By Mary Vincent, L.Ac

September has arrived, and for educators and parents alike this means one obvious thing in particular—back to school time is here! And while there are plenty of viruses and bacteria to go around all year long, many people (especially parents and teachers of younger children) also view back to school time as the inevitable kickoff to cold and flu season (because, let’s face it, kids aren’t exactly known for their stellar hand washing). For this reason in particular we get lots of questions this time of year as to whether or not acupuncture can help boost and support the immune system.

Whether you have young kids, work in an office where everyone around you is sick, are undergoing chemotherapy, or simply have been feeling “run-down”, we believe that acupuncture (in addition to a healthy diet, exercise, and adequate sleep) can help strengthen the immune system and possibly stave off some of those looming fall and winter illnesses!

There have been many small scale randomized, controlled studies regarding acupuncture and the immune system. These studies typically look at cancer patients due to the fact that individuals undergoing chemotherapy often have drastic lowering of white blood cells and are highly susceptible to infectious diseases. One study of interest followed 40 postoperative cancer patients for 3 days (20 patients received daily acupuncture and 20 serves as the control group).

At the end of the 3 days, when compared to the control group, those patients who had received acupuncture had a higher instance of leukocyte phagocytosis than those who did not receive treatments. [1] Another study looked at interleukin-2 and natural killer cell activity in a group of patients with malignant tumors. Of this group, 25 patients received [...]