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Alcohol in Chinese Medicine

It is the cause of and solution to all the world's problems. Humans have been making some kind of intoxicating drink for millennia. Anything and I do mean anything that can be put in water and fermented as been at some point in history. In ancient China they tended to ferment rice and various fruits such as plums. Well of course, the drink that was made was really fun to drink, that's why humans started making it; and aside from drunkenness, other problems came up. So the local healer/doctor had to figure out just what to do.


The Hot and Cold of Alcohol


According to Chinese medical theory all alcohol causes heat. The evidence for this the burning sensation and the reddening of the face and then the occasional bit of acne. These are all heat signs. Here in the West we reached the same conclusion for the same reasons. That is until we learned about scientific experimentation and found that the heat signs were actually due to dilated blood vessels and the redness was the blood rushing to the surface. Oops. This is why we now tell people not to drink when you are very cold or facing hypothermia because it will make the problem worse.


So where did the whole heat thing come from? This is likely due to the use of a very simple and very common mineral called sulfur. It is very toxic especially to bacteria and yeast. That is why sulfur is used in wine so that it doesn't turn to vinegar. This is the most likely source of the heat especially for wine.


But this is not about how the West sees alcohol, this is about how the traditional East sees alcohol.


As before all alcohol causes heat. From beer to wine to vodka and everything in between. The interesting thing is some are hotter that others. The vodkas are by far the hottest of the lot, and depending on what it is made out of beer is among the least hot.


So how does someone like me who practices acupuncture treat someone with heat from alcohol? First of course, the full symptoms need to be found and diagnosed. These include the obvious redness and occasional acne. There is also a damp and clamminess to the skin and often a bitter taste persisting in the mouth. Others may include headache and dehydration, this is because anything with alcohol in it is much less hydrating than say water. Drinking alcohol when you are thirsty is actually the exact opposite of what you should do.


So to actually treat the person, first they cannot be drunk under any circumstances. If they are sober however, then points to soothe the Liver such as LV 3 or LV 2 and SP 3, 6, and 9 are usually employed to get the Spleen and the Liver to play nice and get rid of any damp heat that could be involved. Often very bitter herbs are used to get rid of anything chemical that might be lingering.


So if you find that you tide a few on too much last night, give me a call. Acupuncture can help you.

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