ICMART 2016 - Newsletter 1
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ICMART agrees on Code of Good Practice in Medical Acupuncture
Call for ICMART Congress Sofia 10-12th June - Early bird registration untill 29th Februray
Dear ICMART participants,
The Organizing Committee of the forthcoming world acupuncture congress which will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria on 10-12 June takes the opportunity to invite you to participate in ICMART 2016. Some of the best experts from all over the world will take part in it and they will share the latest developments in the field of acupuncture. You may visit the congress website at www.icmart2016.com.
We have also offered excellent working facilities, comfort hotel rooms and interesting social and tourist activities.
The registration is already open and you can still avail of the Early Bird registration fee (valid till the end of February). You may follow the link here and do the registration just in a few steps.
If you need additional information or have any questions, please feel free to contact the official event manager Congresses and Events (CME Ltd., www.cmebg.com ) at firstname.lastname@example.org (Mrs. Mira Bonova).
Dr. Emil Iliev
Congress President & Chairman
Last Call for ICMART Young Scientists' Travel Award 2016
Only 2 weeks left for your registration!!!
This is the last call for the
ICMART Young Scientists' Travel Award 2016
which is organized from ICMART XVII World Congress on Medical Acupuncture, 10-12 June 2016 in Sofia. The Young Investigator Travel Award encourages and recognizes young scientific researcher of promise, upon whom progress in the field of acupuncture and related techniques is dependent. For further information please check the link below.
The call for abstracts is open and online:
The deadline for submissions is February 15th 2016.
We would appreciate your contribution to our communication by spreadind this info to your members and any other media.
Hope to meet you all at this fabulous scientific event.
Dr. Konstantina Theodoratou MD, MSc, Med. Psych.
President of ICMART
Call for ICMART Young Scientists' Travel Award 2016 - ICMART Congress 2016 Sofia
World Congress on Medical Acupuncture
Acupuncture and well-being
10-12 June 2016
Ramada Hotel, Sofia, Bulgaria
The Young Investigator Travel Award encourages and recognizes young scientific researcher of promise, upon whom progress in the field of acupuncture and related techniques is dependent.
Interested candidates should submit an abstract summarizing any problem that relates to acupuncture techniques and their use whether it is in etiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, or therapy of symptoms or diseases. All submitted abstracts compete for a limited number of Travel Grants covering travel expenses, congress fee and extra money. Accepted abstracts will be presented in a Young Scientists’ Session highlighted in the Congress program.
The deadline for submissions is February 15th 2016 - submit your science today.
Eligibility: Physicians, scientists, medical students and other healthcare providers currently in residency or fellowship programs, or are no more than three years out of training.
Framework: Oral presentations will be given in the Young Scientists’ Session at the ICMART 2016 Congress, June 10th to 12th 2016, Sofia, Bulgaria. Time for presentation is 10 minutes with 5 minutes additional time for discussion. The Congress Fee for young scientists with accepted abstracts is reduced to 100 Euro. The Young Scientist Travel Awards (500 Euro each) will be granted by 3B Scientific GmbH, Hamburg, Germany.
Submission: Abstracts must contain original scientific data collected by the author. Language of the abstracts and presentations is English. Abstract texts must be a maximum of 500 words. Recommended font is Arial 10 pt, double line spacing. Abstracts not according to the instructions are rejected. The following requirements need to be addressed:
1) Title (in capital case)
2) Presenting Author: full name (family name second) and affiliation (including her/his organization, city and country)
3) Contributing authors: full names and contributions
4) Abstracts should have the following structure (headings): Purpose, Relevance, Participants, Methods, Analysis, Results, Conclusions.
5) If the study has been supported by a grant, please indicate the source of funding at the bottom of your abstract.
6) Indicate all conflict of interest.
7) A three-line biography note of the applicant is required.
7) A statement that the author meets the criteria of eligibility.
8) References should be placed in the order they appear in the abstract.
