Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture And Herbs Lower Cholesterol Finding

herbal medicine

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are effective for the treatment of hyperlipidemia. Wuhan First Hospital researchers find acupuncture combined with drug therapy relieves hyperlipidemia and demonstrates superior patient outcomes over drug monotherapy. In another study (Xue et al.), an herbal formula used to tonify the spleen and transform dampness outperforms simvastatin for regulating blood cholesterol levels in hyperlipidemia patients.

Jin et al. (Wuhan First Hospital) conclude that the combination protocol of acupuncture plus atorvastatin produces superior outcomes to using only atorvastatin to control hyperlipidemia. [1] Acupuncture plus atorvastatin (brand name Lipitor) produced a 91.1% total treatment effective rate. Atorvastatin tablets without acupuncture achieved a 75.6% total treatment effective rate. The addition of acupuncture to the drug treatment protocol increased the total effective rate by 15.5%. The results indicate that acupuncture potentiates atorvastatin.

Jin et al. had a sample size of 90 patients. The patients were diagnosed with hyperlipidemia between December 2016 and January 2019. They were randomly divided into an acupuncture plus drugs treatment group and a drug monotherapy control group, with 45 patients in each group. For the control group patients, 10 mg of atorvastatin was administered daily, before going to bed, to control blood cholesterol levels. The treatment group received acupuncture in addition to the identical drug treatment administered to the control group.

The statistical breakdown for each randomized group was as follows. The treatment group was comprised of 19 males and 26 females. The average age in the treatment group was 59 ±11 years. The average course of disease in the treatment group was 7.94 ±2.89 years. The control group was comprised of 20 males and 25 females. The average age in the control group was 59 ±11 years. The average course of disease in the control group was 7.98 ±2.84 years. There were no significant statistical differences in gender, age, and course of disease relevant to patient outcome measures for patients initially admitted to the study. The acupoints used for the treatment group included the following:

  • ST36 (Zusanli)
  • PC6 (Neiguan)
  • ST40 (Fenglong)
  • CV12 (Zhongwan)
  • ST25 (Tianshu)

For Zusanli, the Bu (tonifying) manipulation technique was applied. For Neiguan and Fenglong, the Xie (attenuating) technique was used. For Zhongwan and Tianshu, the Ping Bu Ping Xie (mild tonifying and attenuating) technique was administered. The manipulation techniques were applied every 10 minutes during the 30-minute needle retention time. The acupuncture treatments were administered once daily, 6 days as one treatment course, followed by a 1-day break, for a total of 8 treatment courses.

Patients were evaluated before and after the treatment courses of care. First, the total cholesterol (TC), triglyceride (TG), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels were evaluated. Second, the serum levels of nitrogen monoxide (NO), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and homocysteine (Hcy) were calculated. While higher levels of TC, TG, LDL-C, Hcy indicate a higher risk of hyperlipidemia, higher levels of HLD-C, NO, and VEGF are related to a lower risk of hyperlipidemia. Third, the total effective rate was measured using Guidelines for Clinical Research using TCM New Drugs to measure tiers of improvement. There were 4 tiers in total:

  • Recovery: complete absence of symptoms and ≥95% improvement in TCM symptom score
  • Significantly effective: cignificant absence of symptom and ≥70% but < 95% improvement in TCM symptom score
  • Effective: symptoms showed improvement and ≥30% but <70% improvement in TCM symptom score
  • Not effective: no visible improvement.

The study confirms that the combined treatment protocol of acupuncture plus medications outperforms drug monotherapy. Compared with the drug control group, acupuncture plus atorvastatin produced superior outcomes in lowering TG, TC, LDL-C, and Hcy levels, while simultaneously increasing HDL-C, NO, and VEGF levels.

Let’s take a look at another study. Researchers (Xue et al., Shenyang Fourth People’s Hospital) conclude that “Chinese herbal treatment for hyperlipidemia has an obvious curative effect.” [2]In the study, a spleen-tonifying and dampness-transforming formula outperformed drug therapy consisting of simvastatin. Simvastatin is a cholesterol-lowering medication. The herbal medicine used in the study produced more significant improvements in TG, TC, HDL, and LDL levels than simvastatin.

For this study, 110 subjects with hyperlipidemia were randomly divided into 2 groups: treatment group and control group. The control group received 10–20 mg of simvastatin daily, for a total of one month. The treatment group was given a traditional herbal decoction. The decoction was split into 2 servings, taken separately in the morning and at night. Treatments were administered every day for one month. The formula included the following ingredients:

  • Dan Shen 15 g
  • Shen Qu 10 g
  • Shan Zha 30 g
  • Chen Pi 10 g
  • Huang Jing 15 g
  • Ban Xia 10 g
  • Ze Xie 15 g
  • Jiao Gu Lan 10 g
  • Cao Jue Ming 15 g

After treatment, the TC levels in the herbal medicine treatment group decreased from 7.16 ±1.15 to 3.51 ±0.80 mmol/L, while that in the control group decreased from 7.20 ± 1.10 to 4.89 ±0.90 mmol/L. Both groups demonstrated improvements.

The TG levels in the herbal medicine treatment group dropped from 2.55 ±0.51 to 1.22 ±0.40, more significant than the control group, whose TG level dropped from 2.51 ±0.53 to 1.95 ±0.42 mmol/L. The LDL levels in the treatment group declined from 4.30 ±0.76 to 2.61 ±0.63 mmol/L, superior to the declines in the control group from 4.32 ±0.85 to 3.59 ± 0.67 mmol/L. The HDL levels in the treatment group increased from 0.80 ± 0.11 to 1.69 ±0.07, while that in the control group increased from 0.81 ±0.11 to 1.10 ±0.10. Both groups showed improvements. The herbal medicine group edged out the drug group by producing superior outcomes.

The researchers tested various approaches to the application of acupuncture and herbal medicine. The results demonstrate that consistent and frequent acupuncture and herbal medicine treatments yield significant positive patient outcomes for patients with hyperlipidemia.


[1] Jin H, Li XS, Wang Q, Zhang HX. The effect of acupuncture on hyperlipidemia and its influence on blood lipids [J/OL]. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion: 1 – 6. issn.1005-0957.2020.13.1080.

[2] Xue F. Efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine for tonifying the spleen and transforming dampness in the treatment of hyperlipidemia and its effect on blood lipid levels [J]. Guide of China Medicine, 2018,16(17):181.


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