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Study in Animals Supports the Use of Acupuncture for Stress

May 10, 2013 – The Journal of Endocrinology published a Georgetown study in its April issue on how acupuncture can significantly reduce the stress hormone response in an animal that models chronic stress. 

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) conducted the research on the procedure, already commonly used on humans to treat chronic stress.

The researchers found that electronic acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of blood hormones and a peptide secreted by the sympathetic nervous system.

“Many practitioners of acupuncture have observed that this ancient practice can reduce stress in their patients, but there is a lack of biological proof of how or why this happens,” says the study’s lead author Ladan Eshkevari, an associate professor of nursing at the School of Nursing & Health Studies (NHS). “We’re starting to understand what’s going on at the molecular level that helps explain acupuncture’s benefit.”

Growing Body of Evidence

Eshkevari, a physiologist, nurse anesthetist and certified acupuncturist, designed a series of studies in rats to test the effect of electronic acupuncture on levels of proteins and hormones secreted by biologic pathways involved in stress response.

Rats are often used to research the biological determinants of stress, because they regularly have a stress response when exposed to cold temperatures for an hour a day.

“Our growing body of evidence points to acupuncture’s protective effect against the stress response,” says Eshkevari, assistant director of the school’s Nurse Anesthesia Program.

More Research Needed

Eshkevari says additional research is needed to examine if acupuncture would be effective in reducing hormone levels after the animals are exposed to the stress of cold temperatures.

The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists funded the study.

Co-authors include Georgetown researchers Susan Mulroney and Eva Permaul.