Submission and Contact Address for Authors: Please submit your abstract to the Office of the Scientific Committee of the German Medical Acupuncture Association DAEGfA, secretary Dr. Eszter Füzeki email@example.com. The deadline for submission is February 15th 2016.
EUROCAM - News, European CAM doctors respond to CPME position paper on CAM
European CAM doctors respond to CPME position paper on CAM
ICMART supported the 1st UAE International Conference of Acupuncture in Abu Dhabi
The 1st UAE International Conference of Acupuncture in Abu Dhabi - November 10&11 2015
ICMART agrees on definitions for Acupuncture & Related Techniques
CAM Interest Group at the European Parliament - discussing the restricted availability of CAM medicinal products in the EU
On 1 July 2015 the CAM Interest Group at the European Parliament discussed the restricted availability of CAM medicinal products in the EU, a fact confirmed by a recent report by Matrix Insight, commissioned by DG Health and Food Safety.
Experts from the CAM community presented proposals for positive action within the current legal framework in order to improve their accessibility.
EPHA 6th Annual Conference 2-3 September, Brussels: Towards a European Union for Health
EPHA 6th Annual Conference 2-3 September 2015, Brussels "Towards a European Union for Health - From Health in All Policies to EU Governance for Health and Well-Being?"
For more information click here
Report from 3rd Interdisciplinary Acupuncture Symposium 20-21 June 2015 , Athens, Greece
Athens, June 24, 2015
For the 3rd year in a row we are very happy to announce that IASY 2015 came to completion, hosted by SAMAG in the city of Athens Greece, on June 20-21, 2015.
We are very proud and joyous to having participated in such an extraordinary scientific event! Bridging knowledge and different fields of science came together in the most proficient way. It seems that scientific think tanks have a great future despite oddities and all obstacles can be surmounted when we all reach for common ground.
Having said that we cordially invite you all to the 4th upcoming IASY 2016 symposium on June 04-05, 2016
From the Scientific Committee
Dr. Konstantina Theodoratou MD, MSc, Med.Psych, AABMRC Fellowship, President of ICMART, President of SAMAG
Chair of the Symposium
FILASMA - AcuPunta 2015 - Successful Conclusion of the Triple International Medical Acupuncture Congress, Punta del Este, Uruguay, last 27-29th April 2015
Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group MEPs for CAM 1 July 2015 - Ensuring the availability of CAM medicinal products for the benefit of EU citizens in order to exploit their potential to address some major health issues of our time such as antimicrobial resistance and chronic disease
ICMART Bali Congress 2015 runs successfully - welcoming more than 80 international guests from 26 countries
Obituary Walburg Maric-Oehler, General Secretary of ICMART 2010-2014, published
Save the date: Forum Neuraltherapy International 2015, 02-04 October 2015 in Vienna
Date: 2th-4th October 2015
Venue: Imperial Riding School, Vienna, Austria
Programm and registration:
The World of Medical Acupuncture is mourning - Prof. Dr. W. Maric-Oehler, ICMART General Secretary has passed away
The World of Medical Acupuncture is mourning -
Prof.h.c. Dr. Walburg Maric-Oehler, MD,
General Secretary of ICMART, has passed away
The accomplishments of Dr. Walburg Maric-Oehler spanned the globe, its cultures and medical traditions.
Her life was devoted to the development, education and integration of Medical Acupuncture and the development of Integrative Medicine worldwide. For 19 years, Dr. Maric-Oehler was President of DAEGfA (the German Medical Acupuncture Association), the largest Medical Acupuncture association in the world. She was the driving force behind the first official recognition of Acupuncture in Germany and the integration of Acupuncture within University Medical Schools throughout Germany and Europe.
