Hair Loss, Acupuncture and Porcupines
This is a guest post by the Hair Foundation’s contributor, Dr. Alfred Soffer, M.D. Cardiologist, Glenview, IL. He is the former Editor and Chief of the Archives of Internal Medicine of AMA and Professor of Medicine.
In this post, Soffer discusses hair loss and acupuncture.
“There must be something to acupuncture-you never see any sick porcupines.”
Bob Goddard is the author of these words and obviously considered the needles (quills) of the porcupine to be an indispensable asset.
Does acupuncture play a similarly felicitous role in human health and disease? Does the insertion of needles into the scalp prevent hair loss and encourage hair growth?
The answer is a resounding yes from an increasingly large number of acupuncturists.
In a promotional brochure, a group of acupuncturists’ state, “Acupuncture prevents hair loss by stimulating qi, the life force energy running throughout the body. Chinese medicine teaches us that qi circulates through channels called meridians which are connected to critical body organs.”
Another group boasts their method will regrow hair. They use a special hammer with needles placed in a star shape on the hammer face. The acupuncturist presses the hammer against a number of spots on the scalp.
The results, according to these devotees of Oriental therapy, are “this treatment, combined with traditional Chinese herbal medications will stop hair loss and promote growth of healthy hair.”
There is a common theme in the acupuncturists’ advertisements and websites. They are enamored of the supposed wisdom inherent in traditional Chinese medicine.
Where lies the truth?
The reputation of acupuncture in the West rose and fell within 10 years. There was uncritical acceptance following President Nixon’s visit to China. It’s now highly likely that many of the demonstrations involving surgery had been faked inasmuch as acupuncture had been supplemented by local anesthetics and sedatives.
In 1975, I witnessed a thyroidectomy performed under acupuncture in a Shanghai hospital. We had not been told that many patients received potent opiates before they reached the surgical theater.
A similar deception occurred as recently as 2006. (SING and ERnST).
Fortunately, the medical community outside of China insisted that acupuncture must be evaluated in clinical trials with scrupulous guidelines of objectivity. Beginning in the 1970s, a massive research program was implemented to test the effects of acupuncture upon a variety of diseases.
The results were unequivocal.
The institution, the National Council Against Health Fraud, reported the following:
1. The theory and practice of acupuncture are based upon primitive and fanciful concepts of health and disease that bear no relationship to present scientific knowledge. There is no evidence to demonstrate the existence of qi or meridians.
2. Research in the past 20 years has failed to demonstrate that acupuncture is effective against any disease.
3. Perceived effects of acupuncture are probably due to expectation or suggestion.
4. Risks exist. Acupuncture has caused fainting, local hematoma, local infection, hepatitis B, bacterial endocarditis and nerve damage.
This is where we stand in 2012.
If the primary clinical effects of acupuncture are manifestations of the power of suggestion, then it is a placebo which carries risks. Acupuncturists contend that their methods alleviate some types of pain and nausea.
We may counter these unproven claims by pointing out that the physician can choose safer, less expensive and scientifically-proven effective medication to treat these same conditions. Similar cautions apply to acupressure, moxibustion (ground herbs burn above the skin and heat acupuncture points) and forms of acupuncture involving laser lights or electricity.
When reading the mystical claims of acupuncturists, we would be wise to observe Mark Twain who wrote, “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”
This entry was posted on Monday, January 9th, 2012 at 3:53 pm and is filed under Hair Loss. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
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