top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Charlotte Morgan, D.Ac.

Chinese Medicine & Alcohol Use

Current Research on Alcohol Addiction

“Alcohol is a flammable liquid that comes from the fermentation of sugars by yeast. Ethanol, or drinking alcohol, is also used as an antiseptic, solvent, and fuel. It is considered a psychoactive and neurotoxic drug” (Alcohol Abuse Statistics, 2022).

Statistics from Alcohol Abuse Statistics, 2022:

  1. 25.8% of people 18+ report binge drinking in the last 30 days.

  2. 97,000 sexual assaults per year among college students involve alcohol.

  3. In Colorado, women are more likely to suffer an alcohol-related death.

  4. In Colorado, there is one alcohol-related death for every 2,470 adults.

Research on Alcohol Related Deaths

Statistics from Alcohol Abuse Statistics, 2022:

  1. 95,000 Americans die from the results of alcohol use per year.

  2. 13.5% of deaths among 20-39 year olds are due to alcohol.

  3. Men are 3x more likely than women to die from alcohol abuse and make up 71% of alcohol-related deaths.

  4. 32% of alcohol related deaths are due to alcohol poisoning.

  5. 22.5% of alcohol related deaths are due to suicide.

Covid-19 and Alcohol Use

Due to the stress of the pandemic and lockdowns of 2020, alcohol abuse significantly rose and is something that is more commonly seen in our practices today.

Statistics from Alcohol Abuse Statistics, 2022:

  1. 60% of people increased their alcohol use during Covid-19 lockdowns.

  2. Online liquor sales rose 262% in the first 3 weeks of March 2020 and 234% in April 2020.

  3. 45.7% of people reported increased drinking due to stress and 30.1% due to boredom.

Many people dealing with alcohol addiction began misusing alcohol because of pain or trauma that they had experienced at some point in their lives. They likely have an existing imbalance, and use alcohol in order to numb or self-medicate the feelings associated with these imbalances. In TCM, emotional imbalances are a major etiology for a multitude of diseases, and are explained as Qi stagnation and yin/yang imbalances within the body (HealthCMI, 2020).

Examples of Emotional Imbalances in TCM

Liver Qi Stagnation

  1. Sx: Migraine, vertigo, PMS, short-temper, anger, frustration, sadness, depression, anxiety, tight muscles (Sacred Lotus, 2022).

  2. Alcohol is a a “false mover” of liver Qi- it will temporarily make your Qi move and flow, causing the user to feel better, but is temporary because the body cannot maintain homeostasis when a substance is being used in place of true rebalancing (Sacred Lotus, 2022).

Heart Qi Stagnation

  1. Sx: Palpitations, chest tightness, depression, pale complexion, purple lips, weak and cold hands (Sacred Lotus, 2022).

Heart Blood Deficiency

  1. Sx: Palpitations, insomnia, poor memory, anxiety, bad dreams, easily startled, pale complexion and lips, dizziness (Sacred Lotus, 2022).

  2. Chronic worry and anxiety disturb the shen, which depresses the function of the heart causing Heart Blood Deficiency (Sacred Lotus, 2022).

Heart Fire

  1. Mental restlessness, impulsiveness, agitation, insomnia, bad dreams, bitter taste in mouth, tongue ulcers, thirst (Sacred Lotus, 2022).

  2. Emotional disturbances and constant worry or depression leads to stagnation which eventually can lead to fire (Sacred Lotus, 2022).

  3. Heart fire is also indirectly related to the liver. When anger causes liver yang to rise, it eventually goes to the heart causing fire (Sacred Lotus, 2022).

Alcohol’s Influence on the Body

  • When consumed, alcohol creates excessive heat and dampness in the body.

    • Heat:

      • Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes excess excretion of water from the body. When the water element is removed, we have no way of containing the fire element, and are left with excess heat and fire.

      • Heat and fire can enter the liver, effecting the stomach, spleen, and kidneys.

    • Dampness:

      • Alcohol causes dampness, especially beer which is taxing on the spleen. When the liver gets overwhelmed and presented with heat, the spleen becomes deficient and the result is dampness.

TCM Treatment Plans to Aid in Recovery

“…if used correctly, acupuncture may effectively reduce alcohol intake, attenuate alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and rebalance AUD-induced maladaptation in neurotransmitters and hormones in related brain areas.” (Chen et al., 2018).

Ways that we can use TCM to help with alcohol addiction and recovery


  1. Acupuncture points that support the liver and assist in removing toxins from the body are (but not limited to):

    1. Lv3- supports, nourishes, and regulates the Liver which is responsible for detoxification.

    2. Kd27- Supports and detoxes the kidneys.

    3. LI4- Stimulates the digestive tract and helps to flush waste through the bowels.

    4. Kd9- Reduces phlegm-fire in the heart

  2. Herbs: Chai Hu or Bupleurum which is a hepatoprotective and detoxifies the liver and allows it to remove toxins more readily (Hong et al., 2015).


  1. Acupuncture points for cravings

    1. NADA Protocol

    2. Kd9- Reduces phlegm-fire in the heart

      1. “Using placebo needle acupuncture as control, a randomized trial showed that real-needle acupuncture therapy at KI9 (Zhubin) could effectively reduce alcohol craving for the alcohol-dependent subjects, measured using a Visual Analogue Scale” (Chen et al., 2018).