As General Secretary of ICMART (International Council of Medical Acupuncture and Related Techniques), she was Medical Acupuncture’s international, and most revered, diplomat, bridging the gap between East and West as ambassador of CAM (Complimentary and Alternative Medicine) and Integrative Medicine. Her life’s work focused on transcultural, and interdisciplinary exchange cross associations and the integration of multiple CAM modalities with the medical traditions of China, Tibet, Korea and Japan. Professor Maric-Oehler was a prolific author, lecturer and visionary whose commitment to new forms of acupuncture, including Yamamoto's New Scalp Acupuncture, led to its international adoption.
For more than the last 10 years, she worked intensively on the official recognition of medical acupuncture in Brussels at the European level within the framework of the EU Public Health. She was a founding member, or held key positions, in EU CAM-Initiatives (e.g. ECPM; CAMDOC Alliance, EUROCAM) from the inception.
Dr. Maric-Oehler was the recipient of innumerable honors and awards in Germany, Europe and Asia. She was a talented lecturer and teacher who trained generations of medical students and doctors.
For decades, she continuously created, developed, encouraged and supported national and international alliances and multi-national cooperation. A world figure, she was, in short, the Grand Dame of ICMART and Medical Acupuncture.
ICMART loses with Walburg Maric-Oehler not only a woman who gave her heart and soul for the recognition of acupuncture but a dedicated ally and sincere friend.
Her passing is a great loss for ICMART, Medical Acupuncture and Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) worldwide. We are grateful and thank her for a lifetime of tireless work and dedication. We will honor her memory by continuing to move forward together in her spirit.
Her life and contributions will not be forgotten.
ICMART board January 2015
EUROCAM has recently published its report 'CAM 2020 - The contribution of Complementary and Alternative Medicine to sustainable healthcare in Europe'
EUROCAM has recently published its report “CAM 2020 - The contribution of Complementary and Alternative Medicine to sustainable healthcare in Europe”.
It provides information about CAM scoping its current practice and availability as well as its potential future role across the European Union. In addition, it highlights a number of priority policy action areas to enable CAM to fulfil its significant potential to contribute to the healthcare of citizens throughout the EU.
It can be downloaded from
Symposium Video: 2nd Interdisciplinary Acupuncture Symposium - I.A.S.Y. 2014 Athens
Symposium Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez1fGfT2pAs
Succesful Completion of the 2nd Interdisciplinary Acupuncture Symposium - I.A.S.Y. 2014 Athens
Athens, October 22, 2014
We are delighted to announce the successful completion of the 2nd Interdisciplinary Acupuncture Symposium – I.A.S.Y. 2014, hosted by the Scientific Association for Medical Acupuncture (SAMAG), in the city of Athens Greece, on September 2014.
Indeed we believe that the purpose of the symposium to join and combine advanced scientific data and methods from various disciplines and medical specialties in a quest to improve and further refine our understanding of acupuncture science was brilliantly met!
Acclaimed scientists from around the world, some of them representing great academic establishments attended the symposium and surely provided exceptional presentations of their studies in defense of their diverse intellect.
They said about the symposium:
I had the privilege and good fortune of participating in the second annual Interdisciplinary Acupuncture Symposium in Athens, Greece. I have attended many conferences and symposiums, but never before have I witnessed such a stimulating, interesting, and productive exchange of ideas and knowledge. This was an exceptionally positive and worthwhile experience for me (and, it appeared, to the other participants as well).
Thank you, again!!!
Dr. Remy R. Coeytaux, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Duke University School of Medicine, Co-Founder, Chapel Hill Doctors Healthcare Center (USA)
Thank you, Konstantina, thank you, Elpida, for all your efforts concerning the wonderful IASY congress 2014 in Athens. I came to this conference as an invited participant, I always felt very comfortable during the very interesting scientific program and also during the wonderful social program, and when I left, I had the feeling to leave your congress in Athens as an old friend of yours. THANK YOU!
Hope to keep in touch,
Dr. Gerhard Litscher, MSc, PhD, MDsc , Professor Beijing/Taiwan/Harbin/Graz/ Universities (Austria/China/Taiwa
I would like so much to thank you for giving me this opportunity to present at this very interesting and as said before well organised symposium!
