Acupuncture & Brain Health

Updated: Nov 7

By: Dr. K. Bradley Lenz


Brain health is a vast and complex subject, one that a single article couldn’t do justice. This will look at a few aspects of how my work can impact brain health with a helpful tip you can use this week. Let’s differentiate a bit of what we are focused on: intellectual capacity, focus, memory, neuromodulator regulation, stress tolerance, clarity and ease one feels in their brain, and the neurological motor and sensory function we usually take for granted until a neurological event or a decline begins to occur. Spoiler alert: Chinese medicine treats all of these.

Background of the “Brain” in Chinese Medicine:

The Brain itself is what is referred to as a Curious Organ, which is a designation given to parts of the internal body with important functions that fall outside of the roles assigned to the main organs. More specifically, the Brain is referred to as “The Sea of Marrow”, which from today’s perspective, sounds more like the ventricles or spaces within the brain that are reservoirs for Cerebral Spinal Fluid. The idea of the brain as the place where Mind lives is not introduced until modern era with physician Wang Qing-Ren (late 1700’s) when he published his research connecting vascular Heart health with Brain health. Prior to this, it was understood that the Heart housed the Mind.

Brain meridians:

The Brain has no associated meridian, like the primary organs do, though there are many points and point combinations that impact the Brain, as well as branches of meridians that enter the Brain.

The best example is found with Gallbladder channel. This meridian travels a path that connects the eyes, the ears, the sinuses, all the lobes of the brain before traveling down to the fourth toe of the foot, along with a branch that connects to the gallbladder itself. This channel and its points impart a clearing and stimulating function with the brain and all the senses. It can activate clear-headedness, eliminating brain fog. It can “open the elimination of the Brain” which means both that it can literally activate the Glial cells and astrocytes to help the brain release cellular waste, as well as more figuratively clear a “fright Wind” or flashbacks that occur after a traumatic event. The emotion associated with the Gallbladder is courage, so to strengthen this channel can enhance courage or additionally the ability to make decisions. Points on the channel can sharpen vision, allow for decreased wax production in the ear, and resolve sinus infections, all of which impact our perspective of the world. Points below the skull on this channel assist the health of the spine, the gut, the shoulders, the hips and the lower limbs. There are other meridians we use in combination to effect Brain health but none as powerful as the Gallbladder. Why though? Because this channel treats a specific pathogenic factor known as “internal wind,” which presents in the body as spasm, rigidity, numbness, unrelenting chronic tightness. We know that one of the most important factors in brain health is plasticity, or the ability of the brain to respond to damage (often from inflexibility) and re-wire or reconnect networks within the brain. Western medicine does not recognize “wind” and therefore cannot treat this, whereas we have limitless point and herb combinations to create supple, relaxed, responsive tissue anywhere in the body.

Another example would be the Spleen meridian. While there are no points of this meridian on the head, the Spleen is said to rule the Yi, or Intellect. Our ability to focus on a single thought and concentrate for extended periods is regulated by the channel. There are herbal formulas which strengthen the Spleen which improve studying capability while also treating the exhaustion that comes from over-thinking. There are applications for this medicine to support ADD/ADHD and other neurodivergent conditions.

Life after a stroke, where one is lucky enough to survive, can present some difficult barriers to overcome. “Brighten the Brain” treatment, or Qing Nao Kai Qiao, developed in 1972 in Taiwan, is a modern system of acupuncture that has been created to affect the brain in times of a non-hemorrhagic stroke. This system regulates blood flow throughout the brain and nervous system, clearing blockages so that sensory and motor function can be restored! During my residency in school, a female patient in her 70’s, one month after a stroke with resulting hemiplegia, and partial paralysis of her limbs on one side achieved fully restored function after 4 months of treatments with intermittent herbal formulations. By the time we were done, she hadn’t fallen in weeks and returned to her needlepoint work.

Another modern system that was developed in China in a laboratory, is Scalp Acupuncture. Lines and areas of the scalp were mapped based on their effect, so there is a line for Motor function, Sensory function, and areas for Sight, Speech, Reproduction, Balance, and Hearing.

If you suffer from headaches of any kind, there are very specific differentiations and treatments for each. It has been a pleasure to watch people heal out of chronic patterns of migraines as well as eliminating pain in a single session.

In terms of dietary additions for preventative Brain Health, one of the newest compounds we know of that is terrific is Sulforaphane. Aside from its notable “anti-aging” qualities, it aids surviving and recovering from neurological events or brain trauma. This is the chemical that is found in its most concentrated form in Broccoli sprouts, which is why they are being sold at twice the price of other sprouts. There are some fairly expensive supplements as well. One tip I learned about to get the amount of Sulforaphane we need without splurging on sprouts or another pill is this:

Add a tsp of white mustard seed powder to your broccoli after it’s cooked, and this will make 40% more Sulforaphane available. It adds a nice bit of warming spice also which is great for the colder seasons.

This brief article is meant to educate on some of the areas of Brain health that we can help with. Consider making an appointment today to bring the support of this ancient and modern healing art into your world.

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