Acupuncture lowers hypertension by activating opioids, study finds
Researchers have identified the molecular mechanism behind electroacupunture’s blood pressure-lowering benefits.
Credit: Chris Nugent / UCI
Researchers with the UCI Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine have found that regular electroacupunture treatment can lower hypertension by increasing the release of a kind of opioid in the brainstem region that controls blood pressure.
In tests on rats, UCI cardiology researcher Zhi-Ling Guo and colleagues noted that reduced blood pressure lasted for at least three days after electroacupuncture by increasing the gene expression of enkephalins, which one of the three major opioid peptides produced by the body.
Their study, which appears in the Nature’s Scientific Reports, presents the first evidence of the molecular activity behind electroacupunture’s hypertension-lowering benefits.
Last year, the UCI team reported patients treated with acupuncture at certain wrist locations experienced drops in their blood pressure. The present study shows that repetitive electroacupuncture evokes a long-lasting action in lowering blood pressure in hypertension, suggesting that this therapy may be suitable for treating clinical hypertension.
Hypertension affects about one third of the adult population of the world, and its consequences, such as stroke and heart attacks, are enormous public health problems, and the potential advantages of acupuncture over conventional medical therapy include few, if any, of side effects.
Source: University of California, Irvine
Min Li, Stephanie C. Tjen-A-Looi, Zhi-Ling Guo, John C. Longhurst. Repetitive Electroacupuncture Attenuates Cold-Induced Hypertension through Enkephalin in the Rostral Ventral Lateral Medulla. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 35791 DOI: 10.1038/srep35791