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How acupuncture can help with anxiety

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Acupuncture for anxiety

All emotions are useful. We have emotions for a variety of reasons. To keep us safe. To motivate us. To allow us to care for ourselves and others.

Anxiety is a normal stress reaction. But when anxiety becomes an excessive dread of everyday day situations it can have a disabling action.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we treat the person. The symptoms of anxiety can be different for everyone and depending on the organ involved will manifest in alternative ways.

If you have anxiety could you pinpoint how it shows up? Do any of the situations below resonate? It might be that more than one shows up for you.

In fact, I think mine show up in Kidneys, Spleen and Liver!

Acupuncture for anxiety

The insertion of needles, during acupuncture, causes the release of messenger molecules (see my previous post here) which in turn creates a change to the body's homeostatic mechanisms.

Research shows that this can:

  • Reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the 'analytical' brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010).

  • Regulate levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brain's mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states (Lee 2009; Samuels 2008; Zhou 2008; Yuan 2007).

  • Stimulate the production of endogenous opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system  (Arranz 2007). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response.

  • Reverse pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with anxiety (Arranz 2007)

  • Reverse stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry (Kim 2009)

  • Acupuncture can be safely combined with conventional treatments such as medication or psycho-educational therapy, possibly enhancing their beneficial effects (Courbasson 2007) and reducing unwanted side-effects (Yuan 2007).

Acupuncture points for anxiety

Below are some points that you can use in the clinic to help with anxiety. Depending on the signs and symptoms that present.

You can try using acupressure on these points and if you would like more specific locations then please feel free to message me.

Dietary suggestions for anxiety

Other suggestions for helping with anxiety (Tim Spector, Spoon-Fed) propose that consuming red meat, in small amounts, is likely to be beneficial for anxiety. A study conducted in Australia found that not eating enough red meat nearly doubled the risk for anxiety disorders in women.

In Chinese Medicine, this is not considered surprising. Red meat is specifically recommended where we consider there is a Blood deficiency (in TCM terminology).

Since the Shen (Mind), Heart and Blood are all intrinsically linked we would naturally consider building Blood through acupuncture, red meat and other dietary elements (but more is to come on that another day) to root the Shen (Mind) and Blood.

Other dietary suggestions would be (Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Food)

Indeed there are now lots of conversations around food and mental health and

such knowledge could lead to investigations of targeted, even personalised, interventions to improve mood, anxiety

Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? BML2020; 369doi: (published 29 June 2020)

Yoga for anxiety

Carly Williams at Zen Flow Yoga (based in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, but also teaching online) is qualified to teach Yoga Therapy for Anxiety. I know she currently has a workshop starting tonight, 20th October. If you have missed the cut off for this evening, I would get in touch with her to find out when her next series will be.

Breathing for anxiety

In this BBC article, they look at breathwork for anxiety and they suggest that

And Exhale by Richie Bostock gives excellent examples of breathwork for anxiety (and also sports performance, physical and mental health).

If you have any questions at all around this subject, or acupuncture please get in touch. I'd love to hear from you.

Your fave acupuncturist


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