Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to treat depression

A recent study, published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, may have uncovered the mechanisms behind the effects of acupuncture on depression.

Despite the presence of advanced medical technologies, many people from different parts of the world continue to swear by the health benefits of acupuncture, an ancient treatment approach from China. Acupuncture uses needles inserted into the body to influence the flow of life energy, also called chi, and bring healing and wellness to the patient. It is used most often for pain relief, but the World Health Organization has counted it among the most effective alternative treatments for chronic conditions like hypertension.

There is evidence that acupuncture can also help address psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety, and promote neurogenesis or the birth of new brain cells. According to the authors of the study, this may have something to do with the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling pathway.

The ERK signaling pathway pertains to the chain of proteins that delivers messages from the outside environment to the center of the cell. The cells release proteins in response to these messages. The ERK signaling pathway is vital to a large number of bodily processes, from reproduction to fighting pathogens. Its function also extends to psychological processes, with one study proving that abnormalities in these protein chains play a role not just in depression, but also in a person’s vulnerability to commit suicide.

The authors subjected rats to chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) for three weeks to induce depression. Some rats were given acupuncture for 10 minutes every day at acupoints Baihui (GV-20) and Yintang (GV-29). In some of these rats, the researchers inhibited the ERK signaling pathway using an injection of PD98059.

The researchers found that acupuncture effectively reduced the depression-like behavior of treated rats. However, the treatment failed to cause any beneficial effect on the animals whose ERK signaling pathways were suppressed with PD98059.

With these findings, the researchers concluded that indeed, acupuncture can reduce depression and its depressive behaviors by improving the ERK signaling pathway.

Other health benefits of acupuncture

Acupuncture can do more than aid in treating depression. Here are other benefits one can gain from this ancient practice:

  • Stress relief – In small doses, stress can actually benefit the body. However, chronic exposure to stress can cause a wide variety of conditions, including hypertension and anxiety. Acupuncture has been proven to help reduce the concentration of stress hormones in the body and regulate mood, leading to a lighter and happier feeling.
  • Pain relief – Acupuncture is popular among those who seek comfort from muscle and joint pains, such as those brought about by arthritis. The treatment not only eases the sensation of pain, it actually soothes inflammation and swelling that cause pain.
  • Immunity boost – Acupuncture stimulates the immune system, enabling it to fight off pathogens that cause common diseases. For those who already have a cold, acupuncture can decrease the duration of the condition.
  • Improved concentrationAcupuncture improves sleep, making it ideal for those suffering from insomnia. This relaxes and rejuvenates the mind, ensuring that it is ready to take on new challenges. Acupuncture also energizes the body and clears the mind.
  • Strain relief – Repetitive strain can lead to job-related injuries. Acupuncture can be used to treat these injuries and eliminate the need for surgery or pain medication.

Learn more about the health benefits of acupuncture and other natural treatments at

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