Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. examined the effects of acupuncture on stressed rats. The results showed a clear positive effect on stress and depression when the rats were treated with acupuncture. According to the researchers, the evidence found in this study “provides the strongest evidence to date on the mechanism of this ancient Chinese therapy in chronic stress.”
The researchers tested four groups of rats for the possible positive effects of acupuncture just after times of stress. The researchers identified a clear link between the acupuncture and a positive response in the rats against anxiety and stress. “This work provides a framework for future clinical studies on the benefit of acupuncture, both before or during chronic stressful events,” the study authors stated.
The possible future use of acupuncture as an antidepressant
Until recently, most information on the benefits of acupuncture was anecdotal. This study set out to examine the real, documentable results of acupuncture as related to pain, stress and possibly depression.
In the study, the rats were given a form of electroacupuncture applied to stomach meridian point 36. When this acupuncture pressure point was activated, it reduced activity in the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the main stress pathway responsible for pain, mood, and unhappy emotions. When this part of the rats’ bodies was stimulated, their production of stress hormones dropped significantly.
According to the study authors, this is the same effect that some antidepressants and antianxiety drugs have on the body. “Some antidepressants and antianxiety drugs exert their therapeutic effects on these same mechanisms,” the researchers noted.
The researchers acknowledged the need for further study in human trials, but stated that the positive results from this study is a good indicator that benefits for humans will also be found.
“We have now found a potential mechanism, and at this point in our research, we need to test human participants in a blinded, placebo-controlled clinical study — the same technique we used to study the behavioral effects of acupuncture in rats,” the research notes explained.
Although this rat study is just one in a necessary series of further tests and trials, which includes human testing on the possible benefits of acupuncture, it shows strong evidence that the practice has merit in the medical world.
If you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious, or have feelings of mild to moderate depression, try an acupuncture treatment and see if it makes a difference in your mood and stress regulation. You may be surprised at how much more relaxed you are after acupuncture treatment. For best results, always visit a certified acupuncturist trained in medical acupuncture, such as one certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
—The Alternative Daily