Acupuncture Continuing Education

Ear Acupuncture Benefits The Heart Research

Researchers have discovered that auricular acupuncture benefits the heart by increasing heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is the body’s ability to regulate the time interval between heart beats and is an index of the body’s ability to maintain control of the heart beat rate and rhythm through vagus nerve activity. A lowering of HRV is found in unhealthy and highly stressed individuals. Acupuncture’s ability to raise HRV is of importance because reduced HRV is linked to mortality after myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, diabetic neuropathy and low survival rates in premature babies. A reduction of HRV is also common in patients with PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) and for individuals with increased heart rates due to stress.

Acupuncture’s ability to raise HRV was measured using electrocardiograms (ECGs) and an HRV Mediolog AR12 system. The evidence-based research concludes that “HRV changes significantly during auricular acupuncture…” and that “HRV total increases during auricular acupuncture….” The research team, based in China and Austria, measured significant increases in HRV when needling Ear-Shenmen (earpoint: Heart). Ear-Shenmen is located on the external ear at the bifurcating point between the superior and inferior antihelix crus at the lateral third of the triangular fossa. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ear-Shenmen is used for sedation, relaxing the mind, pain relief and clearing the heart.

Researchers from the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience discovered similar results last year. They measured that needling acupuncture point CV17 increases HRV. They concluded that acupuncture at CV17 “causes the modulation of cardiac autonomic function.” The research measured the mechanism by which acupuncture at CV17 is able to activate the autonomic nervous system to control the heart rate by increasing vagal activity.


1. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 817378, 7 pages. doi:10.1155/2012/817378. Sino-European Transcontinental Basic and Clinical High-Tech Acupuncture Studies—Part 1: Auricular Acupuncture Increases Heart Rate Variability in Anesthetized Rats. Xin-Yan Gao, Kun Liu, Bing Zhu and Gerhard Litscher.
2. Kurono Y, Minagawa M, Ishigami T, Yamada A, Kakamu T, Hayano J. Auton Neurosci. Acupuncture to Danzhong but not to Zhongting increases the cardiac vagal component of heart rate variability. 2011 Apr 26;161(1-2):116-20. Epub 2011 Jan 7.