Acupuncture chart from Hua Shou (fl. 1340s, Ming Dynasty) found on Wikipedia.
Recently, a reader asked this question: Does the oral dryness (xerostoma) associated with Sjogren's syndrome respond to acupuncture?
I didn't know the answer to that. But it's an excellent question. I found a few studies on the topic. The first was a a study on SS and acupuncture conducted by M. Blom, T. Lundeberg, I. Dawidson and B. Angmar-Mansson Department of Cariology. School of Dentistry, Stockholm, Sweden and summarized:
"In conclusion, the results of this study show that manual or low frequency- electroacupuncture causes an increase in the peripheral vascular flux, which may be one important factor in the relief of xerostomia. Further studies to examine the effect of acupuncture and the role of VIP in xerostomia are in progress."My understanding of their phrase "peripheral vascular flux" refers to an increase in blood flow to the saliva gland causing increased function of the gland.
This JAMA Network article: Prognostic Value of the Pilocarpine Test to Identify Patients Who May Obtain Long-term Relief From Xerostomia by Acupuncture Treatment, found here, went on to quantify which patients would more likely be good candidates for acupuncture based on gland stimulation with pilocarpine:
"...our results show that the pilocarpine test is a good prognostic tool for easily predicting if acupuncture treatment may be successful in patients with xerostomia. A randomized trial within prognostic subgroups must be done if acupuncture is to be scientifically evaluated for effectiveness....... Although the physiologic mechanisms of acupuncture are only partly understood, acupuncture is known to affect the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system via input in group III and IV afferent fibers. A positive pilocarpine test result not only identifies possible residual salivary gland function but implies that the patient may respond to acupuncture. Acupuncture has also been found to have trophic effects on the salivary gland through the action of locally released neuropeptides acting as growth factors, which would suggest that the improvement seen over time in these patients is the result of actual increase in gland function. The course of treatment in this study was designed with the knowledge that 24 acupuncture treatments have been found to provide long-term improvement in salivary secretion."(Bolding mine.)In other words, the authors of this study are making the assumption that for acupuncture to be effective in increasing salivary flow from the saliva glands, there must be some demonstrable functioning gland tissue remaining. If a patient is not receiving results from taking the saliva-stimulant drugs such as pilocarpine, then acupuncture would probably not be a useful tool for that person.
A study completed in 2011 by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center looked at prevention of xerostoma caused by radiation therapy:
"There have been a number of small studies examining the benefits of acupuncture after xerostomia develops, but no one previously examined if it could prevent xerostomia," said Cohen, who is also the study's principal investigator. "We found incorporating acupuncture alongside radiotherapy diminished the incidence and severity of this side effect."Well, now.
If you respond to pilocarpine or civemiline medications for dry mouth but are uncomfortable with their side effects or do not wish to take these drugs for other reasons, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about the use of acupuncture in your treatment plan.
Have you tried acupuncture for relief of dry mouth or other symptoms of autoimmune disease?