Ask The Expert: Pinpointing Depression Treatment
By Carol Mersereau

Q: I have heard that acupuncture is a great treatment for pain, but can the needles also treat depression?

A: For centuries, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have used acupuncture, a system of applying fine needles for therapeutic purposes, to treat mild to moderate depression. Now research supports this practice.

In 1998, Rosa Schnyer, an American acupuncturist, and John Allen, PhD, of the University of Arizona's department of psychology, studied 34 women diagnosed with major depression. The women were divided into three groups and were treated with one or two types of acupuncture or put on a wait-list. After eight weeks, the women who received acupuncture treatment specifically for depression were significantly less depressed than the women treated with nonspecific acupuncture. At the end of the study, all women received specific treatment, and two out of three reported improved moods (Journal of Psychological Science, 1998, vol. 9, no. 4). The results were similar to those achieved with psychotherapy and drug therapy, both of which are 65 percent to 70 percent effective.

In clinical practice, I find that when clients suffering from depression combine acupuncture with other aspects of TCM, such as herbal medicine, and lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, and relaxation, they have an even more successful outcome.

Carol Mersereau has been a practitioner of Chinese medicine for more than 16 years and runs a private practice in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.