A study into acupuncture may have highlighted a reason behind its apparent stress busting effects.
Electro-acupuncture, the application of minor electrical stimulation through needles, was found, in an experiment on rats, to blunt activity in a hormonal pathway that is linked to stress and chronic pain.
This is the first empirical evidence that the alternative therapy method is more than just a placebo, even though it has been in use since the days of ancient China.
Acupuncture has been used as a way to ‘unblock’ meridian, or energy paths, throughout the body and keep it in balance.
When used on rats exposed to a stress stimulation, however, it was found that an electro-acupuncture stimulation in ‘stomach meridian point 36’ affected a hormonal interaction between hormones known as the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis.
“The benefits of acupuncture are well known by those who use it, but such proof is anecdotal,” said the lead investigator from Georgetown University Medical Centre, Washington, Dr Ladan Eshkevari.
“This research, the culmination of a number of studies, demonstrates how acupuncture might work in the human body to reduce stress and pain, and potentially depression. 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 behavioural effects of acupuncture in rats.
“Some antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs exert their therapeutic effects on these same mechanisms.”
This seems to indicate that medication and drugs is not necessarily the best method of treating mental health issues, when alternatives like mindfulness and acupuncture can do the same job but without the side effects, costs, and difficulty of taking medication.