Researchers have discovered that both electrical and manual acupuncture “improve menstrual frequency and decrease circulating androgens in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).” PCOS is a common female endocrine disorder with side-effects including irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, anovulation, infertility, polycystic ovaries and excess quantities of androgenic hormones. Excess androgens may lead to acne, obesity due to insulin resistance, high cholesterol and hirsutism (excess facial and body hair).
The researchers induced PCOS in rats using 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) to determine whether or not electrical or manual acupuncture was superior in the regulation of menstruation. The rats received acupuncture five times per week for 4-5 weeks. The electroacupuncture group received 2 Hz stimulation at the acupuncture points. Untreated rats served as the control group.
The manual and electroacupuncture groups showed normalization of estrogen activity and a decrease in androgens. In addition, the electroacupuncture group showed changes in the central opioid receptors of the hypothalamus suggesting that electroacupuncture may be “mediated by central opioid receptors….” The manual acupuncture group showed changes in the steroid receptors of the hypothalamus suggesting that manual acupuncture “may involve regulation of steroid hormone/peptide receptors.”a
Another study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism concludes that low frequency electro-acupuncture improved menstrual frequency and balanced sex steroid levels in women with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome.b This study measured blood changes in human female participants. Hyperandrogenism was measured in this study by determining the total concentration of testosterone, androgens, estrogens, androgen precursors, and glucuronidated androgen metabolites. The study measured that electro-acupuncture improved menstrual regularity in women with PCOS. The sex steroid levels in the electro-acupuncture group improved significantly and acne markedly decreased. The study measured improvements in a wide range of endocrine variables such that the researchers concluded that electro-acupuncture may help induce ovulation in women attempting to conceive since participants showed significant improvement in monthly menstrual frequency.
Acupuncture was applied to CV3, CV6, ST29, SP6, SP9, LI4, and P6. All needles were stimulated manually until a de qi sensation was achieved. Thirty minutes of 2 Hz electro-acupuncture was applied to CV6, CV6, ST29, SP6, and SP9 for each treatment. The intensity was adjusted to induce local muscle contractions while also remaining comfortable. LI4 and P6 were manually stimulated every 10 minutes to evoke sensation. Needle length ranged from 30 to 50mm and the diameter was 0.32mm. Needle depth ranged from 15 to 35mm. Acupuncture was administered twice per week for two weeks, one time per week for six weeks, and once every other week for eight weeks for a grand total of 14 acupuncture treatments over a 16 week period.
Electrical and manual acupuncture stimulation affects estrous cyclicity and neuroendocrine function in a DHT-induced rat polycystic ovary syndrome model. Yi Feng1,2, Julia Johansson1, Ruijin Shao1, Louise Mannerås Holm1, Håkan Billig1, Elisabet Stener-Victorin1,3 . Experimental Physiology. DOI: 10.1113/expphysiol.2011.063131.
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
2 Department of Integrative Medicine and Neurobiology, State Key Lab of Medical Neurobiology, Shanghai Medical College; Institute of Acupuncture Research (WHO collaborating center for traditional medicine), Institutes of Brain Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, First Affiliated Hospital, Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, China.
Elizabeth Jedel, Fernand Labrie, Anders Odén, Göran Holm, Lars Nilsson, Per Olof Janson, Anna-Karin Lind, Claes Ohlsson, and Elisabet Stener-Victorin. Impact of electro-acupuncture and physical exercise on hyperandrogenismand oligo/amenorrhea in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 300: E37–E45, 2011.