Acupuncture to Quit Smoking

Posted: July 30, 2015
By: Dr. Sandra Blackwell DTCM RAc


Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things you will ever do. Luckily, there are many tools to assist you in your goal of quitting smoking. Acupuncture is one of the most helpful tools and is very effective in helping break the addiction cycle.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into certain points on the body. These needles stimulate the flow of qi (chee) energy throughout the body, helping to regulate the body’s natural systems. Many people are afraid of needles but acupuncture needles are extremely thin–usually the thickness of a strand of hair–and the insertion is barely noticed. The needles are inserted very superficially in the skin and retained in the body while the patient rests. Acupuncture works by helping to regulate the body’s natural energy flow, to reduce the cravings of nicotine withdrawal, to calm the mind and ease anxieties, and to strengthen and benefit the lungs and clear phlegm, tar and nicotine residue out of the lungs.

Often people smoke to deal with stuck energy in the body that shows itself as feelings of anxiety, tension, anger or grief. Smoking a cigarette draws warm air deeply into the lungs and the nicotine hits our blood stream, then works its way into our brain allowing us to momentarily feel relaxation and release from these emotions. Acupuncture helps by regulating this stuck energy and moving it along in the same way that deep breaths or a few moments of quiet meditation will do.

Smoking allows us to feel relaxed quickly, but this is a false benefit as the side effects of smoking are more detrimental then the feelings of anxiety we endure. It is understood in Chinese medicine that the emotion related to the lungs is grief. This heavy, sad, stuck energy of grief is alleviated by the movement of the lungs as we take a drag off a cigarette. It is important to find other ways to move this stuck qi. You can start by noticing and observing what you are really feeling when you have a craving for a cigarette. Are you actually sad or stressed out? Spend some time analyzing what the root of the emotion is.

Acupuncture, particularly ear or ‘auricular acupuncture’, will help reduce the cravings for nicotine by stimulating receptors in our brains that nicotine usually binds to and create a break from the cravings. Ear acupuncture can be done by any acupuncturist or you can buy ‘ear seeds’ which are little morning glory seeds on medical tape which are stuck on particular points on the ear. You can research auricular acupuncture charts online or see if your community offers an addiction clinic. These clinics are often free and offer a short acupuncture session or the application of ear seeds to deal with a variety of addictions.

One of the most powerful benefits of an acupuncture session is the way it calms your mind and eases anxiety. People often smoke to mask feelings they don’t wish to feel or face. Acupuncture helps to safely move these feelings out of the body. People comment that they have more restful sleep, fall asleep easier and sleep longer after acupuncture.

Finally, acupuncture helps to physically remove tar and nicotine residue from the body. This allows the lungs to feel lighter, the voice less gravely, helps stop coughing and improves digestion. There are helpful herbal formulas that your acupuncturist can prescribe for helping heal the lungs and refrain from smoking. One formula that all smokers, ex-smokers and those working on quitting should take is called ‘Yang Yin Qing Fei’. This formula is a perfect balance of herbs to clear out the lungs and stop coughing while moistening the dryness of the lungs and sore throats that many smokers experience.

Ultimately the true, heart felt desire to quit smoking is the most important predictor in successfully quitting. Like other addictions, the first step is to admit you have a problem that you wish to change and then take one day at a time. I often ask my patients why they wish to quit smoking. This may seem like a silly question but if the patient responds that they truly wish to make a change in their life and quit this habit, the results are far better than someone who replies that they wish to quit smoking because their ‘wife wants them to’. Or because their ‘doctor told them to quit’. Or because smoking is ‘too expensive’. These are all good reasons to stop smoking but ultimately it comes back to the patient’s personal desire for change in their life.

