Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture benefits the Heart Research

New research from the International Society for Autonomic Neuroscience shows that acupuncture controls the heart rate and increases the strength of cardiac autonomic function. This new research indicates that the use of specific acupuncture points may help to prevent heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) and arrhythmias. Researchers conducted a study of acupuncture points CV17 (Shanzhong) and CV16 (Zhongting). CV16 did not produce therapeutic results but CV17 worked. Needling acupoint CV17 decreased the heart rate and increased the power of the high-frequency component of the HRV (heart rate variability), an index of the body’s ability to maintain control of the heart beat rate and rhythm through vagus nerve activity. The researchers conclude that CV17 “causes the modulation of cardiac autonomic function.”

HRV (heart rate variability) is the variance in time interval between heart beats. Reduced HRV is linked to mortality after myocardial infarction and a lowering of HRV is also linked to congestive heart failure, diabetic neuropathy, and low survival rates in premature babies. A reduction of HRV and its high-frequency component is common in patients with PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) and for individuals with increased heart rates due to stress.

This new research shows that the application of acupuncture to CV17 increases the power of the high-frequency component of HRV and simultaneously is able to lower the heart rate. This research demonstrates that acupuncture at CV17 is able to activate the autonomic nervous system to control the heart rate by increasing vagal activity. Depressed HRV after MI, a heart attack, reflects a decrease in vagal activity and leads to cardiac electrical instability. Since acupuncture at CV17 increases the cardiac vagal component of HRV, it may be an important acupuncture point for patients recovering from MI.

CV17 (Shangzhong, Chest Center) is the Front-Mu point of the Pericardium, the Hui-Meeting point of Qi, the meeting point of CV (Conception Vessel, Ren) channel with the Spleen, Small Intestine, San Jiao, and Kidney channels; and the Point of the Sea of Qi. It is located on the midline of the sternum at the level of the fourth intercostal space. In men, this point is directly between the nipples. This point is well regarded for its ability to regulate Qi and open the chest Qi. Its designation as Front-Mu point of the Pericardium classically indicates its ability to benefit the heart.


Kurono Y, Minagawa M, Ishigami T, Yamada A, Kakamu T, Hayano J. Auton Neurosci. Acupuncture to Danzhong but not to Zhongting increases the cardiac vagal component of heart rate variability. 2011 Apr 26;161(1-2):116-20. Epub 2011 Jan 7.