • Insomnia
  • Obesity
  • Premenstrual syndrome (aka PMS)
  • Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
  • Stiff neck
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis

(Source: http://cim.ucsd.edu/clinical-care/acupuncture.shtml. Accessed July 6, 2016.)

How can you be sure to find a reputable acupuncturist? Acupuncturist licensure is regulated at the state level. In the state of California, where I am located, we have a State of California Acupuncture Board. You would want to make sure that your acupuncturist is licensed within your state. Also, some health insurance plans will cover all or some of the costs of seeing an acupuncturist. Definitely call their office in advance to see which insurance plans they take, if any, and what your out-of-pocket costs might be.

Listen to Dr. Neal’s episode on this topic on the podcast Optimal Health Daily.