This personal desire to improve their health and quit the habit is a powerful force that is already moving the patient in the direction that they wish to go. Ask yourself why you want to quit. Maybe even make a list of the reasons and post it where you will see it. Remind yourself daily why you are making this choice. All the acupuncture, nicotine gum and hypnosis treatments in the world will not help you quit smoking unless you have truly decided and reconciled yourself to this decision. Even if you have truly dedicated yourself to stopping smoking you may have the occasional ‘slip up’ where you smoke again. Be gentle with yourself; this is a process that will take some time. Think of yourself as a ‘practicing non-smoker’ rather than thinking you will quit cold turkey and never smoke again. Avoid having unreasonable expectations of yourself.

Some studies have shown that people desire a cigarette even 25 years after smoking! Rather than feel that quitting is impossible, consider cutting back and slowly changing your life and patterns so that one day smoking no longer fits into your life or image of yourself. Addictions occur because of an evolutionary feedback loop for survival. When humans have a pleasant experience our brains record this positive feedback and send us looking for more of this pleasant experience. People who are addicted to smoking do not have weaker self control than other people; in fact, they may have a more strongly functioning memory feedback loop. Acupuncture can help stop this addictive feedback cycle and help you to create a new, positive sensory feedback cycle for your brain.

Best wishes for a smoke-free life!

Stress Anxiety and Depression How Acupuncture Can Help

Posted: February 25, 2015
By: Dr. Sandra Blackwell DTCM RAc

How Chronic Stress Contributes to Anxiety and Depression

Stress is a way of life for many people these days.  When we experience a thought or event that we perceive as stressful our bodies begin producing hormones and neurotransmitters designed to help us respond to the stressful situation by engaging in a conflict or fleeing.  This is referred to as the "fight or flight" response.  This response is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, both located in the brain, and the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys.

Busy Women and Acupuncture

Posted: January 7, 2015
By: Dr. Sandra Blackwell DTCM RAc

Why Every Busy Woman Should Try Acupuncture

Girl on the Go shares her first experience with acupuncture


Renee Woodruff


When I found out my new health insurance covered twenty-five sessions of acupuncture treatments in a calendar year, I thought to myself, why not try it? I've always been curious about the benefits from this "alternative" form of healthcare. When posting on Facebook months ago that I was going to give acupuncture a go, it received multiple comments containing success stories in treating injuries that were otherwise considered unfixable and relief from all sorts of ailments including kidney stones, allergies, migraines, and chronic lower back pain. 

I didn't have a targeted purpose for trying acupuncture, although I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was curious about the possibility of "curing" my never ending tummy troubles. Outside of that, I was looking at it from a more holistic and preventative perspective. I wanted to see if going to acupuncture on a regular basis would help with my stress levels, bouts of unwelcome anxiety, and keep me from getting the common cold.

I'd like to report that although acupuncture has been experimental for me, I have found success in small things such as my TMJ (from the stress I carry in my jaw), random aches and pains (usually related to pushing it too hard in the gym) and, I'm being 100 percent honest when I tell you, that I have not been sick one day this over the entire winter.

I've developed a beautiful and nurturing relationship with my acupuncturist, Mona Chopra and believe that she always has my best interest at heart when treating me. Over the course of the past four months, and seven sessions, she's provided me various resources like alternatives to coffee drinking and research on meditation including possible locations I might want to consider in New York. She's made recommendations for teas, books, supplements, and a myriad of health related products, some of which I've adopted into my daily routine.

For me, my hour-long acupuncture sessions are a time to relax, to shut off my mind, and to be in the presence of someone I truly trust with my mind and body. When I consulted with Mona over the course of our relationship about why every busy woman should try acupuncture here are some interesting reasons that resonated most with me.

First and foremost, prevention. This was my number one reason for trying acupuncture and although it's not the most common reason to try it, "most people try acupuncture for the first time because they have some kind of ailment be it a pain, digestive distress, emotional imbalance, or in some way feeling ‘off’ or ‘not okay.’ Acupuncture can and should be looked at like ‘preventative medicine,’ instead of waiting to get a diagnosis that you have X or Y condition," says Chopra. If you see an acupuncturist, she or he will be able to detect much more subtle imbalances in your system and work to correct them. I wholeheartedly believe that prevention is the best medicine and we, as a society, could enhance our immune systems by taking this approach, therefore being less likely to need medications and reducing the possibilities of getting sick. Preventative health is key, however you seek it—eating healthy, taking supplements, staying active, and/or acupuncture.

