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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 12 (2003), Issue 2, Pages 59-69

Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture

1Department of Anesthesiology, Erasmus Medical Centre, Centre location, P.O. Box 2040, Rotterdam 3000 CA, The Netherlands
2Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Centre, Centre location, P.O. Box 2040, Rotterdam 3000 CA, The Netherlands

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Acupuncture has a beneficial effect when treating many diseases and painful conditions, and therefore is thought to be useful as a complementary therapy or to replace generally accepted pharmacological intervention. The attributive effect of acupuncture has been investigated in inflammatory diseases, including asthma, rhinitis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, epicondylitis, complex regional pain syndrome type 1 and vasculitis. Large randomised trials demonstrating the immediate and sustained effect of acupuncture are missing. Mechanisms underlying the ascribed immunosuppressive actions of acupuncture are reviewed in this communication. The acupuncture-controlled release of neuropeptides from nerve endings and subsequent vasodilative and anti-inflammatory effects through calcitonine gene-related peptide is hypothesised. The complex interactions with substance P, the analgesic contribution of β-endorphin and the balance between cell-specific pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines tumour necrosis factor-α and interleukin-10 are discussed.