Recent studies done at the University of Alberta by the Malykhin Lab have been making some interesting connections between psychological depression and activity of the amygdalae. The team at the Malykhin Lab are observing fluctuations in both the size and activity of these fancy little, almond shaped structures in a depressed person’s brain.
The reason I bring this up is that it happens to tie in nicely with some other research being done on acupuncture and depression. A randomized controlled trial done on 614 patients with depression in Northern England found consistent acupuncture treatments to be significantly more effective than usual care over a period of 3 months and 12 months.(1) Plus, another research review has demonstrated that certain points can actually have positive changes to the amygdalae specifically, which might be contributing to what’s known as the acupuncture effect.(2)
Of course, this is not the first time that acupuncture has been touted for its positive impact on those suffering from mental illness.
In 2012, a research study out of Hong Kong showed electro-acupuncture stimulation also reduced the severity of depressive symptoms to help patients dealing with depression recover faster using alternative methods.
I find it endlessly interesting that we’re finally developing the tools to gradually figure out what effects acupuncture treatments have on the mind and the body as a whole. When it comes to mental illness and more specifically depression and/or anxiety the combo of acupuncture and herbal medicine can provide a different approach to promoting general relaxation and calming that “fight or flight” reaction. I think that one of the aspects of TCM that people tend to appreciate the most, especially when it comes psychological problems, is the possibility of having someone listen to you and form the treatments around you and you only.