Some aspects of traditional Chinese medicine may help enhance sexual health for men and women
How holistic is your approach to your own sexual health and well-being?
While you may assume that issues such as low libido, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm are strictly related to sexual function or sex organs, there is another, more holistic interpretation, popular in traditional Chinese medicine, known as "heart yin deficiency." Learn about "kidney qi deficiency," and other imbalances which may, according to the traditional Chinese system of medicine, interfere with your sex life and sexual pleasure.
Sexuality is a complex intersection of biological, psychological, spiritual and other factors. Some people believe that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may be better than Western medicine in addressing these complexities. In fact, acupuncture is one of the most common treatments used in TCM to help improve a man or woman's sexual health.
What Acupuncture Treatments Can Do for You and Your Sex Drive
"Acupuncture is a simple and relatively safe way of restoring qi to those who are deficient," says Baljit Khamba, ND, an assistant professor of naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University California and a naturopathic doctor in San Diego, referring to the life energy Chinese medicine praciioners believe enhances health and libido.
The Chinese Medicine Approach to Health and Wellness: What to Know
While Western medicine sees the body as a series of mechanical, chemical, and electrical circuits, to the Chinese, the body is seen as more holistic. A healthy body, and a vibrant sex life, emerge when all our parts are in harmony.
All aspects of TCM spring from this outlook. In acupuncture, the needles aim to remove blockages or imbalances in the qi energy that connects the various organs, thereby helping life force and sexual energy to flow.
Study Suggests a Libido Boost From Acupuncture Treatment
Although there's little research on acupuncture and sexual health, one small study, published in November 2013 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, is intriguing.
In this study, 35 men and women had sexual dysfunction, likely caused by the antidepressants they were taking for their anxiety or other mood disorders. Some 50 to 90 percent of people on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) experience sexual dysfunction, the study authors noted.
Patients were treated with nine sessions of acupuncture, each session lasting 15 minutes. Some of the acupuncture points used in the study called kidney 3, governing vessel 4, urinary bladder 23, heart 7, and pericardium 6 are common points for the TCM diagnoses mentioned above, "conditions which often include sexual dysfunction," says Dr. Khamba, one of the study's coauthors.
By the end of the study, women reported improved libidos while men experienced improvement in multiple sexual functions, including erection, timing of ejaculation, and ability to orgasm.
Acupuncture Addresses Underlying Issues That May Contribute to Sex Problems
Acupuncture "is a particularly useful way of treating the root cause" of any sexual dysfunction, Khamba says.
That's why she frequently uses acupuncture, along with lifestyle, nutrition, and other natural health treatments, to help patients improve their sexual health. If they have a condition that affects libido, enjoyment of sex, or ability to orgasm whether that's due to hormonal issues, endometriosis, depression, headaches, fatigue, or others causes an acupuncturist will look for the underlying TCM diagnosis and use needles in the points appropriate for that diagnosis.
Because they treat the underlying energetic condition, needles are not always placed where it makes sense to the client. Someone coming to an acupuncturist for pain in their pelvis, for example, might find few or no needles placed in that trouble spot.
Getting Treated With Acupuncture Is Good for Stress Which Helps Sex
Anita Sadaty, MD, a gynecologist in Roslyn, New York, is another fan of acupuncture for boosting sexual health. In her view, one of its most powerful effects is through the stress-hormone pathway.
"Acupuncture is an amazing technique for reducing and balancing stress hormone levels, which in turn impact state of mind, relaxation, and, therefore, desire," she says, although she adds that anyone with a sexual dysfunction should have a workup by a physician to check for physical conditions or medication they take that can inhibit desire or sexual enjoyment.
Find an Experienced Acupuncturist Near You
You should find a licensed practitioner to perform your acupuncture, preferably one who has experience treating sexual health issues. There are several types of licensed acupuncturists:
- One group are medical doctors who receive extra training in the method. Many are members of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA). Find the group's referral directory on the AAMA website.
- Another group are people who are specifically trained in this Asian method through a multiyear master's program in acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine, then pass a national certification exam by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). You can find a NCCAOM certified practitioner on their website (click on "Find a Practitioner," then input your city and state).
- Finally, naturopathic physicians are trained to do acupuncture. Find a practitioner at the website of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Put your zip code into the group's online directory.
If you have a fear of needles, you can speak to your practitioner about the possibility of using non-needle acupuncture, which uses pressure on the points instead.
Health Insurance Coverage and Acupuncture Treatments
Some insurance plans cover acupuncture, but many do not. Fortunately, to treat symptoms of sexual dysfunction and improve sexual health, only a limited number of sessions are typically needed. What's more, acupuncture is proven to help relieve common problems, such as allergies, anxiety, and sleep disorders like insomnia and more than one ailment can be treated by an acupuncturist simultaneously. Acupuncture is holistic and efficient.
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