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Detoxification Therapy: Acupuncture to Clear Accumulations

Detoxification Therapy: Acupuncture to Clear Accumulations

Much of what I do as an acupuncturist is detoxification therapy. Patients come to me complaining of (often strange) symptoms affecting their physical bodies (pain, digestive, respiratory, skin, muscle, joint issues), their minds (anxiety, depression, obsession) or quality of life (insomnia, fatigue). In my experience the cure for most ailments is a type of detoxification.

We are often unaware of how much our bodies store and accumulate. Most of us are constantly on the run, trying to keep up with our busy lives. We don’t take the time to process, let go and release that which we have taken in.

I’m currently working with several patients who’ve brought in strange symptoms. One of which is a burning sensation in the feet. Another is wandering pain in the hips. A third is inability to control one’s emotions, leading to frequent bouts of crying.

For all these symptoms my chief acupuncture strategy was that of detoxification of accumulations in various parts of the body, followed by a series of sessions to strengthen the underlying weaknesses causing the tendency to accumulate.

Pulse diagnosis is my main method of discerning and diagnosing where the accumulations are being held in the body, and also where they might be originating from. Within the pulse, I can assess the function of each of the major internal organs and their acupuncture channel systems.

For example, the patient experiencing chronic burning in the feet. The pulse showed the heat accumulation was coming from the Liver (the emotions – unprocessed experience and drive to achieve). The Kidney system was that which was holding onto the accumulated heat, trying to contain it within the lower aspect of its acupuncture channel.

It’s interesting to note, that another patient had a similar pulse picture, yet a different physical symptomatic manifestation. The accumulation in this case was being held in the hips and lower back. When I treated this patient, asking the body to clear the accumulation of heat being held in the hips, she had a fast purge through her bowels (later that night) which alleviated the hip pain almost completely.

The immediate clearing of accumulations can be easy. The difficult part of treatment is re-training the body to stop accumulating. This requires frequent strengthening of the digestive and immune systems as they process both food as well as experience.

I often hear from patients that they are amazed and impressed that their symptoms were alleviated so fast with acupuncture treatment. But they become discouraged when these symptoms reappear after some time. I explain that it’s easy to clear accumulations causing symptoms. What takes time, energy and commitment is changing their physical and mental-emotional vibration and patterns so they stop accumulating altogether. This is when acupuncture becomes more than just symptom management; it becomes transformational therapy.

Yesterday I was working with a patient and he mentioned that he’d been drinking “too much” for several months. So I asked him to go deeper into that. He unconsciously resisted. So I told him we’d make that day’s acupuncture session about being able to go into why he drinks so much. I told him it’s not enough to simply think or decide he needs to stop the behavior. He needs to feel  into what it’s really about: what is the experience or emotion he’s trying to numb, or possibly the sensation he’s trying to evoke.

I gave an acupuncture treatment that helped direct his consciousness into the realm of the heart and the digestive system – the feeling centers of the energetic body. The acupuncture points PC-6 “Inner Gate,” SP-4 “Grandfather-Grandson,” and ST-40 “Abundant Splendor” were used to achieve this. At the end of the session the patient realized that it was loneliness he was trying to avoid through his drinking. He didn’t come up with this answer through intellectual guessing, but through having an experience of himself through the acupuncture treatment. I sent him home to work on creating a more manageable relationship with his loneliness. Going forward I told him we’d work on strengthening his Kidney energy system so that he’d begin to feel more comfortable being alone with himself, while also continuing to clear the accumulations in his body as he transformed and changed.

Another patient was experiencing frequent bouts of uncontrollable crying. The medical classics say this is a symptom relating to accumulation in the Pericardium acupuncture channel. Naturally the first treatment involved clearing accumulations in this channel. Going forward however we had to therapeutically dig deep to discover why the Pericardium tended to fill with undigested stress. I used the acupuncture points PC-6 and SP-4 once again to direct consciousness into the emotional level, yet added the point KI-4 “Great Bell” to delve into the unconscious.

There are many energetic layers to the body, all of which can be reached by the acupuncture channels. The acupuncture channels are long and meandering. They travel to the far reaches of the body, from the deepest aspects to the most superficial.

One of the most interesting chapters in the medical classics is entitled “Roots and Terminations.” This chapter details how the body can take an imbalance and translocate it somewhere else to be stored as an accumulation. To understand this is to understand where accumulations can be coming from in order to get at the root of the problem.

Many of the acupuncture channel systems are built around the theory of “Roots and Terminations.” The acupuncture channels can be categorized as “primary,” meaning they fulfill the functions of the internal organs. They can therefore be called the “physiological channels.” There are also another class of channels in the body, which some call “secondary” or “complementary,” which are not physiological in nature, but rather deal with disease. These “secondary” channels translocate pathology from the “primary” physiological channels (and their associated organs) to various parts of the body to be stored as accumulations.