    3. St36 & Sp6

      1. “A preclinical study showed that electroacupuncture (EA) bilaterally at a combination of acupoints ST36 (Zusanli) and SP6 (Sanyinjiao) could significantly reduce alcohol intake in alcohol-dependent rats” (Chen et al., 2018).

Withdrawal Symptoms

  1. Acupuncture points for withdrawal symptoms:

    1. Du20- calms and clears the mind

    2. Pc6- important for any emotional disorders or issues

    3. St36, Sp6, Ht7

      1. “A study done by Kim et al. [18] demonstrated that acupuncture at ST36 or SP6 could suppress the physical signs of alcohol withdrawal such as tail rigidity, hyper mobility, and tremor. Additionally, the elevated c-Fos expressions were reduced in the dopaminergic terminal areas, striatum and core of nucleus accumbens, which are known to associate with the control of motor behaviors. A similar effect was observed by acupuncture at HT7, inhibiting locomotor activity, tremor, and grooming during ethanol withdrawal (EW). This suppressive effect can be blocked by intraperitoneal injection of selective GABAA or GABAB receptor antagonist.” (Chen et al., 2018).

Mental Health

  1. Anxiety- Ht7

    1. “To investigate the effect of acupuncture on anxiety-like behavior in ethanol-withdrawal rats, Zhao et al. conducted a series of experiments, showing that acupuncture at HT7, but not PC6 (Neiguan), effectively attenuated the anxiety-like behavior during EW in rats, which was evidenced by elevated plus maze testing [25-28]. Additionally, changes in the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters triggered by EW were corrected after the acupuncture treatment.” (Chen et al., 2018).

  2. Stress- LI4, Lv3 or the 4 gates which can help move liver Qi.


  1. One aspect of recovery that is problematic for many people is getting good quality sleep. Not only does alcohol disrupt sleep cycles, but it is also the time of day that many people turn to alcohol to relax and be able to fall asleep. It is crucial to have people in recovery able to sleep well in order to make successful decisions and heal.

  2. Acupuncture points that are helpful for sleep are:

    1. St36, Sp6, Sp3, Sp1 (for bad dreams), Ht7, Pc6, Lu9

Alternative Approaches for Recovery

  • Trauma Approach

    • When we experience trauma, it is not only stored in the brain in our subconscious mind, but it is stored in our bodies- in our cells. Talk therapy is often not enough to reprogram our brains and bodies to be able to reprocess and heal from trauma. Therapies that are helpful for moving trauma through our physical bodies include:

      • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

        • EMDR is an element of psychotherapy that uses external stimulus to promote lateral eye movement while the patient is recalling a traumatic memory. It creates new associations to the traumatic memory resulting in, “complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights.” (EMDR Institute, 2020).

        • Video: What is EMDR?

      • EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)

        • EFT is a technique that uses tapping on acupuncture points or meridians to help with anxiety, depression, PTSD, stress, chronic pain, and many other ailments. This technique can be done at home, which allows it to be accessible for everyone who has access to YouTube or a computer.

  • Additional Modalities

    • Massage and bodywork of all kinds

    • Meditation

      • Apps: Insight Timer,, Calm App

    • Infrared Sauna for detoxification

    • Yoga and mindful exercise

    • Support Groups

TCM Community Resources for Alcohol Addiction Recovery

  • Affordable Acupuncture

    • Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Denver, CO

      • CSTCM has a fully-functioning student clinic that is sliding scale.

    • Community Acupuncture

      • Community acupuncture is a low-cost way to get regular acupuncture treatments on a sliding scale or reduced price. Googling “community acupuncture Colorado” will bring up all of the clinics who participate in this style of treatment.

  • AcuDetox NADA Protocol

    • Acupuncturists as well as psychologists specifically certified in this protocol often offer it at events, in treatment centers, or for a low cost. This protocol is done in the ear, and works to calm the nervous system and return the patient back to a parasympathetic state. A google search of AcuDetox NADA protocol with your location should return practitioners in the patients area.


Alcohol Abuse Statistics (2022): National + State Data. NCDAS. (2022, February 19). Retrieved February 22, 2022, from

Chen, P., Li, J., Han, X., Grech, D., Xiong, M., Bekker, A., & Ye, J. H. (2018). Acupuncture for alcohol use disorder. International journal of physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology, 10(1), 60–69.

HealthCMI. (2020, June 20). Acupuncture For Alcoholism Confirmed. Healthcare Medicine Institute. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from

Heart Pattern Differentiation in Chinese Medicine. Chinese Medicine - Sacred Lotus. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2022, from

Hong, M., Li, S., Tan, H. Y., Wang, N., Tsao, S. W., & Feng, Y. (2015). Current Status of Herbal Medicines in Chronic Liver Disease Therapy: The Biological Effects, Molecular Targets and Future Prospects. International journal of molecular sciences, 16(12), 28705–28745.

Tan, Q., & Cai, X. (2022, January 14). Art of Wellness Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Retrieved February 22, 2022, from

What is EMDR? EMDR Institute - EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY. (2020, June 29). Retrieved February 22, 2022, from

With Love,

Charlotte Morgan, M.S. L.Ac.

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page