Acupuncture has been increasing in popularity in recent years, and research has consistently been showing its efficacy for many health issues. Certain applications of acupuncture, however, are now well known, such as pain relief or weight loss, while the vast majority of other uses are not. Among such almost unknown outside China and several other Asian countries is the effectiveness of acupuncture for memory improvement.
When people in the United States and other western countries think about acupuncture, they tend to think primarily about pain relief loss weight loss. In reality, acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine, which is a complete system of healing, and it can, at least in theory, treat any conditions. One of health problem that people rarely associate with acupuncture as a possible treatment method is poor memory. A study that examined the effects on memory of a single point (PC 6) revealed that “Acupuncture stimulation at the PC6 point produced memory improvements” (Kim et al., 2011). A review of research studies on the effects of acupuncture on memory in animals concluded, “acupuncture has a potential role in improving learning and memory ability in animal models, suggesting it as a candidate therapy for memory loss of aged brain” (Huang et al., 2016). Another study on mice with Alzheimer’s disease showed that acupuncture can improve “spatial learning and memory ability” (Kan et al., 2018). While all these findings appear to be very promising, they lack the big picture of how acupuncture works, which can be found in the theory of traditional Chinese medicine.
Since acupuncture involves stimulation of specific areas (acupuncture points) on the body’s surface, acupuncture does not add anything to the organism. What it does, according to the classic sources (Xin et al., 2020) is regulates the flow of vital energy in the body, and once the optimal flow is restored, so are the body’s functions. This means that the healthier an individual is, the more potential acupuncture can have on his or her health improvement, including the quality of memory. For example, according to the theory, acupuncture will have a greater success rate with college students who want to improve their memory and concentration than someone in his or her 70s for the same condition. At the same time, everyone has different amount of energy that he or she is born with, and in some instances an older person can have a significant energy reserve, whereas a young person who is weak from nature does not. In other words, the best way to know for sure how much acupuncture can improve your memory is to try it for yourself.
1. Huang, K. Y., Liang, S., Yu, M. L., Fu, S. P., Chen, X., & Lu, S. F. (2016). A systematic review and meta-analysis of acupuncture for improving learning and memory ability in animals. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 16(1), 297.
2. Kan, B. H., Yu, J. C., Zhao, L., Zhao, J., Li, Z., Suo, Y. R., & Han, J. X. (2018). Acupuncture improves dendritic structure and spatial learning and memory ability of Alzheimer’s disease mice. Neural regeneration research, 13(8), 1390.
3. Kim, H., Park, H. J., Shim, H. S., Han, S. M., Hahm, D. H., Lee, H., & Shim, I. (2011). The effects of acupuncture (PC6) on chronic mild stress-induced memory loss. Neuroscience letters, 488(3), 225-228.
4. Xin, C., Pei, L. X., Geng, H., Wu, X. L., Chen, L., Zhou, J. L., … & Sun, J. H. (2020). Exploration on the relationship between acupuncture for mind-regulation and flow theory. Zhongguo zhen jiu= Chinese acupuncture & moxibustion, 40(9), 1003-1005.