Study Finds Acupuncture Bloodletting Superior to Penicillin for Acute Tonsillitis in Children

By Chad Dupuis
Tagged in Acupuncture and Research

You might find it easier to get a child more comfortable with the idea of getting a shot of penicillin than you would explaining why you are going to let your acupuncturist do "bloodletting" on them.  But a recent Chinese study found that acupuncture bloodletting is superior to penicillin for acute tonisillits.  It's cheaper and easier and once you find out what "bloodletting" is - you won't find it very strange either.

I have a somewhat extensive section on bloodletting within Japanese acupuncture systems which you can read if you are deeply interest in the topic.  Bloodletting, however, is actually quite simple.  The technique is generally performed with a small needle, slightly larger than a standard acupuncture needle, but similar to what diabetics would use to prick themselves for a blood sugar test.  The points for bloodletting are based on the overall diagnosis and what you are trying to accomplish from a Chinese Medicine perspective and then they are pricked and generally just a few drops are squeezed out.  There is generally little fanfare with the procedure and no bandages are used and no significant amount of blood is let out.  In fact, it's so easy and quick it seems like it couldn't do much at all - but it's actually quite powerful for certain conditions.

One point used in this study, and one that parents should know about is erjian - an "extra" (i.e. non meridian) point right at the fold of the ear.  This can be tremendously useful for children with high fevers and can often drop it very quickly.

Now that all the explanation is out of the way, we can get back to the study...

The researchers divided 150 children (75 w/mild cases and 75 w/severe symptoms) into three groups randomnly.  The first group received acupuncture bloodletting only at the following points:

The second group received intravenous penicillin and the third group received both acupuncture and penicillin.

Researchers found that for those with mild symptoms the acupuncture group received a 92% total effective rate whereas the penicillin only group was only 68% effective and the combination group only slightly higher than acupuncture alone at 96%.

For those with severe symptoms the combination group was highest at 96%, whereas acupuncture alone was only 60% effective which was statistically similar to the penicillin group alone.

Researchers concluded that for mild symptoms of acute tonsillitis acupuncture bloodletting is superior and in children with severe symptoms both acupuncture bloodletting with penicillin was best but with little difference between acupuncture bloodletting or penicillin on their own.

Study Finds Acupuncture Bloodletting Superior to Penicillin for Acute Tonsillitis in Children

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Authored by: Chad Dupuis on 16 March 2014

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