Acupuncture Treatment For Depression


Table of Contents

What is depresssion?

Does Acupuncture help depression? Are you one of the millions who suffer from this emotional condition that we call depression? There is considerable debate among medical professionals if depression is a disease, a mental disorder, a biochemical malfunction or a spiritual crisis [4]. Depression is not a disease but an emotional condition that can make you feel sad, hopeless, worthless and alone. It can be so devastating that one can also feel frustrated and tend to have suicidal thoughts.

Depression is acknowledged as a major public health issue that has a substantial impact on the physical and mental health of an individual. Depression has become an economic burden with women being affected the most. It also complicates several other factors, such as loss of interest and sleep. It can affect a person’s learning ability, work efficiency, and ultimately, the quality of life.

With recent advancements in the field of neurodegenerative disorders, scientists have reported a variety of drugs to treat this condition. Unfortunately, all these drugs are associated with a lot of unwanted side effects like weight gain, sedation, dry mouth, tachycardia, nausea, blurred vision, and constipation leading to low patient compliance. People suffering from depression are considering the usage of complementary therapies like acupuncture, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and homeopathy. Intensive research has also been undertaken to detect the effectiveness of acupuncture for depression.

See: Beat Depression with Meditation

How does Acupuncture help Depression?

Acupuncture is one of the most popular complementary therapies, which is best known for its ability to provide relief from the disease without having any side effects. Collective evidence suggests that acupuncture treatment may be considered effective in managing many symptoms of depression.

The human body is considered as a dynamic organism which is composed of internal and external organs, which are directly connected to several channels known as meridians. Meridians are the carriers through which ‘qi’ (life force or energy of any given living organism) is circulating in the body atmosphere. When the human body is in proper balance, there is an unobstructed flow of ‘qi’, which is known as the vital energy, required for the proper maintenance and nourishment of the organs and its associated tissues. Several acupuncture techniques such as manual manipulation or electrical stimulation, ear acupuncture, transcutaneous acupuncture, are known to stimulate these meridians in order to maintain an unobstructed flow of energy.

Acupuncture therapy has a noteworthy effect on the depression; where it works by correcting these congested channels and thus helping in the maintenance of a constant flow throughout the body. Several studies on acupuncture have shown that Acupuncture is an effective treatment that provides an improvement in sleep quality, decreasing the latency of sleep, and other related symptoms of depression.

Acupuncture therapy has a noteworthy effect on depression. There are various acupuncture points for depression which when stimulated can correct these congested channels in the body and help in the maintenance of constant blood flow throughout the body.

Some of these acupuncture for depression points and their benefits are mentioned below.

1.    Liver 3

Location: It is located between the depression between your big toe and the next toe on the foot. It’s the point where the two fingers join your foot.

Benefits: Applying pressure on this point helps treat digestive issues, depression, vertigo, headaches, and irritability. It regulates Liver Qi and calms shen.

2.    Spleen 6

Location: The point is located in the depression of the medial side of the leg posterior to the tibia. The point can be found four finger space above the ankle.

Benefits: Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach, resolves dampness, insomnia, harmonizes the Liver, and strengthens the Kidneys, calms the Shen.

3.    Large intestine 4

Location: Located between the thumb and the index finger towards the dorsal side of the hand, in the middle of the 2nd metacarpal bone.

Benefits: Harmonizes qi and strengthens immunity, calms shen, Alleviate psychological tension, stop the pain, diseases of the head and neck

4.    Stomach 36

Location: Located four finger spaces below the knee cap, on the anterior aspect of the lower leg, one finger space towards the shin bone.

Benefits: Harmonizes Qi and Blood, strengthen the Stomach, Spleen and resolve phlegm

5.    Pericardium 6

Location: Point is located on the palmar aspect of the forearm, four-finger space from the wrist of the hand in the depression between the tendons.

Benefits: Helpful in treating insomnia and calming the Shen

6.    Yin Tang

Location: Located in the center of the forehead between the two medial ends of the eyebrows.

Benefits:   Helps calm the Shen, opens nose, treats headache and insomnia.

7.    Heart 7

Location: Located in the wrist between the depressions of the radial side of the tendon at the base of the palm where little finger ends.

Benefits: Insomnia, amnesia, calms the Shen, tonifies and regulates the Heart Blood and Qi.

See: Crescent Moon Pose- Try Chandrasana to beat depression

Scientific studies in Acupuncture for Depression

Is there any science and research done to evaluate the efficacy of Acupuncture on Depression?

1. A study is known with the Curative effect of acupuncture on quality of life in a patient with depression: a clinical randomized single-blind placebo-controlled study.[1].

