BioScience Trends. 2022;16(1):73-90. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2022.01039)

Revealing the magic of acupuncture based on biological mechanisms: A literature review

Zhang B, Shi H, Cao S, Xie L, Ren P, Wang J, Shi B


Acupuncture has been used to treat various disease for more than 3,000 years in China and other Asian countries. As a complementary and alternative therapy, it has gained increasing popularity and acceptance among public and healthcare professionals in the West. Over the past few decades, basic and clinical research on acupuncture has made considerable progress. Internationally recognized evidence from clinical studies has been published, a preliminary system to clinically evaluate acupuncture has been created, and some clinical guidelines have been formulated. Moreover, scientists have strived to explore the physiological and biological mechanisms of acupuncture. Some basic studies have indicated that acupuncture has various actions, such as analgesic, muscle relaxing, antiinflammatory, mild anxiolytic, and antidepressant actions, with possible biological mechanisms such as central sensitization, neurotransmitters, the intestinal flora, immune regulation, oxidative stress, and neuroinflammation. The current review describes the common indications for acupuncture recommended by the WHO and the use of acupuncture in China, the United States, Australia, and several other countries. This review then summarized the mechanisms by which acupuncture treats common conditions including lower back pain (LBP), ischemic stroke, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and it also cited specific acupuncture points for treating these conditions. The hope is that this review will provide useful information for both acupuncturists and researchers to better understand the mechanisms of acupuncture and reasons for its usage.

KEYWORDS: acupuncture, electroacupuncture, indications, biological mechanisms, common acupuncture points

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