I am also very grateful that I had the opportunity to collaborate with you - even at this preliminary level - and I hope we'll be able to collaborate closer and further in the very near future.
I wish you all the best to your future endeavours!
Dr. Efthymios Papatzikis, Dip.Mus, BMus, MMus solo, MMus chamber music, Prof.Cert.Ed., PhD , PostDoc Lecturer, Institute of Education, University of London - Research Fellow, Foundation Botin - Academic Associate, Metropolitan College, University of East London (UK / Spain / Greece)
A nice and cosy atmosphere enabling experiences to be shared and ideas to be enriched. A very special occasion to give so few and receive so much, being immersed in the spirit of cooperation of an interdisciplinary environment.
Thank you all, again, for all your support, with best wishes!
Antonio Carlos Sant'Ana MD, Bauru Estadual Hospital, (Brazil)
Thank you once again very much for this perfect conference, and the wonderful days in Athens.
For me as a young scientist, I felt very well at this conference. It was a perfect opportunity to give a lecture in front of all the interested participants. It is a young organization full of energy and effort. Thank you all once again.
Best wishes and kind regards
Daniela Litscher, Msc, Research Associate Graz/Beijing, Medical University of Graz (Austria/China)
At the 40 years of my career I believe i have participate in over 1000 conferences of various sizes, in Greece and abroad.
I believe that yours were one of the best in both the pre-congress organization and its implementation. I am sure that the next time many more colleagues will have the opportunity to attend and benefit from the knowledge provided by the program.
Iwant you to know that I will be very happy to help you in the future.
With great appreciation
Dr. Achilles E. Georgiadis, MD, PhD, Rheumatologist.
It was a rare combination of a high level scientific presentations from specialists from all sides of the world, and a unique friendly and joyous atmosphere during the sessions and during the brakes as well.
The interaction and combination of ideas was equally exciting as the presentations themselves.I feel really gratefull for the chance i had to participate in this congress.
Dr. Vangelis Zafeiriou, MD, Psychiatrist,
President of the Hellenic Association of Homeopathic Medical Cooperation
Congress Report ICMART Congress 2014 in Istanbul - DZA 2014/3
Acupuncture and auricular cryotherapy for chronic headache in a patient with type III von Willebrand disease
6th International Medical Acupuncture Congress of Barcelona - Call for Papers
Could acupuncture reduce secondary osteoporosis in patients with spinal cord injury?
ICMART Congress 2014 Istanbul - Final Programme online
A Life Devoted to Medical Acupuncture – Gerhard Bachmann Award for Dr. Walburg Maric-Oehler MD, General Secretary of ICMART
Please read the expression of appreciation for Walburg Maric-Oehler by Jochen Gleditsch
Please read the press release from German Medical Acupuncture Association / DAEGfA, a tribute to the many contributions of Dr. Walburg Maric-Oehler
Successful treatment of phantom limb pain and phantom limb sensation in the traumatic amputee using scalp acupuncture
Plasma nesfatin-1 level in obese patients after acupuncture: a randomised controlled trial
Switzerland: Status of medical complementary medicine no longer in doubt
Status of medical complementary medicine no longer in doubt
Dakomed and the UNION welcome the proposal from the Swiss Federal Department of Home Internal Affairs (FDHA) on the final inclusion of medical complementary medicine in the OKP [compulsory healthcare insurance] as a result of its equal status with other disciplines. Definitive payment through the basic insurance is long overdue. Dakomed and the UNION would now like to see a speedy implementation of the changes announced to the KLV [Healthcare Benefits Ordinance] and the KVV [Health Insurance Ordinance]. We expect all the parties concerned to lend their positive support to the process.