The chapter discussing the “Divergent Channels,” one set of the “secondary vessels,”  teaches that many imbalances affecting the internal organs themselves translocate their toxins into the joints for storage. They do so via the assistance of the “Divergent Channels.” Therefore many joint problems are actually rooted in organic issues, both of which need to be detoxed and cleared before symptoms will disappear. To treat issues affecting the joints, the Divergent Channels are therefore key, as they are able to clear the accumulations but also address the pathway by which these issues are translocated. Naturally after the accumulations have been cleared, the root organic problem must be addressed to allow for complete healing to occur.

Chinese medicine is ancient. Its way of looking at the body was through creating functional systems built around the major internal organs. The internal organ systems were allocated functions much wider in scope than acknowledged in Western medicine. The organ systems were seen to influence mental, emotional and spiritual attributes as well as physical. Therefore when tracing symptoms back to the root organs and channels, there is an abundance of material to associate it with. For example, the Kidney system deals with all that we know it to physiologically, but it is also associated with the emotion of fear in Chinese medicine. 

Many of the long-COVID cases I’ve been seeing require the detoxification of accumulations, especially that of inflammation and phlegm. For some, the virus was too overwhelming and their body was unable to fully expel the results of the illness. This has led to a lingering fatigue or sense of weakness usually of a low-grade inflammatory nature. Treatment is requiring detoxifying accumulation of heat, followed by strengthening of the major systems weakened by the virus. In most cases, the Lungs, the digestive and circulatory systems, and the Kidneys (seen as the root of the immune system in Chinese medicine). The inflammation accumulating in the body is what causes the fatigue and system sluggishness.

The case where the patient suffered from a burning sensation in the feet can be explained through the theory of “Roots and Terminations.” Each of the acupuncture channels are named after the internal organs. They each have an accessory vessel attached to them, called the Luo (Connecting) Vessel. The Luo translocate unresolved issues from the acupuncture channels (and associated organs) to other parts of the body where they can be stored as accumulations.

As I said earlier the patient’s pulse showed the problem originated from the Liver and was translocated into the Kidneys, systemically speaking. I treated the patient with the acupuncture points GB-37 “Bright Light” and ST-42 “The Yang of the Blueprint.” These two points together represent the Luo Vessel of the Gallbladder. The Gallbladder is the “Yang” or more active partner to the Liver. The Luo of the Gallbladder translocates unresolved heat accumulation from the Liver out through the lower leg into the foot. The point ST-42 while being part of the Stomach channel, through its name suggests it is a doorway into the “source” energy of the body which is ruled by the Kidneys. The blueprint is another name for “Chong Mai” which is the vessel that is related to deepest aspect of a person – the essence.

There is term for heat that gets stuffed into the level of the source. It is “steaming bone syndrome,” which this patient’s symptoms can be seen as. In this case it is Liver heat that is going into the level of source to be stored as an accumulation, creating the sensation of burning into the lower legs and feet. The Luo Vessel of the Gallbladder is the actual channel that maps this process as it is occurring, showing the brilliance of acupuncture in illustrating the movement of pathology in the body.

The idea of “Roots and Terminations” is that by knowing the acupuncture channels and how they flow through the body, we can understand the body’s accumulations and where they come from.

The idea of a “Luo” means connecting – the ability to make the connection between where something is and where it has come from. Like I suggested with my patient struggling with loneliness and alcohol. What is the root and what is the symptom? The Luo acupuncture points allows us to go into the source of a problem. They help us make the connections. The point PC-6 “Inner Gate” is representative of this: the ability to go through the gate of our resistance into the inner world to discover why. The point GB-37 “Bright Light” suggests illuminating something that is dark and murky so we can gain insight and awareness. KI-4 “Great Bell” suggests awakening the ears so we can hear clearly, beyond the static that may be inhibiting us. SP-4 “Grandfather-Grandson” suggests an even deeper penetration, into our ancestry. Sometimes our accumulations and patterns are not just our own, but inherited through the family line.

Acupuncture treatment therefore works in two major ways. It can quickly and strongly relieve symptoms through clearing accumulations in the body. It can also work slowly and deeply to get to the root of those accumulations; into our habitual patterns; even our ancestral inheritance. For the patients who choose to work with me for an extend period of time we are constantly doing both branches of treatment: clearing accumulations to alleviate symptoms and penetrating into the depths of their energetic selves to uncover the root wounding for full transcendence and evolution of the problem.

Nicholas Sieben, MS, L.Ac.

Nicholas is a healer who uses acupuncture and reiki to help awaken and heal. His mission is to promote greater freedom of body, mind and spirit through compassionate self-awareness. Through the use of ancient medical practices and the spiritual philosophies of Taoism and Buddhism, Nicholas helps illuminate the path to healing. He is a student of the renown Taoist priest and Chinese Medical Master Jeffrey Yuen. He completed his acupuncture studies under Mr. Yuen at the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences, and received a B.A. from Brandeis University in Sociology and Philosophy. He has a practice in New York City.

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