Cannabis and Acupuncture: Two-In-One Boost For Your Endocannabinoid System
Traditional Chinese medicine has been using cannabis and acupuncture together as part of their wellness and healing modalities for thousands of years. While this concept is still fairly new to the Western world, holistic medical practice in the East has long been highly advanced. Eastern civilizations, primarily the Chinese, were well-versed in the use of herbs, tinctures, and knowledge of the human body.
It’s no surprise that cannabis and acupuncture has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine; these two, when used together, have shown to have synergistic effects for strengthening the immune system and addressing several different health ailments. In ancient Chinese literature, herbal historians used cannabis to treat more than 100 conditions including hemorrhages, digestive problems, rheumatism, parasitic infections, reproductive disorders in women, cognitive issues caused by age, pain, and much more.
Acupuncture is the ancient technique of inserting needles in key energy points, known as meridians, throughout the body. The objective of inserting needles below the surface of the skin is to remove obstructions in energy, referred to as “chi” or “qi”. These buildups are believed to contribute to disease, pain, sluggishness, and imbalance manifested through many different symptoms.
Cannabis and Acupuncture In Chinese History
In Chinese, cannabis is called “ma”, which translates to “help, cannabis, and numbness”. It’s possible that Chinese refer to cannabis as such because it has been used historically to develop analgesics for surgeries and other intensive procedures.
Cannabis has been referenced several times in Chinese traditional medicine literature. As early as 2737 BC, Emperor Shen Nung, who might have been the first cannabis doctor in history, wrote about various traditional Chinese medicine modalities and discussed the benefits of cannabis for the human body. By 2698-2205 BC, Huang Ti, who was called the “Yellow Emperor”, was said to have lived up to 400 years of age. Historians say that he invented the acupuncture needle, among many other things (ships, armor, wheels, etc). One of Huang Ti’s most prolific accomplishments was writing the Nei Ching, or the Chinese Canon of Medicine where he outlines different uses of cannabis as well as other herbs used in various Chinese traditional medicine modalities. Many acupuncture students today still read parts of the canon.
In 2350 BC, the Book of Odes, also known as the She King, was produced. The book is a collection of Chinese poetry that had several references to industrial hemp. It’s said that the use and cultivation of hemp as a crop originated during this period. In 1 AD, Pen Ts’ao Ching wrote a book which we know today as the oldest herbal book which was also based on Emperor Shen Nung’s work. It detailed several therapeutic benefits of cannabis. By 140-208 AD, Hua Tuo became the first person recorded to use cannabis as a pain killer. It’s thought that he used a tincture made with a strong CBD-rich strain containing both ground flower and leaf parts combined with wine; he apparently used this with acupuncture to numb his pain before undergoing surgery.
In a 2008 report from the Journal of Experimental Beauty, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences found what might be the oldest cannabis found that was cultivated for psychoactive use, in a remote location in China. The cannabis stash was kept inside a tomb of a shaman.
Using Cannabis and Acupuncture Together
Research shows that acupuncture, just like cannabis, works to help heal and regulate the endocannabinoid system and many of the body’s other systems. Not much has been thought about the possible links between acupuncture and cannabis until some researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University discovered it. The findings, which were published by the National Institutes of Health, revealed how electro-acupuncture (an electric form of traditional acupuncture) can increase the cannabinoid activity in the body, thereby making pain more tolerable.
In animal models of arthritis, the researchers discovered that repeated treatment using electro-acupuncture increased cannabinoid receptors in the striatum of the brain which is loaded with dopamine cells. The rat subjects showed signs of less pain after being treated with acupuncture. If cannabinoids are the reason why acupuncture works so well in dulling pain, then combining cannabis and acupuncture can be a possible cost-effective, safe, and natural solution for pain and other ailments.
If you live in a state where cannabis is legal, you may benefit from working with an acupuncture professional who has experience with cannabis. Before you combine the two practices, make sure that you pick an acupuncturist who has an open mind about cannabinoid therapies.
Have you used cannabis together with acupuncture? What was your experience like?