Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why Does Acupuncture Help Depression? - Researchers Find It Regulates Zinc and Copper Levels

Acupuncture has been found helpful for a variety of psychiatric issues including depression and anxiety.  Depression is a common reason for working with an acupuncturist, particularly for those where western medicines either have too many side effects, were not effective or were not desirable for any number of reasons.  While we see benefit both in clinical studies and in practical day to day observation, the underlying mechanisms for how acupuncture helps with depression are not well understood.  Researchers from the Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine within Xiamen University in China recently conducted an animal study to evaluate biochemical changes from electro-acupuncture to better understand how acupuncture helps.
Serum levels of copper, zinc, calcium and magnesium have relationships to psychiatric imbalances.  In this study electro acupuncture was used to see how these levels changes from treatment to help evaluate why it is helpful in a human patient.  Researchers used 40 male rats with depression and were divided into a control group, an electro-acupuncture group and a maprotiline group (a western tricyclic antidepressant medication).  Acupuncture points used were GV 20, Yintang, ST 40 and LV 3 for 15 minutes each session every other day for 3 weeks.  Then serum levels were checked.
Researchers found that electroacupuncture led to decreases in serum copper levels (associated with better psychiatric states) and increases in serum zinc levels (the copper/zinc ratio being related to mental health) with no significant changes in calcium or magnesium levels.  Researchers conclude that by regulate zinc and copper levels electroacupuncture may be helpful for depression.
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