Ethics in Medicine

Evidence-based blood pressure reducing actions of electroacupuncture: mechanisms and clinical application.

Kristen Sparrow • December 06, 2018

This is a summary of the research done by the Longhurst group at UCIrvine.  Their studies show that for patients with mild to moderate hypertension, weekly treatment with low frequency low intensity acupuncture will decrease systolic, and to lesser extent, diastolic blood pressure by at least 6mm Hg.  Monthly treatment is needed to keep the effect.  Patients with high catecholamines  are most receptive to therapy. They lay out the physiological mechanisms saying that acupuncture

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decreases the cardiac demand by altering endorphins and enkephalins, and decreasing sympathetic tone.

They mention the fact that many studies have not been of adequate power to show this effect, but nonetheless think that acupuncture has a role to play in management of hypertension.  Full text here.Longhurst Hypertension review 2017

As a very sad side note, in looking up this article I came to find out that Professor Longhurst and his wife died in small plane crash last year.  He was a pilot and there was a plane malfunction.  He was newly retired at 70 years of age.


Hypertension is a serious world-wide health problem as it increases cardiovascular atherosclerotic risk, stroke and attending morbidity and mortality. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressures and particularly systolic pressure increase with aging. The downsides from pharmacological therapy have led to consideration of additional treatments, including acupuncture, which evokes endogenous neural-hormonal systems to lower blood pressure. Using basic science studies to guide clinical approaches to research, it is apparent that low frequency, low intensity electroacupuncture reduces sympathetic outflow in approximately 70% of patients with mild to moderate hypertension who are off antihypertensive drugs. Systolic and, to a lesser extent, diastolic arterial blood pressures can be lowered over two to four weeks for prolonged periods, lasting as long as one month, after cessation of an eight weeks of once weekly stimulation. Many questions about long-term therapy, treatment of resistant patients and efficacy in patients on medication remain to be studied. Current data, however, suggest that there may be a role of acupuncture in treatment of hypertension.”