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The effectiveness of acupuncture for depression – a systematic review of randomised controlled trials
  1. Yoshito Mukaino, professor1,
  2. Jongbae Park, acupuncturist researcher2,
  3. Adrian White, acupuncturist researcher3,
  4. Edzard Ernst, professor4
  1. 1
    Faculty of Sports and Health Science, Fukuoka University, Japan.
  2. 2
    Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
  3. 3
    Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth, UK
  4. 4
    Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, UK
  1. mukaino{at}


Objective To summarise the existing evidence on acupuncture as a therapy for depression.

Methods RCTs were included, in which either manual acupuncture or electroacupuncture was compared with any control procedure in subjects with depression. Data were extracted independently by two authors. The methodological quality was assessed. Pre and post means and SDs for depression specific measures were extracted, when available, for meta-analysis.

Results Seven randomised comparative trials involving 509 patients were included. The evidence is inconsistent on whether manual acupuncture is superior to sham, and suggests that acupuncture was not superior to waiting list. Evidence suggests that the effect of electroacupuncture may not be significantly different from antidepressant medication, weighted mean difference −0.43(95% CI −5.61 to 4.76). There is inconclusive evidence on whether acupuncture has an additive effect when given as an adjunct to antidepressant drugs.

Conclusion The evidence from controlled trials is insufficient to conclude whether acupuncture is an effective treatment for depression, but justifies further trials of electroacupuncture.

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