Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be a very effective alternative to treat depression, anxiety, stress-induced fatigue and emotional swings, resulting in many long-term benefits.  Although it is a traditional Eastern method, acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and other Western nations. Acupuncture can be applied as a treatment to a number of conditions, including depression. In the U.S., it is considered to be a part of complementary and alternative (CAM) practices.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the body consists of a series of interconnected channels called your “Qi”, through which energy flows. If you are suffering from depression, your “Qi” energy will be blocked at one or more of these channels. Any impairment in the flow of Qi can affect many other physiological activities, such as memory, digestion, and sleep. Therefore, it is important to maintain a dynamic energy flow throughout the entire body.

Based on a holistic approach, acupuncture treatments for depression use very fine needles to stimulate the body’s flow of energy and functionality, enabling the mind and body to heal. According to the Western view, acupuncture works by stimulating the central nervous system to release endorphins, the body’s natural pain-relieving hormone. Endorphins stimulate the body’s healing mechanisms to restore its normal mood and increase energy levels.   This is why acupuncture treatments can have such calming, mood-elevating effects.

Acupuncturists also perform what is called auricular acupuncture, in which the outer ear lobe is pierced to help balance and regulate different neurotransmitters. This form of acupuncture is commonly used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder as it helps the mind to relax.  This form of therapy is even more effective when complemented with other treatments such as meditation, yoga, and art therapy.

Acupuncture is a good alternative for women who are pregnant and do not want to take antidepressants. Acupuncture can relieve many psychological issues and physical problems women experience during pregnancy, while also ensuring the optimal health of the mother and the developing fetus.

If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or other emotional difficulties, making changes in your lifestyle can help to balance your mind. Consider integrating a regular exercise program and/or studying a form of meditation to learn how to control and relax your mind. These practices in conjunction with acupuncture treatments can provide the foundation for a positive change in your life.

Research on Acupuncture & Depression

In 1998, the NIH’s Office of Alternative Medicine funded a study at the University of Arizona. Working with acupuncturist Rosa Schnyer, John Allen PhD devised a 16-week trial on 34 seriously depressed women. First the study devised a standard treatment plan that targeted certain “depression points” on the body. Then they devised a dummy treatment calling for needles in nonspecific places. The acupuncturists administering the treatment had no idea whether they were using the real plan or the dummy plan. Following the treatment, the depression-specific groups experienced a 43 percent reduction in their symptoms compared with a 22 percent reduction for the dummy group. More than half no longer met the criteria for clinical depression.  This research marked the first U.S. randomized, controlled, double-blind study of acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating depression. The NIH funded study concludes, “ Acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones in a good way.”

Precautionary Note: Severe clinical depression is a serious disorder. If you believe that you may be severely depressed or have difficulty working and maintaining your daily routine, consult with a medical doctor who is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of depression.