Acupuncture for Depression: The Mechanism Underlying Its Therapeutic Effect

This is the title of a study published in Medical Acupuncture. The authors looked up different underlying chemical pathways known to be involved with depression, and they found that acupuncture treatment actually seems to affect them, and may be why some people with depression respond to treatment.

To cite this article:
Muthmainah and Nurwati Ida. Medical Acupuncture. December 2016, 28(6): 301-307. doi:10.1089/acu.2016.1180.

Published in Volume: 28 Issue 6: December 1, 2016
Online Ahead of Print: September 19, 2016


Background: Depression is a common psychiatric disorder. Many depressed patients do not respond fully to current medications. Acupuncture has been widely used as an add-on treatment for depression. However, how acupuncture works to produce its antidepressant effect has not been understood fully.

Objective: This article discusses possible mechanisms underlying the effects of acupuncture in ameliorating depressive symptoms in correlation with theories of depression.

Methods: PubMed and Google Scholar were used to search for original and review articles with the following keywords: acupuncture AND depression; acupuncture AND monoamine; acupuncture AND BDNF; acupuncture AND inflammation; acupuncture AND cytokine; and stress AND depression.

Results: Various kinds of evidence showed that acupuncture might be beneficial for treating depression via modulation of the central monoaminergic system, the hypothalmic–pituitary–adrenal axis, brain neurotrophin, and the neuroimmune system.

Conclusion: Multiple pathways seem to be involved in the mechanism of action of acupuncture, and these mechanisms may work together to produce the antidepressant effects of acupuncture.

Journal Reference