Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Beats Drugs For Hyperthyroidism​​

Acupuncture For Hyperthyroidism​​

Researchers confirm that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. In one investigation, acupuncture plus herbal medicine outperformed drug therapy for hyperthyroidism symptomatic relief. In another independent investigation, the addition of acupuncture to a medication treatment protocol significantly increased positive patient outcome rates. Let’s take a look at both investigations.

Hebei Wuji County Hospital researchers compared the benefits of acupuncture plus herbal medicine with drug therapy for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. The results of the clinical trial finds acupuncture plus herbs more effective than the drug treatment protocol (consisting of propranolol and methimazole). [1] Patients receiving a special herbal formula plus an acupuncture prescription had a 95.3% total effective rate. Another group of patients receiving drug therapy had a 72.9% total effective rate. The acupuncture plus herbs group outperformed the drug control group by 22.4%.

A total of 171 patients were treated and evaluated in the study. They were diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. They were randomly divided into the acupuncture plus herbs treatment group and the medication control group, with 86 and 85 patients in each group respectively. The treatment group received conventional acupuncture plus an herbal formula. The control group was given vitamin C, propranolol, and methimazole. Propranolol is a beta blocker used to control arrhythmias, tachycardia, and tremors associated with hyperthyroidism. Methimazole is an antithyroid agent that inhibits the synthesis of thyroid hormones.

The statistical breakdown for each randomized group was as follows. The treatment group was comprised of 17 males and 69 females. The average age in the treatment group was 38.5 ±1.5 years. There were 34 mild cases (39.5%), 35 moderate cases (40.7%), and 17 severe cases (19.8%) in the treatment group. The control group was comprised of 17 males and 68 females. The average age in the treatment group was 38.8 ±1.7 years. There were 34 mild cases (40.0%), 34 moderate cases (40.0%), and 17 severe cases (20.0%) in the control group. There were no significant statistical differences in gender, age, or severity of disease relevant to patient outcome measures for patients initially admitted to the study.

The treatment group patients received conventional acupuncture therapy. The acupoints used for the treatment group included the following:

  • LI4 (Hegu)
  • GB9 (Tianchong)
  • GB34 (Yanglingquan)
  • CV17 (Danzhong)
  • KI7 (Fuliu)
  • KI6 (Zhaohai)
  • ST10 (Shuitu)
  • ST32 (Futu)
  • CV22 (Tiantu)

The herbal formula for the treatment group was comprised of the following herbs:

  • Bai Shao Yao 15 g
  • Chai Hu 10 g
  • Chuan Xiong 6 g
  • Dang Gui 8 g
  • Gan Cao 6 g
  • Fu Ling 15 g
  • Mu Dan Pi 10 g
  • Niu Bang Zi 12 g
  • Zhi Zi 12 g

Additional herbs were prescribed according to individual symptoms. For palpitations and lack of sleep, the following herbs were added:

  • Suan Zao Ren 15 g
  • Yuan Zhi 8 g
  • Bai Zi Ren 15 g

For anxiety and irritability, the following herbs were added:

  • Huang Qin 12 g
  • Xia Ku Cao 15 g
  • Long Dan Cao 10 g

For increased appetite and excessive hunger, the formula Bai Hu decoction was added, comprised of the following herbs:

  • Shi Gao 30 g
  • Zhi Mu 9 g
  • Gan Cao 3 g
  • Jing Mi 6 g

For hand tremors, the following herbs were added:

  • Shi Jue Ming 25 g
  • Ci Ji Li 10 g
  • Gou Teng 12 g

The study confirms that herbs and acupuncture outperform drugs. The researchers note that “acupuncture combined with herbal medicine relieves clinical symptoms (emaciation, irritability, polyphagia, and thyroid enlargement) in hyperthyroidism patients.” It produced higher total effective rates than standard drug therapy.

Xia et al. had similar results in their independent investigation published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. [2] The researchers determined that acupuncture plus drugs is superior to using drug monotherapy for relief of exophthalmos due to hyperthyroidism. Two groups were compared. The drug control group received 10 mg/d of methimazole and 25 μg/d of levothyroxine sodium. Methimazole and levothyroxine sodium are used to treat thyroid disorders. The treatment group received acupuncture at the following points in addition to the identical drug treatment administered to the control group:

  • BL1 (Jingming)
  • Shangming (Extra)
  • Neitongziliao (Extra)
  • ST1 (Chengqi)
  • Qiuhou (Extra)
  • TB23 (Sizhukong)
  • GB14 (Yangbai)
  • BL2 (Cuanzhu)
  • GB20 (Fengchi)
  • Shangtianzhu (Extra)
  • LR3 (Taichong)

For thyroid enlargement, the following acupoints were added:

  • CV22 (Tiantu)
  • LI4 (Hegu)
  • ST40 (Fenglong)

Acupuncture combined with drugs produced a positive patient outcome rate of 96.3%. The drug monotherapy produced a 64.0% positive patient outcome rate for the treatment of exophthalmos due to hyperthyroidism. Both studies reviewed in this article demonstrate that acupuncture is an effective therapy for relief from hyperthyroidism and relevant symptoms. Given the data, patients are encouraged to contact local licensed acupuncturists to consult about treatment options.


[1] Li SJ. Acupuncture Combined with Herbs for the Treatment of hyperthyroidism: a Clinical Observation [J]. Cardiovascular Disease Journal of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, 2015, 3(30): 116-117.

[2] Xia Y, Shu S, Li Y, et al. Observations on the Clinical Efficacy of Combined Use of Acupuncture and Drugs in Treating hyperthyroidism Exophthalmos [J], Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 2009, 28(12):691-693.


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