Another recent acupuncture research article demonstrated that acupuncture can be effective for people whose salivary glands are damaged by radiation or chemotherapy. In this study the acupuncture point Large Intestine 2 (LI 2 on the index finger just distal to the knuckle) was stimulated (the only point that was used!) to determine if it increased saliva production over ’sham’ acupuncture. The ’sham’ acupuncture was a point on the pinky side of the anterior forearm a couple of inches up from the wrist crease using a non-insertive needle. The researchers used functional MRI (fMRI) to observe the differences in brain response between the true acupuncture and sham acupuncture. There was a significant difference in insula and adjacent operculi part of the brain where taste and smell signals are generated. There was almost no activity in the ’sham’ acupuncture group, whereas the acupuncture group had significant activity. The researchers also placed a cotton ball in the mouths of acupuncture subjects and ’sham’ acupuncture subjects to measure the saliva output. There was significantly more saliva in the acupuncture subjects.
A similar study conducted a few years ago also showed that acupuncture is beneficial for dry mouth. This study used a point that was just off the standard point location but also on the radial edge of the index finger. One would wonder ‘why would an acupuncture point on the index finger increase saliva production?’. One answer is that in Chinese medicine the Large Intestine meridian runs across the nasal labial groove outside the lips right over the salivary glands! An interesting study would be to use a point on say the third finger to see if it elicits the same salivary production. This could answer whether it is the large intestine channel or acupuncture on these finger points hurts so much it causes one to salivate. Whatever the reason it is clear that acupuncture can be a great resource for those with dry mouth no matter what the cause.
Licensed Dietitian / Nutritionist
Maynard, MA & Cambridge, MA