acupuncture for memory lossBy Sara Calabro

Two separate studies released last week looked at why we sometimes have a hard time remembering things. One said internet use plays a role, as we make less effort to retain information we know can be retrieved later; the other exposed the damaging effects of binge drinking, for its ability to trigger a steroid that interferes with memory.

As anyone who has attempted to recite a phone number in the past 10 years can confirm, technology certainly has dwindled our recall abilities. And drinking need not be of the binge variety to remind us that alcohol clouds the memory.

But what about memory lapses that are unrelated (or in addition) to the deficiencies created by computers and alcohol? What underlying issues make us susceptible to these kinds of external factors that contribute to poor memory?

This is where acupuncturists focus their attention.

Have a bad memory? check your Blood

Poor memory usually is a sign of Blood Deficiency stemming from an imbalance in the Spleen, Heart or Liver system.

Blood in acupuncture is not the same as the blood we think about in biomedicine. Functionally and energetically, Blood is the counterpart to Qi, the vibrant, dynamic element that allows the physical, emotional and spiritual parts of a person to thrive. If Qi is active, Blood is still. Blood is what allows us to relax into ourselves, to soften so that we’re able to receive the things that Qi brings about.

In order to retain memories, we have to receive them in the first place. We need Blood in order to embrace and actualize that which is happening around us. When Blood is deficient, the memory—the ability to capture experiences and allow them to nourish us—can be poor. Other common signs of Blood Deficiency include paleness, dry skin or hair, dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, numbness in the limbs, light or absent menstrual periods, restlessness, and lack of self-esteem.

To rectify a Blood Deficiency pattern, acupuncturists ask where it’s coming from.

A clue in this regard can come from any symptoms that accompany the classic Blood Deficiency signs mentioned above. Sometimes Blood Deficiency can affect a particular organ system, thereby causing symptoms that are specific to that organ. For example, a person with Heart Blood Deficiency may experience heart palpitations and insomnia in addition to poor memory; someone with Spleen Blood Deficiency may have digestive problems.

Memory problems come in all shapes and sizes

Another indicator of the underlying imbalance is the type of memory that’s compromised.

Problems with short-term memory generally are associated with the Spleen. The Spleen plays a critical role in producing and then holding onto the Blood, so when the Spleen is weak, there is not enough Blood to support short-term memory. One extremely common pattern in Western societies, Spleen Qi Deficiency, is caused by overwork or excessive mental concentration, which is why many people notice a decline in memory during high-stress times at work or school.

The Heart is said to house the Mind and rule the Blood, making it vital to both short-term and long-term memory. Typically, however, Heart imbalances are linked to long-term memory problems. The Heart system is responsible for the continuous circulation of blood, through the vessels but also continuously over time, allowing for uninterrupted recall of past events.

The Liver also may play a role in memory loss. The Liver stores the Blood so that body tissues stay appropriately moist and nourished. The mental and emotional aspects of a person, including memory, require this nourishing as well. Good memory is dependent on smooth flow throughout the body so that all structures and functions can effectively support the formation and retention of Blood. This also is the domain of Liver.

Like memories, the reasons for losing them are unique to each person. Acupuncture creates a customized picture to help prevent memory lapses and regain lost moments—often they’re found in the Blood.

Photo by Sara Calabro

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