There is a lot of evidence showing the benefits of acupuncture for depression. When we review the scientific literature, there is sometimes some controversy but ultimately safety is high, and acupuncture is worth a try for most people.
The Evidence for Using Acupuncture for Depression
A systematic review is a type of research trial whereby researchers will compile data from numerous randomized controlled trials and evaluate if the intervention (in this case acupuncture) is effective for a particular condition (in this case depression).
There are systematic reviews that poured through the available data and made claims like “Acupuncture may be a suitable adjunct to usual care and standard anti-depressant medication.”. This implies that it seems to be helpful, but there may be some questions around it still .
Another meta-analysis stated that “acupuncture appears to be more effective and safer than no treatment, control acupuncture and antidepressants” . These same authors said that the quality of evidence is “low”, and more studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of acupuncture for depression. As you can see, there seems to be some benefits, but there is some potential questions regarding the type of research.
Why Is there Question When it Comes to the Research?
When it comes to research, we usually look for control. We look to control the environment, blind the person to not allow bias to set in, and ensure the procedure is reproducible. We use the same dose, the same treatment protocol, etc.
When it comes to acupuncture it’s difficult to ensure everything is the same. The basis of acupuncture is there must always be individualized care involved. It’s also hard to blind a person – they’ll know they’re having acupuncture.
So when research comes out saying the research on acupuncture is not ‘strong’ they mean the usual standards of research aren’t always met, because simply put, it's not possible in some cases.
How Would Acupuncture Work?
It's thought acupuncture can work on depression through a few mechanisms, as confirmed by both animal and human studies. It’s believed “acupuncture would increase hippocampal and network neuroplasticity and decrease brain inflammation, potentially alleviating depressive disorders” .
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About the Author - Dr. Johann de Chickera
Dr. Johann is a fully licensed Naturopathic Doctor. His approach emphasizes the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and improving one’s health naturally. Dr. Johann obtained a Doctor of Naturopathy at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). Education at CCNM is a vigorous four years, with a curriculum involving biomedical sciences, physical diagnosis, clinical nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, botanical (herbal) medicine, physical medicine, homeopathy and lifestyle management.
While Dr. Johann has a general practice, he focuses on fertility, hormonal imbalances, gut health, and autoimmune disease.
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