By Efrem Korngold, LAc, OMD and Harriet Beinfield, LAc
On the one hand, infants and young children are perceived as
particularly vulnerable. That is, they are rapidly changing, mentally
and physically immature, and sensitive to outside influences. On
the other hand, their sensitivity and malleability make them more
responsive to modest, positive interventions than older children or
adults. This vulnerability and impressionability is most prevalent in
the first 7 to 8 months; it is somewhat less through the 7th and 8th
years. Psychoneurological and developmental disorders that appear
during this period are troubling on the one hand but highly responsive
to treatment on the other.
Pediatrics has been a specialty within Chinese traditional
medicine for centuries. The administration of medicinal herbs,
therapeutic diets, massage, and acupuncture are all appropriate
when used in a gentle, cautious, watchful manner. Acupuncture,
in particular, is often beneficial in the treatment of
disorders. Infants and small children often respond
quickly and intensely to treatments, so careful and frequent
monitoring by the practitioner is the prudent approach.
Obstetrics and gynecology is another age-old specialty within
Chinese traditional medicine. Although most if not all modern
textbooks on herbal medicine and acupuncture caution
against—though they do not expressly prohibit—treating
women during pregnancy (especially in the first trimester),
there is a long tradition of pregnancy management to enhance
the health of the mother and ensure the healthy development
of the newborn child. Special attention is paid to maintaining
the psychological equanimity of the mother to protect the
fetus from the untoward effects of negative emotions and
mental shocks. This is sought primarily through regulation of
diet, living habits, and environment and, secondarily,
through the administration of massage, acupuncture, and medicinal
herbs should problems arise. There are specific herbal
formulas and acupuncture protocols for conditions such as
morning sickness, restless fetus, generalized weakness, vaginal
bleeding, emotional disturbance, and prevention and treatment
of eclampsia and preeclampsia, as well as for facilitating
delivery and managing postpartum recovery.
As with infants and young children, pregnant women are
considered to be very vulnerable and are, therefore, treated
with extreme care and caution. Conversely, pregnancy is also
considered to be an opportunity for correcting preexisting
deficiencies and disorders because the woman is in an unusually
Geriatrics is yet another well-recognized and respected traditional
specialty that grew out of the ancient Chinese concern
with promoting longevity. The old are somewhat like children
in their vulnerability but unlike them in their inflexibility
and slowness of response. Conditions of the elderly are
generally considered to be the result of deficiencies—attritions
of Qi, Moisture, Blood, and Essence—that have developed as
a consequence of the natural as well as the unfortunate
stresses and strains of living. Because older people tend to be
more frail as well as resistant to change, aggressive treatments
are avoided. Gentle methods are employed that emphasize
nurturance of substance and support of normal function
while gradually ridding the body of toxins and accumulations.
Mental and spiritual weariness are prevalent among the
aged, and respite from these is seen as equally if not more
important than ameliorating physical weaknesses.
RESEARCH STUDIES ON ACUPUNCTURE AND
Generally, in the minimal studies that have been done, acupuncture
has been found to improve symptoms of depression, reduce
the need for drugs, and attenuate or eliminate various side effects
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Table 8. Continued
Study No. of Participants Findings
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Clinical data indicate that acupuncture is
effective in treating depressive patients, with
a higher therapeutic index than tricyclic
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167 Patients Response was most correlative with
antidepressants of the pyrasidol type.
Acupuncture was effective in some patients
resistant to antidepressants.
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