Acupuncture effective for depression

Acupuncture may be plausible treatment for depression

One in four people experience depression at some point in their lives. But can acupuncture help with depression? According to recent studies, the answer is ‘YES’.

Laser acupuncture is a plausible treatment for depression and other mental disorders, UNSW researchers have shown for the first time.

Acupuncture produces significant changes in parts of the brain that regulate emotional states and is a biologically plausible treatment for depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders, UNSW researchers have shown for the first time.

The scientists, from UNSW’s School of Psychiatry, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map the changes in the prefrontal cortex and subcortical nuclei brought about through the stimulation of the body’s acupoints by laser acupuncture.

“This is the first MRI study to find that laser stimulation of a suite of acupoints on the body in healthy individuals produces changes in brain regions that may be relevant to treating conditions such as depression,” said study chief, Scientia Professor Perminder Sachdev, from UNSW’s School of Psychiatry.

“It’s a scientifically rigorous study in a controversial area. It is being followed up with a similar study in depressed individuals, and a clinical trial of laser acupuncture in depression.”

A paper outlining the findings appears this week in the journal PLoS Online.

In the study, 10 healthy subjects were stimulated with a fibreoptic infrared laser on four acupoints (LR14, CV14, LR8 and HT7) used for depression following the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. A control non-acupoint (sham point) was also stimulated in a random design.

The subjects were unaware of the relative significance of different acupoints. The use of low-level laser acupuncture, which does not produce a skin sensation, permitted the blinding of subjects to placebo stimulation, something difficult to achieve with needle acupuncture.

“The most consistently reported finding in antidepressant treatments is that they lead to a normalisation of activity in the prefrontal cortex, with additional changes in the limbic cortex and the frontal lobe,” said lead author and PhD candidate Dr Im Quah-Smith.

Further Research Required

However, while the MRI clearly demonstrated the effects of acupuncture in the brains of healthy people, it remained to be seen whether the results would be different in a sample of clinically depressed subjects, Dr Quah-Smith said.

“We also cannot predict from these results whether any acupoint should be preferred over others for clinical use. Both these questions warrant further investigation,” she said.

TCM encompasses the whole of your body’s health, and in fact in TCM there is no brain. In TCM the view on mental health is that it’s not that of a seperate disorder. Our organs are all allocated roles and each have independent responsibilities. These responsibilities corroborates towards homeostasis and health. In essence each organ has their own role to play in keeping you balanced and functioning. When things are out of balance and you don’t feel yourself, this is when feelings like depression can set in. Like a dark cloud rolling in.

As a TCM practitioner, Angela recognises the balance of multiple organ pathologies and emotions is a bit like a juggling act, keeping an eye on all the balls in the air at once.

In TCM the Heart energy is referred to as the Emperor. It is supported by the other energies in the body but it is the centre of where we focus our treatment when anxiety or depression is present.

Acupuncture treatment comes in the form of balancing all energies. When you are deficient in energy we aim to move qi and energy to the heart centre to nourish the Shen (mind). When you are in excess our aim is to move energy and heat away from the heart centre to allow for restfulness, peacefulness and calmness.

All treatments showed significant improvement in depression, but the acupuncture and integrative treatment were more beneficial than those that received conventional treatment.

What Depression Acupuncture Points Should I Use for My Depression?

Yin Tang, The “third eye” is located right in the middle of an imaginary line drawn between the end of your right and left eyebrows, above your nose. Press this point for depression. Hold it for up to five minutes.

Our acupuncturist Angela, recognises there are times when pharmaceutical intervention is required for severe depression and she practices responsibly and has a trusted referral base for severe mood disorders or for those unresponsive to current treatment.