If you’re stressed, wound up and flustered, what do you do to relax?
Maybe take a hot bath, go for a run or… stick a bunch of needles in your skin! It seems counterintuitive, but acupuncture is one of the most popular natural remedies for the relief of stress, in addition to many other chronic conditions.
Previously, evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture has been anecdotal, but a new study has discovered the mechanism behind this ancient therapy.
Acupuncture was discovered to reduce the action of stress hormones in rats, which shows promise for the treatment of anxiety, depression, chronic pain and mood disorders in humans.
Stress is the major invisible enemy in our society, causing up to 95 percent of doctor visits, according to some experts. It can be blamed for the high rates of cardiovascular disease and infertility, and may even play a role in obesity.
Therefore it’s important to have reliable ways to combat everyday stress. Exercise and meditation are excellent ways to self-remedy, but some prefer receiving treatment from a professional.
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. have provided evidence that acupuncture is indeed a worthwhile investment for those seeking to relieve stress. The new study has even been touted as providing “the strongest evidence to date on the mechanism of this ancient Chinese therapy in chronic stress.”
The new report is a culmination of a number of previous studies that have tried to decode exactly how acupuncture causes beneficial changes in the body.
Four groups of test subjects, in this case rats, were used: one received electroacupuncture to a point on the stomach called St36; another received acupuncture on a random point on the body that is not a traditional treatment point; the third group did not receive any acupuncture treatment; and the final group was not exposed to stress nor did it receive acupuncture treatment.
Treatment was divided into regular sessions, or acute application during a time of heightened stress.
The researchers found that both pre-treatment with acupuncture and also treatment following a stressful event were effective in lowering the incidence of stress-related hormones.
Specifically, the acupuncture treatment to the stomach meridian was able to reduce action in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the system that is responsible for pumping out hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline during times of stress or anxiety.
Better than drugs?
Many pharmaceuticals use the same mechanism in the body, with similar or lower efficacy. However, acupuncture treatment is noninvasive and causes no observed side effects.
While follow-up research on humans is required, the research team expects that further studies on acupuncture will show a similar ability to reduce stress hormones in humans, which could provide modes of treatment for depression and anxiety as well.
Rather than turning to prescription medications or other toxic substances, try some natural stress relief first. It’s amazingly effective, costs less money, and is gentler on the body.