The case study included 163 patients suffering from depression who were randomly divided into three groups

1.       Acupuncture dredging liver and regulating the flow of theosophy (Group 1)

2.       A group of acupoint shallow stab (Group 2)

3.       Non-acupoints shallow stab (Group 3)

In the treatment of acupuncture, the technique of moxibustion and the intradermal embedding of the needle both techniques are being used. The duration of the treatment was twice in a week, which lasted for a duration of about 12 weeks. After completion of the treatment clinical assessment was carried out to evaluate the effect of acupuncture on the quality of life of patients with depression. The results showed a statistically significant value between all three groups which was evaluated on the scores of physical function, physical role, bodily pain, general physical condition, energy, social function, emotional function, and mental health. Thus this study proved that acupuncture can efficiently improve the quality of life of patients suffering from depression.

2.  Repeated acupuncture treatments to modulate the amygdala resting-state functional connectivity of depressive patients.[2].

In this case study round about forty-six female patients suffering from depression were included for treatment. All of them were randomly and equally divided into two groups where one group received verum acupuncture plus fluoxetine and the other group received sham acupuncture plus fluoxetine. The patients were treated for about eight weeks.  Resting-state fMRI data were collected before the first and last treatments.

After the completion of the treatment, the results showed greater clinical improvement in patients with verum acupuncture when compared with those in the sham acupuncture treatment group.

The findings of the research demonstrate the additive effect of acupuncture treatment to antidepressant treatment may be due to a positive effect on the limbic system, especially the amygdala and the ACC.

3. In a clinical systematic review was printed in 2013, Acupuncture for Treating Anxiety and Depression in Women: A Clinical Systematic Review. [5]  The goal of that review was to summarize the present evidence on acupuncture as a treatment for anxiety and depression in girls and to present a novel way of assessing acupuncture trial quality. The published randomized controlled trials were included, whereby acupuncture was compared with almost any control process in subjects with anxiety and/or depression. Two authors extracted data independently. A novel acupuncture trial quality-assessment tool was created to analyze the literature quality.

Six articles used the desired inclusion and exclusion criteria. The standard of research varied greatly. Five studies were properly randomized. Three were double-blinded. Three used individualized acupuncture. Four studies were of at least reasonable quality. One was of marginal quality, and one was of poor quality. There was a significant difference between acupuncture and at least one controller in all six trials.

The researchers concluded that with regard to six reviewed studies, there’s high-level evidence to support the use of acupuncture for treating the major depressive disorder in pregnancy. The researchers concluded that with respect to six reviewed studies, there is high-level evidence to support the use of acupuncture for treating the major depressive disorder in pregnancy.

See: Kirtan Kriya Meditation For Mental Health Benefits

Real world outcomes from depression patients

A 38-year-old woman who was generally in good health but was struggling with depression wanted to undergo acupuncture treatment. She complained about other symptoms as well that included Chest or breast distention, Painful Periods, Irritability, and Bloating. Upon investigating the disease profile of the woman it was found out that she was suffering from liver Qi-stagnation from a longer duration of time. She was enrolled for a course of about 8 acupuncture sessions (i.e., 1x per week for whole about 8 weeks) along with the administration of the herbal supplement. Within, three acupuncture sessions the woman happily reported no painful periods, bloating or irritability.

However, she was still experiencing depression attacks for which she was administered with another course of 4 sessions after which the patient could find relief from her depressive symptoms.


See: Suffering from Depression – Try Yoga Asanas

Home remedies for depression

1. Get enough sleep:  Sleep disorder is an important component of depression, too little or extreme sleep can make depression even worse. So, it’s always healthy and good to follow a regular sleep cycle pattern.

2. Eat healthily: People with anxiety and depressive disorders often tend to become a glutton and overeating can lead to various other problems. There is not a particular magical diet that minimizes depression but it’s necessary to eat healthy in order to reduce the symptoms of depression.

3. Exercise: Exercise can boost your energy levels and make you feel good through the release of chemicals known as endorphins. It also provides long-term benefits to people suffering from depression.

4. Set goals: Depressive patients are often reluctant and hopeless when it comes to accomplishing anything. Setting daily goals can push the depression back, and can make one feel better and satisfied.

See: Triangle Pose in Yoga – Trikona Asana for Digestion & Anxiety


Various research and review articles have shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment that is widely being used in various types of psychiatric disorders. The effect of acupuncture treatment in a state of depression (including depressive neurosis, and of depression followed by stroke) has been repeatedly demonstrated in the controlled studies showing its effectiveness.

There aren’t any particular acupuncture points that can stop depression, rather that acupuncture works at its best when it is being directly focused on rectifying a pattern of imbalance in the patient. Acupuncture provides a complete cure and believes in treating the imbalance in bodily fluids or bio-energies. Specific points are being chosen for the treatment that can help alleviate the imbalance between the bio-energies. When the imbalance is being resolved, the symptom automatically goes away.


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