Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Ups Drug Benefits For Heart Arrhythmias


Acupuncture and herbs increase the efficacy of drug therapy for the relief of heart arrhythmias. Researchers from the Qinghai Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine combined acupuncture and herbs with standard drug therapy. Patients receiving both drugs and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) therapy in a combined treatment protocol had superior patient outcomes compared with patients receiving only drugs. The researchers conclude that the addition of acupuncture and herbs to conventional drug therapy improves heart rate variability and downregulates serum inflammatory cytokines.

Multiple objective instruments were used to measure patient outcomes before treatment and one month after completion of treatment. First, heart rate variability (HRV) was calculated. Second, the levels of plasma C-reactive proteins (CRP), interleukin 8 (IL-8), and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) were recorded. Third, the adverse event rate (including occurrences of bradycardia, gastrointestinal reactions, blood pressure fluctuations, or rashes) was measured. HRV measures heartbeat variation. CRP, IL-8, and TNF-α are proinflammatory cytokines. This is important because high levels of proinflammatory factors are associated with severe cardiac conditions.

The HRV in the acupuncture treatment group improved more than in the drugs-only control group (p<0.05). The levels of plasma CRP, IL-8, and TNF-α in the acupuncture treatment group decreased significantly compared with those in the control group (p<0.05). The adverse event rate in the treatment group was better than in the control group. The treatment group had 2 cases of bradycardia, 1 case of gastrointestinal reaction, 1 case of blood pressure fluctuation, and 0 cases of rashes. In comparison, the control group had 1 case of bradycardia, 2 cases of gastrointestinal reaction, 2 cases of blood pressure fluctuation, and 1 case of rashes.


A total of 200 patients were randomly divided into a treatment group and a control group, each consisting of 100 patients. The control group consisted of 63 males and 37 females. The age range was between 42 and 74, with an average age of 63.24 years. The average course of disease was 35.82 months.

The treatment group consisted of 67 males and 33 females. The age range was between 41 and 76, with an average age of 64.08 years. The average course of disease was 36.09 months. All patients were diagnosed with arrhythmias between January 2017 and February 2018. There were no significant statistical differences in terms of gender, age, and disease duration between the two groups prior to treatments.


Acupuncture and Drugs
Both groups received identical drug therapies. The treatment group also received acupuncture and herbs. Aspirin, metoprolol succinate, clopidogrel sulfate, and amiodarone hydrochloride were orally administered once per day. Aspirin and clopidogrel sulfate are antiplatelet drugs that prevent the formation of blood clots. Metoprolol succinate is a β1 receptor blocker used to treat heart failure. Amiodarone hydrochloride is an anti-arrhythmic drug used to help keep the heart beating normally. The acupuncture point selected for all patients in the treatment group was Neiguan (PC6), needled bilaterally.

Treatment commenced with patients in a supine position. After disinfection of the acupoint sites, a disposable filiform needle was inserted into each acupoint area to a depth of 0.8 inches and was manipulated with mild reinforcing and attenuating (Ping Bu Ping Xie) techniques. Once a deqi sensation was obtained, the needles were retained for 30 minutes. The acupuncture treatment was conducted once per day, for a total of 30 days. For the treatment group patients, a modified formula of Zhi Gan Cao Tang was prescribed, which contained the following herbs:

  • Zhi Gan Cao 12 g
  • Ren Shen 6 g
  • Sheng Di Huang 50 g
  • Sheng Jiang 9 g
  • Gui Zhi 9 g
  • Mai Men Dong 10 g
  • Da Zao 10 pieces
  • Ma Zi Ren 10 g

The prescribed dosage was for one day. The above ingredients were brewed with water to obtain a 250 ml decoction, which was then split into 2 servings, taken separately in the morning and at night. Patients consumed the TCM herbal medicine at this rate for 30 consecutive days.


The results indicate that acupuncture and herbs combined with conventional drug therapy into an integrated treatment protocol is more effective and causes less adverse events than using drug monotherapy. Zhang et al. conclude that acupuncture and herbs are safe and effective for the relief of cardiac arrhythmias.


1. Zhang X, Xing FL, Wu JG. Study on the Effect of Zhigancao Decoction Combined with Acupuncture at Neiguan Point on Arrhythmia [J]. Journal of Sichuan of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2019,37(04):98-101.


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