Regular electroacupuncture treatment is proven to lower hypertension by increasing the release of the body’s own opioid-like chemical.
In a study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of California, Irvine detected a decrease in hypertension following a series of electroacupuncture treatments. They noted that this was caused by a specific opioid in the brainstem being released that controls a person’s blood pressure.
The group led by UCI cardiology researcher Zhi-Ling Guo tested the treatment on rats, and noted that the drop in blood pressure held steady for three days. The electroacupuncture triggered the release of a specific enkephalin – one of the body’s natural painkillers.
For many TCM practitioners, this research correlates with one of the community’s longest-held beliefs: that the use of needles to stimulate nerves floods blood vessels with painkillers triggered in the midbrain. This instantaneous pain relief as the vascular system is filled with enkephalin is THE fundamental mechanism in how acupuncture works.
This study points toward the reality of TCM as, what we call at the clinic, a real “flesh and blood” medicine. It’s not an energy medicine. Donald Kendall, who holds a Ph.D in physiology and Chinese medicine and conducted twenty years of acupuncture research at UCLA, forwards this idea in his book The Tao of Chinese Medicine. The volume delves into the reality of TCM, and how Chinese practitioners were well versed in physiology – not energy or meridians.
More importantly, for those who struggle to maintain a lower blood pressure this research offers a new alternative; a way to treat hypertension without the need for pharmaceutical drugs and their damaging side effects. The American Heart Association estimates that around 80 million Americans suffer hypertension; that’s around 1 in 3 adults over the age of 20. A majority of those people turn to prescription drugs as a way to counter this issue – despite the mounting evidence proving that other options do exist.
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