Five years ago, on 17 May 2009, a two-thirds majority of eligible voters approved the constitutional Article 118a to include medical complementary medicine in the Swiss healthcare system. Recent sur- veys have also clearly shown that complementary medicine is supported and desired by a majority of the population. One of the central demands is that the four medical disciplines of anthroposophically extended medicine, classic homeopathy, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) should be paid for through the basic health insurance if these disciplines are provided by medical pro- fessionals who have received appropriate additional training. (This does not affect services rendered by non-medical therapists. The costs of these services will continue to be met through the corre- sponding supplementary insurances.)
The evaluation of all the evidence developed over the past 13 years allows us to conclude that the effectiveness, appropriateness and cost-effectiveness of medical complementary medicine has today proven to be comparable with that of conventional medicine. The quality assurance is guaranteed by the high standards demanded of the specialist education and training: the full state exam, a minimum five-year specialist medical residency as well as additional training in at least one of the four comple- mentary medical disciplines are a prerequisite for the certificates of competence recognised by the FMH. There are consequently no further obstacles to medical complementary medicine finally being included in the OKP.
Media release from the Dachverband Komplementärmedizin (Dakomed) and the Union of Associations of Swiss Physicians for Complementary Medicine (UNION) dated 2 May 2014
In its Manifesto, EUROCAM calls on candidate MEPs for the new European Parliament to support CAM
Meeting of the European Parliament Interest Groups. 1st April 2014, Euopean Parliament, Brussels
Reducing the need for antibiotics - CAM Interest Group meeting 1 April 2014
hosted by Ms Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP (Finland) and Mr Alojz Peterle MEP (Slovenia), European Parliament, Brussels
Presentations and documents available for downloading (source: www.cam-europe.eu):
Ms Herta Adam, Deputy Head of Unit SANCO 3 - Health threats
Introduction: The role of CAM in reducing antimicrobial resistance
Dr Ton Nicolai, EUROCAM spokesman/coordinator
Herbal medicine – its role in combating antimicrobial resistance
Mr Michael McIntyre, Visiting Professor, Middlesex University, London, Chair European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioner Association, UK
Integrative approach in anthroposophic hospitals
Dr Thomas Breitkreuz, President Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations (IVAA), Senior Consultant at the Paracelsus Hospital, Unterlengenhardt, Germany
Homeopathy as an alternative to antibiotics
Professor Dr Michael Frass, Professor of Medicine, Senior Intensivist, Department of Internal Medicine I, Medical University of Vienna, Austria
Herbal medicine as an alternative to antibiotics in animal husbandry
Professor Dr Johanna Fink-Gremmels, veterinarian, chair in veterinary pharmacology and toxicology at the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
Homeopathy as an alternative to antibiotics in animal husbandry
Ms Liesbeth Ellinger, veterinarian, researcher, Past-President International Association for Veterinary Homeopathy (IAVH), the Netherlands.
Electroacupuncture at ST36 rescues mice from sepsis via adrenal dopamine
ICMART welcomes three new member societies
During the ICMART Congress 2013 in Vienna three new members of ICMART have been accepted and welcomed during the Extraordinary General Assembly:
- SMS Societas Medicinae Sinensis
International Society for Chinese Medicine, Germany
- ÖGKA Austrian Society for Controlled Acupuncture and TCM, Austria
- Acupuncture Association / Acupuncture Derneği, Turkey
Acupuncture Charter Vienna 2013 announced - ICMART congress 2013 in Vienna
Acupuncture Charter, Vienna 2013
On the 30th anniversary of the founding of ICMART, the Acupuncture Charter of Berlin 2001 is
Acupuncture has been practiced as a part of traditional East Asian medicine for over 2000 years, and encompasses a wealth of empirical experience. Interest in the practice grew tremendously in the West over the latter half of the 20th Century, and to an even greater degree in the last 30 years.
The growth in medical acupuncture took place as a result of its perceived efficacy in acute and chronic pain, as well as in functional and reversible organic disorders. High quality evidence now exists to support its clinical use for a wide range of problems based on randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews, although there is still considerable debate over the interpretation of results of sham controlled trials. Basic scientific research has determined many of the neurophysiological and neuropharmacological mechanisms by which acupuncture works.
