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Study: Acupuncture could treat hypertension

Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 07:11

A recently published study from researchers at USF’s College of Pharmacy and the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine shows that acupuncture could be an effective treatment to regulating high blood pressure.

According the Dr. Shufeng Zhou, pharmaceutical sciences professor at USF and associate dean of international research, the key to regulating hypertension is in the “qi” — the body’s free- flow of energy.

“In Chinese medicine the disease of hypertension is an off-balance of qi. When the body is not in a balanced state of qi, illness can occur,”  he said.

Zhou has practiced medicine all over the world, but while in China, he found that acupuncture may top other forms of treatment for hypertension. The ancient Chinese treatment consists of using tiny needles by stimulating various acupoints on the body that are associated with precise energy pathways.

While the practice is not new, some of its benefits are.

“For the first time, we found that acupuncture could be linked to antioxidant effect,” Zhou said.

According to the research reported online last month in PLOS ONE Biomedical Journal, The
seven-day study involved two groups of hypertensive rats that received a daily treatment of acupuncture.

The first group received a needle between the first and second metatarsal bones at the top of the foot, which stimulated the tai chong — an access point commonly used for stress, lower back pain and high blood pressure in acupuncture done on humans.

The other group received a needle insertion as well, but the insertion was not in one of the specific points suggested by acupuncture treatment to lower blood pressure.

While the data revealed the first group had significantly lower blood pressure, the researchers also found that the part of the brain that regulates blood pressure contained an increase of enzyme antioxidants after treatment.

The enzymes involved in processes, Zhou said, can prevent damage to the blood vessel walls caused by the free radicals, which may lead to regulating blood pressure of hypertension.

According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) hypertension or high blood pressure is amongst the most deadly diseases in America today and linked to multiple ailments including heart disease, strokes and kidney disease. The CDC reported in 2011 that one in three Americans live with hypertension and one and five are undiagnosed.

Dr.  Yangchong Ou, an integrative medicine specialist in Tampa, has more than 25 years of experience in acupuncture.

His patients receive optimal results from acupuncture, he said, because of its natural ability to encourage healing.

“In acupuncture we don’t use drugs,” he said. “The needles don’t have drugs in them. It’s a physical treatment.”

But not everyone is an acupuncture enthusiast.

“I am always willing to try new things but I don’t like needles,” Bashia Guillard, a senior majoring in public relations said.

The discovery led to a partnership between the USF College of Pharmacy and Guangzhou.

Shefung said he thinks global medical development is a fundamental component to understanding illnesses all over the world and hopes to someday see a school of integrative medicine that would give students medical degrees in both Western medicine and Oriental medicine.

In the meantime, Zhou will continue to incorporate global treatment with modernized western approaches.

He plans to conduct another study with Dr. Dong Lin from the Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, who will visit USF on Nov. 30. The study will continue to research the enduring effects of acupuncture and attempt to understand the molecular mechanisms of the treatment.

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