The vagus nerve has been in the news a lot lately. If you are not familiar with it, the vagus nerve connects the brain and other parts of the body including the intestines, and has long been the subject of speculation as a possible pathway to explain mechanically how acupuncture works.
Recently, it was published that researchers have discovered a lymphatic system particular to the vagus nerve, which may play a role in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons and Multiple Sclerosis. See, e.g., here, here, here, here and here.
My colleagues and I have been pleased by this discovery as it confirms some aspects of Chinese Medicine. For example, there is a branch of the Stomach Channel / Organ system that we call the Stomach Connecting Channel, and our source texts tell us that it connects to the heart and brain. So, for example, when you eat ice cream too quickly, and much to the chagrin of your acupuncturist, you may experience the “brain freeze,” phenomenon. We could explain this phenomenon by the Stomach Connecting Channel.
As I was searching for recent research about the connection between the Stomach Channel and the vagus nerve I came across this study that shows how Electro Acupuncture at 10 hz at acupuncture point Stomach 36 (zu san li) releases dopamine, through the vagus nerve, to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the peritoneal cavity, thereby reducing inflammation and potentially saving lives. The study states that sepsis is the number one cause of death in hospitals, and suggests that acupuncture has a legitimate role in saving lives within the context of an integrative system.
So, as some are looking for novel ways to stimulate the vagus nerve, acupuncturists have a sophisticated system in place for doing just this that has been practiced, empirically observed and refined for thousands of years.