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Depression: How Can Acupuncture Help?

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‘Tis the Season for Depressed Mood

This time of year many of us living in the northern hemisphere experience a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), signaled by a group of symptoms – low mood, less motivation, sluggishness, weight gain – that arise as the hours of daylight dwindle over the winter months.

Symptoms of Depression

Clinical depression is characterized by a more disruptive array of symptoms, which include, according to the Mayo Clinic website:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Research Shows that Acupuncture Can Alleviate Depression

Research shows that acupuncture can alleviate the symptoms of depression in patients (1). A laboratory study suggests that acupuncture causes changes in signaling pathways in the brain to bring about the observed anti-depressant effects (2).

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Depression

Western Medicine considers depression to be primarily a mood disorder. TCM does not make the same kinds of distinctions between “mental” and “physical” disorders.  TCM is a medical system based on the flow and balance of energies within the body.

Acupuncture and Energy Flow

In TCM, Qi represents the vital energy which flows throughout the body on energetic pathways or meridians.   Health is disrupted when the flow of Qi becomes blocked or imbalanced, manifesting symptoms that are physical, mental, or both. One way to understand how acupuncture works is that it releases endorphins and activates natural pain killers, and, by doing so, it improves the flow of Qi throughout the body, eliminates blockages, and brings balance to the mind and body.

Other Energy Approaches to Depression

In addition to acupuncture, we also offer Access Consciousness Bars and Reiki, both of which can improve energy flow and have been shown to help with anxiety and depression. (3), (4), (5).  Acupuncture combined with Reiki is yet another option.  Check out the Acupuncture Today Article written by Teri  “It’s All About That Ki”.

Meridian Systems and Emotion

Each of the acupuncture meridians is associated with an organ system and an motion.  For example, the emotion of the liver meridian is anger. When Qi is blocked and liver Qi stagnation occurs, anger can manifest. From the same standpoint, if a person is excessively angry, the flow of Qi can become blocked, creating liver Qi stagnation.  The heart houses the mind (Shen). (Read more about Shen in our recent blog article about the emotional aspects of the heart: Imbalances in the heart meridian Qi are related to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Our Approach to Treating Depression

Hopefully the preceding paragraphs have illuminated approaches to treating depression that are different from those offered in Western Medicine.   If you are concerned about symptoms of depression (or anxiety – they often are related), set up a free 15-minute phone consult with Teri Calandra. Teri and the CCHW staff can work with you and your other health care providers to find the combination of healing modalities that works best for you.

Know When to Seek Emergency Help

Seek emergency help when depression symptoms include thoughts of self-harm or suicide.  Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, or a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Use that same number and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.


Acupuncture for depression:



Reiki for depression:
Access Bars:

About the author

Teri Calandra

Teri Calandra Dipl.Acu, MSTOM, L.Ac., LMT, RMT

Teri began her studies in energy medicine as part of her own personal development journey, and continues to to learn and integrate that knowledge into her practice. Teri is the founding practitioner of Calandra Center for Health & Wellness in Schaumburg, Illinois. She is licensed by the State of Illinois in acupuncture (L.Ac.), and board certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

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