Can acupuncture be used to treat depression?

Acupuncture has been shown to be just as effective in studies as more conventional methods (psychotherapy and anti-depressant drugs) for treating depression. The whole concept of acupuncture is to insert super fine needles along various points on the body with the intention of stimulating the body's flow of energy. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Everybody is different, and some forms of treatment are effective for one person and not the next.
  • That goes for medicines and holistic approaches to treatment as well.
  • The most important thing when looking for treatment is to find an experienced acupuncturist. They will most likely take your pulse and look at your tongue, and ask you questions about how you're feeling (fatigue, headaches, quality of sleep, etc).
  • If you have taken anti-depressant medications and had bad experiences with side effects, this is one thing you won't have to worry about with acupuncture.

So if you're feeling depressed, take action and have faith. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that acupuncture can effectively help you treat your depression, anxiety and stress.

Acupuncture is a type of therapy that involves inserting needles into acupoints along the body's meridians. Electro-acupuncture uses needles that are electrically stimulated. Needle insertion is thought to increase levels of endorphins (hormones that block pain and promote general feelings of well-being) in the body and may stimulate the release of serotonin and catecholamines. Several clinical trials suggest that the effectiveness of electro-acupuncture in treating depression may be similar to that of amitriptyline (a tricyclic antidepressant). Additionally, electro-acupuncture may be associated with fewer side effects than is antidepressant medication.

Dr. Deborah Serani, PsyD
Psychology Specialist

Science shows that touch therapies can reduce depression, lower the stress hormone cortisol and increase the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Therapies to consider include Acupuncture, Acupressure, Massage, Reiki, Reflexology, and Shinoshin.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner


It is unclear whether acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, helps in the treatment of depression. However, in one recent scientific review from Hong Kong, researchers found acupuncture effective in treating two types of depression: major depressive disorder and depression that occurs after stroke. Talk to your doctor or mental health provider before using acupuncture to treat your depression.

Phil Veneziano
Alternative & Complementary Medicine Specialist

Acupuncture can be a useful treatment for depression, particularly when it's timed just right. In this video, licensed acupuncturist and Chinese medicine expert Phil Veneziano talks about the best time of year to stick it to the blues.

Dr. Peter Bongiorno, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist

Acupuncture has a few ways it likely helps relieve depression symptoms. It helps calm the middle of the brain, an area called the hypothalamus, which is often on overdrive in people who are depressed. When this area is calmed, the stress system produces less cortisol, a hormone that, in chronically high levels, will contribute to depression symtpoms by damaging the areas of the brain that control emotion. Also, some depressed people have low dopamine, a 'feel good' neurotransmitter needed for motivation and enjoyment. Acupuncture studies on rats have shown substantial enhancement of dopamine availability. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.