Acupuncture for Thyroid Disease and Disorders

Women are about four times more likely than men to suffer hyperthyroid disorders, eight times more likely to suffer hypothyroidism, and about twice as likely as men to suffer thyroid tumors. Approximately half the cases of thyroid disease involve hyperthyroidism and the other half involve hypothyroidism. Of these two, hypothyroidism is the most common. Despite the differing outcomes, the main cause of the disease as it occurs today is an autoimmune process.

The current medical therapies for thyroid disorders other than iodine-deficiency goiter are often deemed inadequate because of difficulties in regulating the level of thyroid hormones through use of drugs or an exogenous source of thyroid hormone. As a result, patients often experience only partial relief of the symptoms and those who suffer from hyperthyroidism often have to deal with hypothyroid conditions following medical destruction of the thyroid gland. Therefore, it is in our best interest to investigage the use of Alternative Therapies and Traditional Oriental Medicine, such as acupuncture.

Acupuncture originated in China approximately 2500 years ago and was considered to be a complete medical system. Today, acupuncture is still used to treat, and prevent disease, and improve well-being. Acupuncture is based on the premise that energy (“Chi” or “Qi”) circulates throughout the body along well-defined pathways, or meridians. When the meridians are blocked, the result is pain or illness. Tiny needles (about the same width as a strand of hair) are inserted along specific meridans in order to restore a balanced circulation of energy… yin and yang.

The World Health Organization lists over forty diseases that acupuncture can treat effectively - thyroid is on the list. Acupuncture gained the attention of the American public after President Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. Traveling with Nixon was a New York Times reporter, James Reston, who received acupuncture in China after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. He was so impressed with the procedure’s ability to relieve his postoperative pain that he wrote about his experience upon returning to the United States. According to Skya Abbate, DOM, Executive Director, Southwest Acupuncture College, doctor’s she has studied with in China advocate the use of Western medications to treat hyperthyroidism, although they use some acupuncture as well. (See: Acupuncture Today; Needle Techniques.)

For certain conditions, acupuncture is more effective when the needles are heated using a technique known as “moxibustion.” The acupuncturist lights a small bunch of the dried herb moxa (mugwort) and holds it above the needles. The herb, which burns slowly and gives off a little smoke and a pleasant, incense-like smell, never directly touches the body.

Finding an Acupuncturist:
Credentials for acupuncturists have various designations, including L.Ac., Lic.Ac., C.A., Dipl.Ac., M.Ac., or AAMA. Professionals sometimes use the titles O.M.D. or D.O.M. (Doctor of Oriental Medicine). Be sure your acupuncturist uses only disposable needles. In addition, if your acupuncturist is qualified to prescribe herbs and would like you to take them as part of your treatment, first discuss this with your physician. Herbs are potent substances that can be harmful if you suffer from certain conditions; they can also interact with drugs you may be taking and cause side effects. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture ( can provide a list of licensed physicians in your area who are also trained to perform acupuncture.
Acupuncture & Hypothyroidism

Acupuncture has traditionally been successfully employed in China to treat most illnesses and there is little doubt that acupuncture is an excellent therapy for people suffering with this condition. There are several studies suggesting that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can be very helpful in the treatment of Hypothyroidism. For instance, in a study at the Shanghai Medical University in China, 32 patients with hypothyroidism were treated over a period of one year with a Chinese herbal preparation to stimulate the kidney meridian (energy channel). The results were compared with a control group of 34 people. At the end of the study, the clinical symptoms of hypothyroidism were reported to be markedly improved confirming that “Hypothyroidism is closely related to deficiency of kidney energy.”

Relation of hypothyroidism and deficiency of kidney yang Zha LL, Inst. of the Integr. of TCM-WM Med., Shanghai Med. Univ. Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih (CHINA) Apr 1993, 13 (4) p202-4,195