Chinese Medicine, both acupuncture and herbal medicine, is well established for the treatment of depression and other psychiatric conditions. But as every day goes by we are learning more and more in both western and eastern terms about how depression comes to be, i.e. the underlying causes. One aspect that is being explored more heavily in recent years is the role of inflammation on the development of depression.
The cleveland clinic wrote a general article discussing current understandings of the inflammation and depression link. As an aside, the cleveland clinic is one of the first medical centers in the west to open a complete Chinese herbal medicine facility for use with their hospital patients. While this article is about acupuncture and depression, another I wrote right before this one explores the biochemical effects of chai hu shu gan wan herbal formula on depression. The move by the cleveland clinic speaks volumes as to the clinical effectiveness and ongoing promise of the art of Chinese Medicine.
Publishing in the medical journal “neuroscience letters” researchers from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine recently conducted a study looking at the effect of acupuncture on inflammation and depression symptoms. Knowing that acupuncture has positive clinical effects on issues such as pain, internal inflammation such as cardiovascular disease as well as autoimmune conditions, the leap is not far to look at the reduction of inflammation with regards to depressive symptoms.
Acupuncture is generally well established for the treatment of depression, but all the mechanisms are not understood deeply from a western/bio-chemical perspective. Particularly this study explores whether the positive effects on depression seen with acupuncture are related to anti-inflammatory effects.
Using a rat model of depression researchers performed biochemical analysis post treatment to better understand the internal changes brought on from acupuncture. Researchers also used a control group treated with fluoxetine (Prozac) to help compare effects.
They found that both the acupuncture and the fluoxetine treatment group reversed depression symptoms. While there many positive biochemical changes in the acupuncture treatment group (IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α levels increased in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex), they also found that acupuncture significantly decreased proinflammatory cytokines in the areas involved with depression. They concluded that “acupuncture has antidepressant-like effects, and its mechanism of action appears to involve the inhibition of proinflammatory cytokines”.
This relationship is one more avenue to better understand the positive clinical effects of acupuncture on depression. Another study I wrote about recently found acupuncture offered a faster effect than prozac in depressive patients who recently had a stroke. When you consider cost, safety and very limited side effects when properly used, acupuncture is more and more a very viable treatment option for patients with depression.