This is an exciting study. Not exciting is that rats had to suffer. But it does show, pretty convincingly, that acupuncture works, and how it works:
Effects Of Acupuncture, RU-486 On The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis In Chronically Stressed Adult Male Rats, Endocrinology, 3 August 2015 (also, PubMed)
Time magazine covered it:
This May Be How Acupuncture Tamps Down Stress, Time, 21 July 2015
Researchers at Georgetown University stressed rats, then gave them acupuncture (at a point called EA St36 or stomach 36, known to reduce depression, insomnia, and pain especially along the digestive tract)
Rats were divided into 4 groups:
- Group 1: Stress, acupuncture
- Group 2: Stress, sham acupuncture
- Group 3: Stress, no acupuncture
- Group 4: Control, no treatment
Rats given acupuncture at St36, but not sham, released fewer stress hormones after being stressed, and the effect lasted 4 days:
The increase in ACTH and corticosterone observed in stress-only rats was prevented in EA St36 animals, and the effects remained intact 4 days after withdrawal of EA but continuation of cold stress.
Those fewer stress hormones were associated with less anxiety and depression:
The elevated HPA hormones in stress-only rats were associated with a significant increase in depressive and anxious behavior; this was not observed in the stressed EA St36 animals. The results indicate that EA specifically at St36 vs sham-EA is effective in treating chronic post-stress exposure.
They hypothesized that acupuncture was acting along the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), a pathway involved in the stress response. The HPA, via nerves and endocrine glands, is involved in the production of stress hormones. Drugs like Xanax target this pathway to reduce anxiety.
To make sure the acupuncture was affecting the pathway they thought it was, the researchers gave the rats a drug to block the HPA pathway, then retested the rats of behavioral measures. The effect went away.
“That’s how we know that the acupuncture not only worked, but it worked via the pathway we’re hypothesizing it works,” [lead researcher] Eshkevari says.
Acupuncture needs to be scooped up from the pile of mystic baloney. It may turn out to be a bona fide, evidence-based way to treat pain, anxiety, and depression that doesn’t involve drugs. No side effects. No withdrawal symptoms. No adding to the drug residues that are contaminating our drinking water. And if acupressure also has an effect, dirt cheap.
Speaking of acupressure, here’s where the stomach 36 point is located:
With the leg straight, place the side of your index finger at the very base of the kneecap (patella). At the level where the edge of your little finger comes to rest, go to the outside of the ridge of the leg bone (tibia) by a finger’s width. The point is located in the shin muscle (tibialis anterior). Roll around to find a sensitive area and press for two or three minutes.