Research conducted at the University of California Los Angels and UC Irvine has uncovered a mechanism by which acupuncture lowers blood pressure for hypertension patients. High blood pressure (hypertension) affects approximately 1 billion people. The researchers note, “two major contributors to systemic hypertension are the intrarenal renin-angiotensin system (RAS) and chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system.” RAS is a hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance within the human body. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is a part of the autonomic nervous system. It controls internal organs, engages the body’s fight-or-flight responses, widens bronchial passages, constricts blood vessels, causes sweating and raises blood pressure. Over-activation of the SNS from stress and other factors contributes to hypertension.
The research notes that acupuncture reduces hypertension by stimulating brain neurons, electrically excitable cells that transmit information. A decrease in the neural activity of the rostral ventrolateral medulla (rVLM) decreases SNS activity and reduces blood pressure. The researchers “have shown that electroacupuncture stimulation activates neurons in the arcuate nucleus, ventrolateral gray, and nucleus raphe to inhibit the neural activity in the rVLM in a model of visceral reflex stimulation-induced hypertension.” In this way, acupuncture treatment reduces high blood pressure through downregulation of excess sympathetic nerve activity.
The researchers measured the effects of electroacupuncture on cats with reflex-induced hypertension. Acupuncture selections P-5 to P-6 and LI-10 to LI-11 with an electroacupuncture current of 2mA at 2 Hz for 30 minutes effectively lowered blood pressure. The same electroacupuncture techniques from LI-4 to Lu-7 and from St-36 to St-37 reduced hypertension but to a lesser degree. Electroacupuncture at LI-6 to LI-7 and K-1 to UB-67 did not reduce hypertension. The researchers note that electroacupuncture effectively reduces hypertension and the effects are point specific.
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, Los Angeles, CA. Department of Medicine, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA.