Depression, like every other mental health disorder, is not a concrete diagnosis, with clear causes and objective diagnostic criteria that can be measured through pathology testing. It’s description for certain symptoms which tend to cluster together: a condition which that may have many causes, which is why it can be so difficult to treat – with western medicine. Acupuncture is a highly effective, safe and powerful intervention for the treatment of depressive conditions.

Acupuncture treatment demonstrates a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and is not associated with serious adverse events.

Chinese medicine has a holistic and comprehensive framework for the care and treatment of depressive disorders which has gone back many hundreds of years. From our medical perspective, depression is often a pathology relating to the sense of constriction or repression of the Liver (both physically and energetically, as I’ve discussed here), which can make people fell stuck, blocked or otherwise not moving forward in life. It can also make it difficult to let go of old patterns and pathologies, and manifest with symptoms of exhaustion, frustration, and general withdrawal from life. I think many people with depression can understand this implicitly!

Acupuncture alleviates depression and insomnia. Recent research finds acupuncture 90% effective in improving total sleep duration and sleep quality for patients with depression. Alleviation of insomnia directly correlated to improvements in the mental and physical health of study participants. Acupuncture treatments lowered relapse rates and produced similar clinical results as antidepressants. Notably, acupuncture did not produce any adverse effects.

Numerous studies have documented the effectiveness of both Acupuncture, and Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine, in conjunction with Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) evaluating their insomnia, anxiety and depression scores. The results consistently show a significant decrease in the severity for all of these conditions, including depression, amongst the participants in the Acupuncture group.

In trials investigating effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for depression and co morbid pain – acupuncture often performs better than counselling and standard care. Acupuncture also benefits brain chemistry and regulates gene expression in depression by modifying and regulating key neurotransmitters and steroid transmitters vital for the function of the nervous system.

DeRubeis RJ, et al. “Cognitive therapy vs. medications for depression: Treatment outcomes and neural mechanisms” Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008 October; 9(10): 788–796.
MacPherson, H., S. Richmond, M. Bland, S. Brealey, and R. Gabe. “Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised.” (2013)
Dongmei,D, Yang,X, Ya,T, and Chen,L. “Hippocampal gene expression in a rat model of depression after electroacupuncture at the Baihui and Yintang acupoints.” Neural Regeneration Research 9, no. 1 (2014): 76
Kim SM, Kwak MA, Choi AR, Shin IH, Kim BS, et al. (2015) The Effects of Acupuncture on Insomnia, Anxiety, and Depression in Women with Chronic Liver Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Altern Integr Med 4: 194. doi:10.4172/2327-5162.1000194
Spackman E, Richmond S, Sculpher M, Bland M, Brealey S, Gabe R, et al. (2014) Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Acupuncture, Counselling and Usual Care in Treating Patients with Depression: The Results of the ACUDep Trial. PLoS ONE 9(11): e113726. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113726
Wang, T., Wang, L., Tao, W., & Chen, L., Acupuncture combined with an antidepressant for patients with depression in hospital: a pragmatic randomised controlled trial, Acupunct Med acupmed-2013-010469. 2014