Acupuncture can be used to offset stress and the effects of aging. Research proves that neglected stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds, leading to all kinds of ailments ranging from digestive distress, painful periods, chronic pain, hormonal imbalances, allergies, blood pressure and sugar imbalances, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fatigue. Must I go on? Cosmetically speaking, wrinkled skin, grey hairs, thin hair, and dark circles under the eyes are no strangers to the extremely stressed body. Acupuncture has been proven to help offset these adverse effects and can help promote a more youthful energetic you—on the inside and out. Are you building a career but one day hope to have children? Join the club. Acupuncture can be a powerful modality for promoting fertility too, when the time comes!

Acupuncture can help you understand your body and mind better. "It can help you see yourself in a whole new light," Chopra says. Acupuncture is so much more than just being stuck with tiny needles.  Imagine having someone sit with you with for one full hour (or more) and listen to you express your concerns about your health and your life as a whole. Imagine that person asking key questions that no medical doctor or psychotherapist may have asked you (because it's not in their training and/or paradigm to ask). Questions that will help you better understand why you are the way you are, why your body may be acting the way it's been acting. And, in addition to being treated with acupuncture to help regulate your system, also offering suggestions for your diet and lifestyle that may help you make the changes you want to see in your life. 

The next time you have trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, have paid the doctor a visit only to receive a 'clean bill of health' but know that something else is lurking underneath the surface, consider acupuncture. Your acupuncturist may be able to detect more subtle imbalances that could be leading to those distressing symptoms. 

Furthermore, acupuncturists are trained to treat not only the “symptoms” but the “root causes,” which means making changes on deep fundamental levels of your being. If you have ever had the thought, "I've always been like this" or "I'm just an anxious kind of person," an acupuncturist can not only help you understand how these constitutional tendencies or learned habits are thought of in Chinese medicine, she or he can also help you to see how unblocking certain channels or nourishing others may help to free you from those ways of being.

Signing Off Glad I Tried Acupuncture,

Let Your Energy QI Flow

Posted: December 17, 2014
By: Dr. Sandra Blackwell DTCM RAc


To add another healing modality to Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, Dr.  Blackwell is now offering Reflexology. She has been a Certified Reflexologist since 2001.


The ancient Chinese practice of reflexology, over 3000 years old, is a manual therapy focusing on the feet.  In Chinese medicine, reflexology works on a similar principle to acupuncture where the body is divided into 12 pairs of meridians.

Chinese practitioners believe that when these energy channels become blocked a person feels unwell.  Both reflexology and acupuncture aim to dissolve any blockages causing ill-health by encouraging the free flow of vital energy(Qi) through the body.


While acupuncture focuses on points along the Meridians, situated all over the body, and stimulates them with needles, reflexology focuses on the Meridians in the feet and is useful for people with needle phobias.


Reflexology is a gentle, noninvasive, totally holistic therapy based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet, hands and ears that correspond to every organ, gland and part of the body. It is a whole body treatment - not just a foot massage.

In a reflexology treatment, pressure is exerted by the thumbs and fingers, combining this with massage, relaxation and joint mobilisation techniques. The result is homeostasis (internal balance) in the body.  Reflexology can aid in stress reduction, improve circulation, stimulate nerve function, strengthen your immunity, improve your energy and leave you with a great sense of well being.


People who have not yet experienced the healing benefits and immense pleasure of reflexology find it hard to believe that something so enjoyable can be so good for you! However, the therapy is not suitable for everyone and shouldn't be used by people who suffer from warts or athlete's foot, osteoporosis, a recently broken or fractured bone in your ankle or foot, or broken skin.


Coming to Calgary Spine and Sport in spring 2015... Reiki Energy Healing!