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Bipolar Treatments


Has anyone had a real breakthrough treatment with herbs or acupuncture for bipolar issues?


To some extent it would depend on how you define a real breakthrough. I have worked with people with bipolar disorder before and for the most part have been able to get them to an overall much more stable condition. I wouldn’t go so far to say acupuncture can cure the disorder but it certainly can improve their quality of life by reducing the severity and frequency of the mood swings.


Thanks for the reply. What pattern, treatments or formulas have you found
most helpful, if you don’t mind saying


In terms of patterns everyone is of course different but I would say I’ve found some combination of heart yin deficiency, heart fire, liver qi stagnation, and liver-gallbladder damp heat can all present to one degree or another. In terms of treatment, generally use points that calm the mind as a base - DU 20, DU 24, GB 13, HT 7, UB 15 etc. and address other issues and concerns as they present. For example if in the manic stage using points like HT 8 and LI 11 to clear heat or GB 34 if you see damp heat signs. In the depressive stage using points like GB 40 and LV 5 to support the hun and move liver qi.


Got it. Thanks a bunch!


Generally speaking all psychological issues can benefit from properly applied Chinese Medicine - both acupuncture and herbs. And in many of these cases, although treatment can take months to years even, these issues will resolve to the point that no further treatment is necessary. With specific regards to bipolar, I have a good number of patients who have been free of western medications and feeling quite well for years following their round of treatment. Generally speaking it is a process though, that the patient has to be engaged in deeply, ideally with changes in diet, lifestyle, habits and in most cases coupled with counseling of some nature - cognitive behavioral therapy or otherwise.

The acupuncture points and herbal formulas, then, will be adapted over time as the patient progresses, functionally (though not quite this linearly) moving from more symptomatic treatment to building a foundation which allows the body to sustain itself without further intervention. Proper initial diagnosis in Chinese Medicine terms is absolutely critical. With then, in most cases, properly referring to practitioners with more experience with this range of conditions is often the best guidance.

While you wouldn’t do this exclusively by any stretch, in our system we have set out some of the more critical areas of focus on our bipolar treatment page. These areas, if used at all, would be coupled with other points dealing with the underlying factors from a TCM perspective.

Formula wise you really need to know the underlying diagnosis first as any that might be considered for bipolar would ultimately be chosen by the tcm diagnosis. This is primarily because even where you could say, “yes” that could be very helpful for bipolar disorder, it could also make them worse or have no effect if the underlying tcm diagnosis does not match. Even a generally straightforward and clinically useful formula such as xiao yao wan could be less effective, even detrimental, in cases of very strong deficiency, such as spleen blood deficiency (a possibility for bipolar) and disruptive as well with strong cases of kidney yin deficiency (another possibility for bipolar).

You also have to consider the current western medications the patient will likely be taking when they first come in. Partially because these create their own signs which can confuse or mask the true underlying tcm diagnosis. Partially because you will eventually have to take them off so you may have to adjust the treatment and/or herbal approaches during that time to avoid withdrawal effects. And, partially, because progress may be altered due to the maintained chemical states the drug(s) provide - which can make progress more difficult to see initially; much of this is monitored by other diagnostic tools in Chinese Medicine such as the tongue and pulse, among others, which can often see positive directions in their health before they to, particularly with more complex longer-term conditions.


Got it. Thanks a bunch for your input.

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