Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Plus Herbs Regulate Heart Arrhythmias

Acupuncture plus herbal medicine regulates heart beats and improves patient outcomes for patients taking drugs. Researchers from the Tianjing University of Chinese Medicine tested the efficacy of combining acupuncture and herbs with drug therapy. The addition of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapies increased positive patient outcomes by 28% for patients with tachycardia, arrhythmias, and palpitations.


Needles and herbs


The researchers tested the drug metoprolol tartrate (brand name Lopressor) in combination with acupuncture and herbs. Drug therapy, as a standalone treatment, produced a 64% total effective rate. Adding acupuncture and herbs to the treatment regimen increased the total efficactive rate to 92%.

Metoprolol tartrate is a beta-adrenergic blocking agent used for the treatment of high blood pressure, chest pain, and heart attack prevention. Statistically, this medication reduces the risk of death due to heart disorders for patients that have already suffered a heart attack. Metoprolol tartrate is also used to treat tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart beats) and arrhythmias (irregular heart beats). Acupuncture plus herbs with metoprolol tartrate produced a 92.0% total treatment effective rate. Metoprolol tartrate, as a standalone therapy, produced a 64.0% total effective rate.

A licensed acupuncturist examines the pulse of patients. Pulse analysis includes the strength, speed, and overall shape of the pulse. Patients with arrhythmias and tachycardia tend to present with rapid and irregular pulses. Symptoms and signs often include palpitations, chest oppression, angina, irritability, insomnia or poor quality sleep, fatigue, or dizziness. Notably, emotional factors exacerbate arrhythmias and tachycardia, including both panic attacks and generalized anxiety. This clinical presentation has been treated with acupuncture and herbs for over 1,000 years.

The scientists in the study tested the efficacy of combining an acupuncture point prescription and a classic Chinese medicine herbal formula with drug therapy. We’ll take a close look at how the researchers achieved improvements in patient outcomes. Next, we’ll present the acupuncture points used, a modified version of a classic TCM herbal formula, and the results.

The study design was as follows. A total of 50 patients were randomly divided into a treatment group and a control group, each consisting of 25 patients. The treatment group consisted of 16 males and 9 females. The age range was between 18 and 65, with an average age of 42.20 years. The course of disease was between 5 months and 4 years. The control group consisted of 14 males and 11 females. The age range was between 19 and 64, with an average age of 41.08 years. The course of disease was between 6 months and 5 years. There were no significant statistical differences in terms of gender, age, and disease duration between the two groups.

The treatment group received acupuncture, herbs, and drug therapy. The control group received only drug therapy. Both groups received identical drug therapies. Metoprolol tartrate was orally administered once per day. Acupuncture points were identical for all patients in the treatment group. No variation for differential diagnostics were allowed. The acupoints for acupuncture therapy were as follows:

  • PC6 (Neiguan)
  • HT7 (Shenmen)
  • PC4 (Ximen)
  • BL14 (Jueyinshu)
  • CV14 (Juque)

The acupoints were needled with manual stimulation techniques to achieve a deqi sensation. Next, PC6 and HT7 were rotated, lifted, and thrust rapidly for one minute. Needle retention time was 30 minutes per session. Acupuncture was administered once per day.

A modified version of the herbal formula Zhi Gan Cao Tang was administered for 30 days. It was prepared once daily and served in two portions, once in the morning and the other portion at night. The ingredients of the modified herbal formula were as follows:

  • Tai Zi Shen 30g
  • Gui Zhi 12g
  • Sheng Jiang 15g
  • Zhi Gan Cao 15g
  • Ma Zi Ren 10g
  • Da Zao 10 pieces
  • Suan Zao Ren 30g
  • He Huan Pi 30g
  • Wu Wei Zi 14g
  • Mo Han Lian 20g
  • Mai Dong 10g
  • Gan Song 6g

Before and after treatments, the electrocardiogram (ECG) changes of the patients were observed and compared. The treatment efficacy for each patient was evaluated and categorized into one of three tiers:

  • Recovery: Complete elimination of accompanied symptoms. Normal ECG results.
  • Effective: Improvement in accompanied symptoms and ECG results.
  • No effective: No improvement in symptoms and ECG results.

For the treatment group, the total effective rate was 92.0% with the following breakdown of improvement tiers: 17 recovered, 6 effective, 2 no effect. The control group had a 64.0% total effective rate with the following breakdown of improvement tiers: 11 recovered, 5 effective, 9 no effect. The researchers conclude that the results show that acupuncture combined with herbs is effective and increases the efficacy of metoprolol tartrate by a significant margin. Here, the integrative model of TCM with drug therapy significantly outperforms using only medications as an isolated therapeutic approach to patient care.

Combining acupuncture with herbal medicine into a treatment protocol has deep historical roots. Sun Si-miao, a famous traditional Chinese medicine doctor of the Sui and Tang dynasty, once noted that acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbs may all be combined in a therapeutic treatment regimen. Sun Si-miao clearly indicated that an integrative model of patient care is an appropriate treatment protocol. The herbal formula Zhi Gan Cao Tang has historically been used for heart beat disorders. Modern science also confirms the ancient applications. Zhen et al. find Zhi Gan Cao Tang effective for the treatment of arrhythmias. Yuan el al. find Zhi Gan Cao Tang effective for repairing some forms of myocardial damage.

The acupuncture points chosen for the study are classically indicated for heart disorders. Acupoint PC6 (Neiguan) has been traditionally indicated for heart rhythm disorders, angina, chest oppression, palpitations, and heart rate disorders. This acupoint is also indicated for the treatment of insomnia, nausea, vomiting, and fever with the absence of sweating.

Acupoint HT7 (Shenmen) is another classic acupuncture point chosen for the study. It is classically indicated for the treatment of angina and palpitations. Like PC6, it is also indicated for the treatment of insomnia. Together, the two acupoints are a powerful combination and are used in combination by licensed acupuncturists. Notably, the HealthCMi acupuncture continuing education course on the treatment of insomnia focuses on the synergistic effects of combining HT7 and PC6 in acupuncture point prescriptions. The online course covering the treatment of insomnia is due for release in April 2017.

The other acupoints used in the heart study are also traditionally indicated for the treatment of heart disorders. PC4 (Ximen) is indicated for the treatment of angina, chest pain, and insomnia. BL14 (Jueyinshu) is indicated for the treatment of angina, chest pain, mental restlessness, and chest oppression. CV14 (Juque) is indicated for angina, chest pain radiating to the back, shortness of breath, and mental restlessness.

Research confirms that the traditional indications are correct for the acupuncture points and the herbal formula. Heart arrhythmias, palpitations, and tachycardia can be life threatening and alarming. Drug therapy is an effective approach to patient care; however, research demonstrates that a combination of TCM therapy plus drug therapy is a superior treatment protocol to using only drug therapy.


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