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Electro-acupuncture (EA) treatment combined with antidepressants is more effective for improving depressive symptoms than antidepressants alone, reports an international research team from China, Hong Kong and the USA. Sixty patients with moderate depression were assigned to either an EA group (receiving EA and antidepressants), or a control group (antidepressants only), in a randomised controlled pilot trial. EA treatment was performed three times a week for eight consecutive weeks, with follow up for a further four weeks. A fixed acupoint prescription (Baihui DU-20, Yintang M-HN-3, Shenting DU-24, plus bilateral Shenmen HE-7, Neiguan P-6, Zusanli ST-36, and Sanyinjiao SP-6) was used, with EA (10 Hz) applied between Baihui DU-20 and Yintang M-HN-3. Patients in the control group continued to take their antidepressants as previously prescribed. Compared with the control group, the EA group showed lower depression symptom scores at week 4 (16.89 versus 25.58), week 8 (9.59 versus  25.04), and week 12 (11.07 versus 27.25). Significant differences in urinary metabolites involved in tryptophan metabolism (tryptophan and n-acetyl-5-hydroxytryptamine), glutamate metabolism (cysteine, proline and glutathione), and fatty acid biosynthesis (malonic acid) were found after EA, suggesting that EA may treat depression by acting on metabolic pathways associated with neurotransmitter production.

The effect of acupuncture on depression and its correlation with metabolic alterations: A randomized controlled trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020 Oct 23;99(43):e22752.