Acupuncture is sometimes used as a natural remedy among people looking to quit smoking. Long practiced in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves inserting needles at specific points on the body in order to stimulate the flow of energy (or "chi"). While there is conflicting evidence of acupuncture's effectiveness for smoking cessation, proponents suggest that acupuncture may offer natural relief of certain nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
How Might Acupuncture Help You Quit Smoking?
Acupuncture is said to alleviate symptoms often experienced in the attempt to quit smoking. For instance, proponents claim that acupuncture can ease cravings and reduce irritability (possible due to the therapy's supposed ability to induce relaxation). Some advocates suggest that acupuncture may also promote detoxification in those trying to quit smoking.
The Science Behind Acupuncture and Smoking
There's no consistent evidence that acupuncture (or acupressure) is effective for helping people quit smoking, according to a research review published in 2006. For the review, investigators analyzed 24 previously published studies on the use of acupuncture and related treatments for smoking cessation. Although they found no evidence that acupuncture is superior to other anti-smoking techniques, the investigators caution that no "firm conclusions can be drawn" (due to the poor design of many of the reviewed studies).
In a more recent study (published in 2008), researchers assigned 80 smokers to six sessions of real acupuncture or sham acupuncture. Results revealed that real acupuncture was no more effective than sham acupuncture in reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms, depression, or anxiety.
Should You Use Acupuncture to Quit Smoking?
Due to a lack of scientific support for acupuncture's benefits in smoking cessation, the treatment cannot currently be recommended to smokers attempting to quit. If you smoke, it's crucial to talk to your doctor about how to go about quitting. In addition to offering several immediate benefits (such as improved circulation, healthier blood pressure, and easier breathing), quitting smoking can reduce your risk for several major diseases (including heart disease and cancer).
Other natural approaches (such as hypnosis) may also offer some benefit to people looking to quit smoking. Although acupuncture is generally considered safe, it's important to consult your physician before you begin using any type of alternative therapy for smoking cessation.
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National Institutes of Health. "Quitting Smoking: MedlinePlus." September 2010.
White AR, Rampes H, Campbell JL. "Acupuncture and related interventions for smoking cessation." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jan 25;(1):CD000009.
Wu TP, Chen FP, Liu JY, Lin MH, Hwang SJ. "A randomized controlled clinical trial of auricular acupuncture in smoking cessation." J Chin Med Assoc. 2007 Aug;70(8):331-8.