Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Outperforms Drug For Anxiety


Acupuncture calms anxiety. Xuzhou Guangci Hospital psychiatric department researchers conducted a clinical trial comparing acupuncture and moxibustion for the treatment of anxiety disorders with gamma oryzanol plus alprazolam (a benzodiazepine medication). Acupuncture combined with moxibustion produced a 93.75% total effective rate and alprazolam plus gamma oryzanol produced a 75% total effective rate. Based on the data, the research team notes that acupuncture is safe and effective for the treatment of anxiety.

A total of 64 patients with a clinical diagnosis of anxiety disorder were recruited for the study and were randomly assigned to the acupuncture plus moxibustion group or the drug control group using randomization. The acupuncture plus moxibustion group was comprised of 14 male and 18 female patients, ages 20–70 years (mean age 50.5 years), with a duration of anxiety between 1–4 years (mean duration 2.2 years). Of these patients, 22 were classified as having mild anxiety while 10 were classified as having severe anxiety.

The drug control group was comprised of 15 male and 17 female patients, ages 25–75 years (mean age 50.8 years), with a duration of anxiety between 2–6 years (mean duration 2.3 years). Of these patients, 26 were classified as having mild anxiety, while 6 were classified as having severe anxiety. There were no statistically significant differences in baseline characteristics between the two groups (p>0.05).

Inclusion criteria for the study including the age range of 20–75 years and giving informed consent to participate. Exclusion criteria were other medical conditions and comorbidities, use of related therapies which may influence the study’s outcomes, psychological or pathological conditions that may affect judgement and observation, concurrent heart, liver, or kidney dysfunction, factors affecting drug metabolism, other psychological disorders, and other critical or advanced conditions. Pregnant and lactating women were also excluded from the study. Withdrawal criteria included failure to comply with the prescribed interventions, incomplete data, serious adverse reactions or complications, and the use of medications that may interfere with the study’s outcome measures.

Biomedical diagnostic criteria included symptoms such as depression, clinically significant excessive doubt or suspicion, anxiety, worry, timidity, and irritability. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) diagnostic criteria included symptoms such as depression, chest or hypochondriac distension, shortness of breath, frequent sighing, and amenorrhea. Tongue and pulse diagnosis included a thin-white tongue coating and a wiry (bowstring) pulse.


Patient Care
Patients assigned to the drug control group were treated with alprazolam (a benzodiazepine) and gamma oryzanol. The dosages of these medications were 0.4 mg and 20 mg respectively, both taken three times a day. Patients assigned to the acupuncture plus moxibustion group were treated with acupuncture and moxibustion but did not receive alprazolam and gamma oryzanol. Acupuncture was administered at the following acupoints:

  • Baihui (GV20)
  • Shenting (GV24)
  • Anmian (NHN54)
  • Neiguan (PC6)
  • Sanyinjiao (SP6)

The acupoints were selected according to the TCM principles of stimulating the brain and nervous system, promoting restful sleep, regulating spleen and kidney function, and supplementing essence (jing), qi, and spirit (shen).

Treatment was conducted with the patients in a supine position. Needles were inserted rapidly, accurately, and steadily to induce a heavy sensation in the surrounding area. Once a numb or aching sensation was achieved, the needles were removed. Needles at Baihui and Shenting were manipulated using a balanced reinforcing-reducing method. Needles at Neiguan were manipulated using a reinforcing method before applying moxa. Treatment was administered on alternate days and lasted a total of 30 minutes each time, with 15 days constituting a full course of patient care.


The primary outcome measure for the study was clinical efficacy. Each patient’s symptoms were rated according to TCM Syndrome Diagnosis and Efficacy Criteria. In patients showing >60% improvement in symptoms, treatment was classified as markedly effective. In patients showing 30–60% improvement, treatment was classified as effective. In patients showing <20% improvement or no change in symptoms, treatment was classified as ineffective. The markedly effective and effective scores were added together to give the total clinical efficacy rate.

After 15 days of treatment, the acupuncture plus moxibustion group had 20 markedly effective, 10 effective, and 2 ineffective cases, giving a total effective rate of 30/32 (93.75%). The drug control group had 10 markedly effective, 14 effective, and 8 ineffective cases, giving a total effective rate of 24/32 (75.00%). Although both groups showed improvements following treatment, the total effective rate was significantly higher in the acupuncture plus moxibustion group (p<0.05). In addition, adverse reactions were monitored throughout the study. No serious adverse reactions were recorded in either group, and no patients withdrew from the study.

The results of this randomized controlled trial indicate that acupuncture with moxibustion is a safe and effective treatment for anxiety, with the advantage of providing symptomatic relief within a relatively short period of time. This suggests that acupuncture plus moxibustion is a potentially useful adjunct to psychological therapy and other relevant interventions for anxiety.


1. Liu Jinpeng, Meng Li, Yu Xinqian, Wu Ming (2015) “Sedative Qingnao Acupuncture to Treat Anxiety Disorders Randomized Controlled Study” Journal of Practical Traditional Chinese internal Medicine Vol.29 (8) pp.152-153.


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