Researchers have discovered that acupuncture lowers high blood pressure in hypertensive patients by normalizing blood chemistry. Published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the research team discovered that acupuncture exerts long-lasting therapeutic effects for hypertension patients. The normalization of blood chemistry in response to acupuncture stimulation allows the effects of the acupuncture to last well beyond the treatment period.
The researchers used a protocolized acupuncture point prescription of PC5, PC6, ST36 and ST37. These acupuncture points are located on the forearm and lower leg. Electroacupuncture connected PC5 with PC6 and ST36 with ST37. Acupuncture treatments were administered once per week for total of 8 weeks. The treatment duration was 30 minutes per office visit. A total of 71% of hypertension patients demonstrated significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
In this controlled experiment, sham acupuncture did not lower hypertension but true acupuncture successfully lowered hypertension. The sham technique involved active needling of acupuncture points not considered relating to the function of lowering hypertension by the research team: LI6, LI7, GB37, GB39. This approach to sham controls has come under scrutiny in recent years because alternate acupuncture points are not considered physiologically inactive. Regardless, the PC5-6 and ST36-37 outperformed the sham group with significant reductions in blood pressure lasting at least 4 weeks after cessation of acupuncture treatments.
The biological mechanisms relating to the effective therapeutic action of acupuncture were examined. Plasma concentrations of norepinephrine, renin and angiotensin showed significant decreases in responders. This change in blood chemistry was not observed in the non-responders. The researchers concluded that “the sympathetic function and renin-angiotensin system were related to the long-lasting effect of EA (electroacupuncture).”
In a related study, researchers at the University of California, Irvine and University of California, Los Angeles concluded that acupuncture lowers high blood pressure. The investigated the effective action of acupuncture points P5, P6, LI10 and LI11 combined with electroacupuncture. The researchers found that acupuncture successfully reduces hypertension. Additionally, it was discovered that the application of this acupuncture treatment prescription protocol protected heart tissues and reduced arrhythmias.
They also measured how acupuncture achieves positive clinical outcomes for patients with high blood pressure. It was discovered that electroacupuncture stimulates neurons in specific brain regions that control sympathetic nerve stimulation throughout the body. The investigators mapped the neurological network stimulated by acupuncture and concluded that it is acupuncture’s ability to activate brain centers that allows it to lower high blood pressure.
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Li, Peng, Ling Cheng, Dongmei Liu, Jeanette Painovich, Sivarama Vinjanury, Stephanie Tjen-A-Looi, and John Longhurst. "Long-lasting inhibitory effect of electroacupuncture in hypertensive patients—role of catecholamine, renin and angiotension (1140.3)." The FASEB Journal 28, no. 1 Supplement (2014): 1140-3.
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 878673, 9 pages. doi:10.1155/2012/878673. Neuroendocrine Mechanisms of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Hypertension. Wei Zhou and John C. Longhurst. Department of Anesthesiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles. Department of Medicine, University of California, Irvine.