Medical acupuncturists make a conventional medical diagnosis prior to treatment and only use acupuncture when indicated. Patient safety is of paramount importance.
The full integration and regulation of medical acupuncture has not followed as rapidly as has the growth in public interest and pragmatic use of the technique. Acupuncture education and research has, for the most part, taken place outside the conventional medical teaching centres, and thus it has often been ignored, or encountered strong resistance.
The development of medical acupuncture has not progressed at the same rate in all countries. The degrees of integration of acupuncture, medical and traditional, within national healthcare provision have differed widely.
The participants of this ICMART congress in Vienna, 30th November to 1st December 2013, strongly commit themselves to the following:
1. Setting up unified international quality standards of medical acupuncture in education, practice and research according to the principles of contemporary medicine:
- to optimise the effects of acupuncture and the safety for patients
- to follow evidence based medicine (EBM) in its broadest definition
- for application in all appropriate medical specialties
- to integrate acupuncture into modern medicine and health care.
2. Strengthening relationships between national medical acupuncture societies in Europe and throughout the world
3. Further collaboration with the World Health Organisation
4. Extending national co-operation with:
- University Medical Schools
- Institutions of healthcare
- Health funding organizations
- Research funding organisations in healthcare
- Other medical organisations of acupuncture
- Patient organisations
Vienna, 30th November 2013
Interdisciplinary Acupuncture Symposium successfully completed on June 2013 in Athens, Greece.
Athens, September 11, 2013.
We are delighted to announce the successful completion of the Interdisciplinary Acupuncture Symposium, hosted by the Scientific Association for Medical Acupuncture (SAMAG), in the city of Athens Greece, on June 2013.
Indeed we believe that the purpose of the symposium to join and combine advanced scientific data and methods from various disciplines and medical specialties in a quest to improve and further refine our understanding of acupuncture science was brilliantly met!
Acclaimed scientists from around the world, some of them representing great academic establishments, such as Stanford -USA, York –UK, Guangzhou-China, Kyunghee- Korea, Koc-Turkey and Kapodistrian- Greece, attended the symposium and surely provided exceptional presentations of their studies in defense of their diverse intellect. Different scientific approaches offered an outstanding nonetheless modern perception and supplemented each other in a manner that laid the foundations on solid grounds for future explorations.
Attending the I.A.SY 2013 was truly a rewarding and revolutionary experience for the scientific community, in short, a great leap forward for all health practitioners, that strive to achieve a higher level of comprehension of acupuncture science.
The Organising Committee
ICMART Lexicon of Medical Acupuncture now online!
Reminder: AAMA celebrates 25 Years of Medical Acupuncture with Annual Symposium
May 2-5, 2013
Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace
The American Association of Medical Acupuncture is celebrating their 25th annual symposium and is pleased to present a symposium designed to meet an expressed need to explore the mechanisms of acupuncture from several different perspectives, and to examine current scientific research in the field of medical acupuncture. This meeting addresses topics suggested by practitioners and stresses many different approaches for addressing practical clinical problems. An emphasis on evidence-based scientific research is integrated with practical protocols for the serious clinician. Surveys and evaluations from previous symposia indicate that there is a desire for more information about acupuncture techniques that honor the rich history of Asian medicine as applied to the contemporary, Western medical practice.
The various approaches and styles reviewed will include: Auricular Medicine, Five Element Acupuncture, Energetics Integration, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Neuroanatomical Acupuncture, Palpation -based Acupuncture, QiGong massage, Medical Acupuncture Zang Fu Healing, Tuina, and Manual Medicine techniques to enhance acupuncture outcomes.
This conference will offer a multi-tiered approach for the understanding and clinical relevance of acupuncture in daily practice. It will expand our awareness of scientific research into the effects of acupuncture, and provide participants with information about different approaches for the treatment of common conditions seen in clinical practice. Clinicians will learn multi-faceted ways to tailor acupuncture treatments for their individual patients. This conference will focus on clinically relevant treatment approaches that can easily be integrated into clinical practice.
