The Hepatitis C Help Program: An East-West Comprehensive Approach - Chinese Diagnosis and Treatment with Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Massage
By Misha Cohen, OMD, LAc
Chinese Differential Diagnosis
The organ patterns primarily disturbed in hepatitis C virus (HCV) are the liver organ patterns and the spleen organ patterns.
These organ patterns affect a person's digestion and energy. According to Chinese traditional medicine, acute viral hepatitis is generally associated with excess damp heat or damp cold conditions.
While in a few cases a person infected with HCV may have or notice acute symptoms, it is rare. Therefore, the TCM stages at which one is diagnosed with hepatitis C are often the chronic stages of qi stagnation, and the qi and yin deficiency stages. Advanced chronic disease includes a development of the patterns of xue (blood) stagnation and deficiency.
All HCV is associated with the li qi (pestilence/epidemic factor) toxic heat:
Symptoms: Itching, sensations of heat, agitation
Tongue: Red spots and body
In addition, there are 10 syndromes specifically associated with viral hepatitis.
The following excess syndromes are associated generally with acute hepatitis and increased liver enzymes. However, these may persist in chronic hepatitis (along with additional syndromes that develop as liver disease progresses).
1. Liver /Gallbladder Damp-Heat
bright yellow face/eyes
tongue: red, with yellow greasy fur
2. Spleen Damp-Heat
bright yellow face
tongue: red, with yellow greasy fur
3. Spleen Damp-Cold
sallow yellow face
feels cold/often has fever
tongue: pale, with greasy white fur
The following excess syndrome is generally associated with chronic hepatitis.
4. Qi Stagnation
fullness in abdomen
often increased liver enzymes
swollen liver and spleen
tongue: purplish or normal, with thin white coat
The following deficiency syndromes are associated generally with chronic hepatitis:
5. Spleen Qi Deficiency
lack of appetite
tongue: pale, swollen with toothmarks
6. Liver Yin Deficiency
dryness of eyes, nails, throat and mouth
reddish cheeks and eyes
pulse: thin, deficient, wiry, rapid
7. Qi Deficiency (General)
bleeding (such as purpura)
tongue: pale, swollen
8. Yin Deficiency (General)
afternoon fevers or hot flashes
waking up during night
pulse: thin, deficient, rapid
The following deficiency syndrome is often associated with cirrhosis.
9. Xue (Blood) Deficiency
pale and lusterless face
enzymes often normalize
pulse: deficient and thready/hollow if loss of blood
The following excess syndrome is often associated with liver cancer (and is in addition to deficiency syndromes).
10. Xue (Blood) Stagnation
sharp, stabbing costal pain
abdomen hurts with movement
pulse: choppy or wiry (with pain)
tongue: purple or purple sides
Treatment with Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Massage
General Chronic Hepatitis Treatment
Special points - .75 cun from du channel at the level of T10/T11/T12, along with UB 18/19/20
damp-cold spleen: Use moxa on Sp 6, Sp9, UB 20, Ren12
liver qi stagnation: Liv3, LI4, UB18
qi and xue deficiency: St36, Sp6, UB20, 21, 23
xue stagnation: Sp10, LI11
gallbladder pain: gallbladder (Special point about 1 cun below GB34)
Moxibustion may be used in HCV to stimulate specific acupuncture points. This warms the channels and expels cold and dampness; creates a smooth flow of qi and xue; strengthens yang qi; prevents disease; and maintains health.
For hundreds of years, moxibustion has been partnered with acupuncture. According to the Chinese text, Introduction to Medicine, "When a disease fails to respond to medication and acupuncture, moxibustion is suggested."
For chronic hepatitis, whenever there are increased AST and ALT levels, you may use the following points:
special points - .75 cun from du channel at the level of T10/T11/T12
also include UB18/19/20
Additional points for various conditions include:
for dampness and treating digestive problems associated with cold, use Ren12 - halfway between the navel and the tip of the sternum; effective in dispelling cold and dampness
for diarrhea associated with pharmaceutical treatment or chronic spleen deficiency, use salt and loose cone moxa treatment over the navel at Ren8
for weak energy and lack of appetite, use St36, Sp6
with nausea, moxa Ren12, Ren14 and Sp6
for liver/costal pain, use stick moxa at Liv14 and GB24
I instruct the client to perform self-acupressure at the following points:
for nausea, press P6 and Ren12
for weak energy, massage St36, Sp6 and Sp4
for loose stools and abdominal cramping, massage St37, St25
Abdominal massage is helpful to harmonize the large and small intestine, liver, spleen, stomach and gallbladder. To increase the massage's effectiveness, warm the abdomen first with a hot pack or ginger compress. You may also massage using warming oil infused with cinnamon essential oil.
Click here for previous articles by Misha Cohen, OMD, LAc.
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