The last study that looked systematically at research on acupuncture and its potential to lower blood pressure was published in the American Journal of Hypertension in 2009. This study, which looked at 11 Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT) concluded that the quality of the studies was not high enough and that ” Well-documented studies adopting rigorous methodology are warranted” in the future.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that acupuncture can have a positive effect on blood pressure and several research papers have also concluded this. A recent case study published in Acupuncture Medicine reported that a patient in a hospital in China had experience considerable benefits from acupuncture treatment for hypertension. This particular patient had been unable to tolerate the side effects of the antihypertensive agents:

“The patient received 60 acupuncture treatments in the course of 12 weeks, during which time his overall wellbeing improved, his blood pressure reduced and the side effects of antihypertensive drugs were removed. Although acupuncture plus the drug appeared to have a substantial synergistic effect that was weakened when the drug was discontinued, acupuncture may still play a role in the management of hypertension, especially for patients who cannot tolerate the side effects of antihypertensive agents.”

The most widely prescribed antihypertensive agent – or vasodilator – is Hydralazine Hydrochloride. The list of possible side-effects of this drug includes tachycardia, palpitation, gastro-intestinal disturbances, headache, dizziness, and many more, so it is understandable if some patients find the drugs hard to tolerate.

The study concludes:

“This case report suggests that intensive acupuncture may have an effect on reducing BP, especially in synergy with medication. It may also reduce the side effects of antihypertensive drugs and might provide an alternative for individual hypertensive patients who cannot tolerate the side effects of antihypertensive drugs.”

Given that hypertension is thought to affect around 1 billion people worldwide, and around 30% of people in the UK, we could really do with more studies which explore low-cost alternatives with potentially lower side-effects. One of these alternatives seems to be acupuncture, but clearly more trials will be required before the wider medical world becomes interested.

To seek an acupuncture practitioner in the York area, see http://www.yorkclinic.com/therapies/acupuncture.aspx

References

Lee, Hyangsook, Kim, S.-Y., Park, J., Kim, Y., Lee, Hyejung & Park, H.-J. (2009) Acupuncture for Lowering Blood Pressure: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. American Journal of Hypertension, 22 (1), p.pp.122–128. Available from: [Accessed 5 November 2013].

Zhang, L., Shen, P. & Wang, S. (2013) Acupuncture treatment for hypertension: a case study. Acupuncture in Medicine, p.pp.acupmed–2013–010407. Available from: [Accessed 5 November 2013].