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A Different Way to Heal?
Body on a Bench
Needles and Nerves
Photo of Alan talking with an Acupuncture Patient
  Alan talks with acupunture patient Bill Stroud who says he can feel a tingle when the needle hits a nerve.

Perhaps the most widely accepted alternative therapy is the 4000-year-old Chinese practice of acupuncture -- although the scientific jury is still out on its efficacy. Acupuncture maps out points on the body through which the Qi (pronounced "Chee"), or life force, can be manipulated. Particular points are stimulated with needles to affect change in the Qi of specific body parts - the heart, the liver, the brain - and to assist with specific ailments, such as insomnia or high blood pressure.

In animal studies, John Longhurst, Chief of Cardiology at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, found a link between acupuncture and the release of natural opiates in the brain, which reduced the animals' reaction to stress, suppressing blood pressure. Now he's trying to find out if the same is true for humans, but results so far are hard to interpret.
Photo of Dr. Longhurst  
Dr. John Longhurst found that test subjects who received acupuncture showed significantly lower peak blood pressure.  

Subjects pedal on an exercise bike until they're exhausted, when their blood pressure reaches its peak. Subjects who received acupuncture before exercising showed significantly lower peak blood pressure than those who did not. But surprisingly, some of the acupuncture points that were effective in the trials weren't supposed to act on the cardiovascular system. Longhurst believes that acupuncture, and most alternative therapies, work by essentially turning on the body's own opiate system - a result otherwise known as the "placebo effect."

For more on this topic, see the web feature:
Alternative Attraction

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