More details: www.medicalacupuncture.org
NAAV, Netherlands Acupuncture Association, celebrated 40years anniversary
20th April 2013
The Acupuncture Association of The Netherlands - NAAV - celebrated with an Anniversary Congress 40 years in The Hague. The programme included national and international speakers. ICMART was represented by its general secretary Dr. W. Maric-Oehler (MD), who congratulated one of the oldest member societies of ICMART for succesful 40 years of Medical Acupuncture in The Netherlands.
Acupuncture in Patients With Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis - A Randomized Trial
CAM Research Highlight - successful CAMbrella Final Conference
28-29 November 2012, Brussels
The first health policy CAM Event – a successful pioneering project CAM Conference and CAM Exhibition ‘Complementary and Alternative Medicine – Innovation and Added Value for European Healthcare‘
9th October 2012, European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium
The CAM Conference in Brussels, as a European pioneer project, is dedicated to the current great debate ‘Quo vadis Europa?’ with all related topics and especially its positive aspects. The future of Europe is at least also dependent on how fit and healthy Europeans are. Public Health for European citizens is an important issue in Brussels. In this context CAM Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the European level is becoming increasingly important.
ICMART International Council of Medical Acupuncture and Related Techniques (founded 1983), the global umbrella association of medical acupuncture societies, has contributed for years and has set many important inputs.
Acupuncture another option when facing depression
Last week, I had an interesting discussion with several friends. The topic was “depression.” The questions asked were do antidepressants really work, what are the alternatives to prescription medications and do they work as well as medications. Depression has become so widespread that antidepressants are now the most commonly prescribed class of medication in the U.S. Over the past 20 years, the percent of Americans taking antidepressants doubled. Currently, 1 in 10 Americans is taking one or more antidepressants.
Depression is believed to be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain, especially low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Depression is commonly divided into three subdivisions: mild, moderate and severe. Recent published medical research has demonstrated that prescription antidepressants work best for those who have severe depression but for mild to moderate depression, antidepressants do not seem to be any more effective than a “sugar pill” or placebo. That does not mean that antidepressants are not effective, but it does suggest that there are many factors that contribute to depression, not just changes in brain neurotransmitters. For many, antidepressant medications may not be the best option.
A recent study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry suggests that acupuncture, as a stand-alone therapy, may be quite effective for mild to moderate depression. This particular study was a compilation of several different studies looking at the effectiveness of acupuncture at relieving the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. These studies looked at many different kinds of acupuncture including traditional acupuncture with needles, electro-acupuncture as well as laser acupuncture.
It also included a wide segment of the population from very young to very old. Putting all these studies together they found that acupuncture is at least as effective as antidepressant medications and when used in conjunction with antidepressants, acupuncture may also reduce many of the medication side effects.
How acupuncture works is a topic of much conjecture. From a Western medicine perspective, acupuncture can increase the levels of a number of different neurotransmitters and, theoretically, changes in neurotransmitter levels influence the length and duration of a depressive episode.
According to traditional Chinese medicine however, depression may be the result of a “dysregulation” of the seven emotions — joy, anger, worry, contemplation, grief, fear and shock. If acupuncture is able to reestablish a balance among these emotions, the symptoms of depression are relieved. Either way, the current medical literature suggests that acupuncture is an effective therapy for mild to moderate depression.
Although the medical research is compelling, the weight of medical research on acupuncture and depression is not conclusive. However, medical research has also demonstrated that other simple approaches such as relaxing exercise, stress reduction, meditation and yoga can be beneficial in mild to moderate depression.
An ancient Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times.” These certainly are interesting times and it is not surprising that mild to moderate depression is increasingly seen in many medical practices (including mine). It is good to have effective alternatives to more medication.