How Acupuncture Treats Depression and Anxiety

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Acupuncture is an ancient form of healing in Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. It is used to treat everything from common aches and pains to chronic diseases.

According to TCM, the life force “chi” flows through a complex network of channels in the body called medians. When the flow of chi is blocked in any area of the body, it causes sickness. Thin needles are inserted into the skin to clear blocked medians.

But apart from treating diseases that affect the body physically, acupuncture may ease sickness that cause mental distress. These conditions include anxiety and depression. Although studies are limited, clinical tests demonstrate the efficacy of acupuncture in alleviating stress and depression. But how? In today’s post, we are going in-depth on the efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment for depression and its associated symptoms:

Lowers GDNF

A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that electro-acupuncture might help lower the glial cell line–derived neurotrophic factor or GDNF in the brain. Electro-acupuncture is a variation of traditional acupuncture. GDNF is a type of neuro-protective protein linked to major depressive disorders. According to tests, increasing the GDNF in the brain reduces the risk of depressive disorders among patients.

Electro-acupuncture works by emitting mild electric current in the skin. This remedy stimulates the production of GDNF in the brain. Researchers noted that electro-acupuncture is so effective in treating depression that its effects are comparable to fluoxetine. Fluoxetine is the generic name of Prozac, a popular drug that reduces depression symptoms.

Minimizes Anti-Depressant Side Effects

The most common side effect of taking antidepressants is decreased libido. This side effect affects both men and women. Unfortunately, decreased sexual appetite is hard to treat when taking anti-depressant continuously. This side effect causes the second wave of depressive symptoms among patients.

Acupuncture improves sexual functions among men and women. The study, which was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, also noted that acupuncture is effective in treating chronic pain, anxiety, and nausea.

Enhances the Efficacy of Anti-Depressants

Acupuncture is best used as a supplementary treatment for depression. It enhances the efficacy of antidepressant drugs while treating other symptoms of depression at the same time. In fact, the World Health Organization acknowledges the effectiveness of acupuncture as a secondary treatment for mental distress.

In a 2008 research review, researchers found that acupuncture “could significantly reduce the severity of depression.” This, after monitoring 477 depressive patients in 8 clinical trials. In another study, researchers reviewed data from 30 trials and found “sufficient and consistent” evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for depression. Other studies found that anti-depressant medications become even more potent when paired with acupuncture.

Treats Chemical Imbalance in the Brain

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental disorders in the world. Studies show that the ability of acupuncture to treat anxiety enhances its efficacy in treating depression. Acupuncture helps neutralize stress signals in the brain among mentally ill patients. By dulling the natural response of the brain to a stressful situation, depressive symptoms are reduced significantly.

Acupuncture also helps rebalance the biochemical factors in the brain that causes anxiety and depression alike.