How acupuncture helps ease nicotine cravings – Cleveland Clinic


Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health. But the way to get there is not always easy. If you are trying to quit smoking, acupuncture is a natural way to help reduce your cravings for nicotine.

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Acupuncture, along with Chinese herbs and hypnotherapy, may not be as well known as patches or nicotine gum. Still, they can all offer relief, especially in the active withdrawal phase when battling fatigue, irritability, and cravings.

“Some people try acupuncture because they cannot tolerate the drugs used to quit smoking,” says acupuncturist Jamie Starkey, LAC. “Unlike prescription drugs, acupuncture has no side effects. In fact, it’s very common to notice side benefits like improvements in sleep or mood. Others use acupuncture as part of a comprehensive strategy to quit smoking.

How does acupuncture work to quit smoking?

Acupuncturists target certain areas of the body for certain conditions. When it comes to helping smokers quit, pressure points in the ears are particularly effective in suppressing cravings. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association even has a comprehensive protocol around this set of ear removal points to combat addiction.

In between acupuncture treatments, you can also use ear seeds at home, which work as a form of acupressure. This involves placing tiny balls on your ear with duct tape in targeted areas. This technique allows you to self-medicate by applying pressure to the points of the ear to help temper the urge to smoke.

“The cranial nerves, accessible through the ears, stimulate the nervous system to suppress the urge to smoke,” says Starkey. “We are not only trying to suppress the cravings, but also to activate the relaxation response. We really manipulate the body using needles and targeted pressure to help people get over their withdrawal symptoms.

After acupuncture, you may have less cravings, reduced irritability, better mood, better bowel movements, and better sleep.

Will acupuncture help me quit smoking?

The purpose of acupuncture is to help reduce cravings for nicotine itself.

“Typically, I tell patients not to smoke for at least 24 hours before their first acupuncture visit,” says Starkey. “If they take this step, it tells me that they have the right mindset to be tobacco-free. Often times, a patient’s spouse has scheduled the appointment, or peer pressure prompts them to come, and they are not really ready.

It is important to be mentally prepared to quit and that means accepting the idea of ​​throwing out those cigarettes.

“Once the patients are engaged, I start seeing them two or three times a week at first,” she says. “Then the visits decrease to once a week as the withdrawal symptoms subside. Finally, the visits are completely interrupted when they are tobacco-free. “

Before your first visit, be sure to check with your acupuncturist for protocols regarding the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

Best when used with other methods

Acupuncture is even more effective when used with other integrative medicine techniques. These may include:

  • Hypnotherapy attempts to train the subconscious mind to move away from tobacco. Acupuncture works to treat the symptoms of physical withdrawal.
  • Chinese herbs are personalized by an herbalist for each patient to decrease cravings and help with withdrawal symptoms. As a safety measure, doctors closely monitor patients’ liver and kidney function to make sure the herbs are properly metabolized.

“However you choose to find help, whether it be through a smoking cessation program, acupuncture, herbs, hypnotherapy, or a combination of methods, everything it pays off in the long run, ”says Starkey.


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