We all know stress…we all know the tension, irritability, worry, pain and sleeplessness that comes with it.
Stress activates our sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the fight-or-flight mechanism, and this response involves many molecular changes that prepare the body to respond to dangerous situations. When we live under chronic stress, these molecular and hormonal changes have detrimental affects on our health and well-being and can contribute to elevated blood pressure, depression, ulcers and heart disease.
A study published in the Journal of Endocrinology examined the affect of acupuncture on stress. It showed that rats receiving acupuncture had lower levels of ‘stress hormones’ and their sympathetic nervous system was calmed. (Though this was a study on rats, anyone who has received acupuncture treatments knows that wonderful post-treatment calm, relaxed yet energized feeling.)
From a TCM perspective, the main organ to be treated when dealing with stress is the Liver. It is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi, which is impeded by stress. This ‘stagnation’ of Liver Qi has many detrimental affects on the body and will lead to imbalances of the organs of digestion, the mind and emotions. When we ‘soothe the Liver’ and harmonize the flow of Liver Qi, using acupuncture and herbal medicine, we are better equipped to deal with the stressors in our life even if the external situation we find our self in doesn’t change much.