In tests on rats, the researchers found that electroacupuncture treatments provided temporary relief from the conditions that raise blood pressure during hypertensive states. Such treatments, they believe, potentially can become part of a therapeutic regimen for long-term care of hypertension and other cardiovascular ailments in people.
"This study suggests that acupuncture can be an excellent complement to other medical treatments, especially for those treating the cardiac system," said Dr. John C. Longhurst, director of the Samueli Center and study leader. "The Western world is waiting for a clear scientific basis for using acupuncture, and we hope that this research ultimately will lead to the integration of ancient healing practices into modern medical treatment."
The study appears in the March issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Acupuncture is a 3,000-year-old form of Chinese medicine that involves inserting needles at specific points on the body to help cure disease or relieve pain. In previous studies, Longhurst and his UCI colleagues have identified at the cellular and molecular level how acupuncture excites brain cells to release neurotransmitters that either inhibit or heighten cardiovascular activity.
They have found that when an acupuncture needle is inserted at specific sites on the wrist, inside of the forearm or leg, this triggers the release of opioid chemicals in the brain that reduce excitatory responses in the cardiovascular system. This decreases the heart's activity and its need for oxygen, which in turn can lower blood pressure, and promotes healing for a number of cardiac ailments, such as myocardial ischemia (insufficient blood flow to the heart)
Contact: Tom Vasich
University of California - Irvine