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Scientists Finally Explain How Acupuncture Works… And It’s Related To Marijuana

By on July 17, 2013
Electroacupuncture  is a form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles. It is particularly good for treating pain.

Electroacupuncture is a form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles. It is particularly good for treating pain. – Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and so has medical marijuana. But the two haven’t been connected until now, thanks to a group of outside-the-box thinkers at a university in China.

Their findings, published online by the National Institutes of Health, show how electroacupuncture – an electrified version of traditional acupuncture used to treat pain – works by increasing activity of natural painkillers in the body called cannabinoids.

Explaining the thought process behind their study, the authors point to existing knowledge on cannabinoids – a group of molecules found in both cannabis and all vertebrate animals (including humans) – and their ability to fight pain by acting on specific receptors of the body:

“Previous studies show that cannabinoid CB1 receptors are related to pain relief.”

But the researchers also say they weren’t the first to discover that acupuncture causes an increase in the body’s cannabinoids:

“According to the latest reports in the American journal of Nature Neuroscience, acupuncture has been found to cause the human body to release some natural painkillers.”

The acupuncture points used in the rat study correspond with human acupoints

The acupuncture points used in the study correspond with human acupoints.

They were, however, the first to explain why. Using rat models of arthritis pain, the researchers found that repeated treatment with electroacupuncture resulted in an increase in cannabinoid receptors in a part of the brain called the striatum.

That’s where it gets complicated, because the striatum is also full of dopamine cells. Previous studies show that marijuana can increase dopamine as well and the current study seemed to confirm this. The researchers found that electroacupuncture also led to an increase in dopamine receptors, but whether dopamine played a part in pain relief was not clear.

Overall, the rats appeared to be in less pain after receiving acupuncture – a treatment that the authors say is endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for over 40 disorders. And if cannabinoids are the reason why acupuncture works for pain, then perhaps it’s time the WHO endorsed marijuana as well.

The study was conducted by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and funded by grants from the National Basic Research Program of China, National Natural Science Foundation of China , Shanghai Leading Academic Discipline Project, Shanghai Municipal Natural Science Foundation, and Shanghai Famous TCM academic research project.

  • We Remember Peter

    as someone who does not smoke cannabis but who is an advocate/activist for those who do i must say i truly agree 100% with this article; because i get this electrical acupuncture on a regular basis. i was told that i would always have chronic pain and i’d either need surgery or just to live with it. so i chose to live with the pain, it got to the point where i couldn’t even go up and down stairs. that very same day i took a chance and contacted an acupuncturist-she had been referred to me by a friend and WHAT A DIFFERENCE it has made. it has decreased my depression, turned around my chronic pain so much i have had days in a row with no pain AT ALL, and it has given me a sense of inner peace. i do suggest you find the right one: not all acupuncturists are the same. be sure to find one who has truly trained in china and who has a lot of experience. and get over your fear of needles-they are not a big deal! they look scary but you only feel a slight pinch – and this girl fears needles…when i walk out of that office i am just as “high” as my friends who use cannabis are. in fact, the assistant to the doctor always notices and says, “my young lady, you look HIGH!” acupuncture is AWESOME and i am living, breathing, thankful proof of that!

    • Oldtimemoonshine

      great post but I always find it pecular when someone starts off by stating they donot smoke cannabis… stating it almost like their employer is watching or something…always makes me chuckle while reading the rest of their comment. :P

      • We Remember Peter

        i don’t smoke cannabis out of fear. it’s the truth. it’s totally my own choice, as it is your choice not to smoke. but i assure you, i am fighting just as hard as you are, to repeal prohibition.

        • Fernando B

          I don’t smoke cannabis because I always hated smoke. but have you tried ingesting it?You can try just spreading cannabis oil in a toast, ot bake it in sponge cake or brownies. even make tomato sauce with it. and what are you afraid of cannabis? you just read that acupuncture increases cannabinoids in your system just eating the cannabinoids on even better in vapor form is more effective ….and furthermore. you can’t overdose on cannabis . that would be physiologically impossible

    • Legalize freedom

      perhaps you are able to do some tai chi too ? Glad to hear acupuncture is helping you!

  • Crystal Calliou

    Not really comparable… acupuncture increases cannabinoid RECEPTORS in the brain, NOT cannabinoids. Also, acupuncture is not a mind-altering substance like marijuana is. Using this comparison to say that the WHO should endorse marijuana is a reach, at best.

    • TruthOnPotcom

      Crystal, acupuncture increases both, as the article states. Cannabinoid receptors are also responsible for the mind-altering effects of marijuana so, logically speaking, acupuncture could result in a similar ‘high’

      • Crystal Calliou

        Ooops missed that first part about increased activity of cannabinoids… I still don’t think I believe acupuncture is comparable to marijuana though. I’ve had both, and acupuncture does not alter the mind in ANY way except to make me feel good! Whereas pot definitely DOES alter things! I’m not saying pot shouldn’t be legal, I just don’t think this is a very good argument.

        • Jonrey Von Timberbatch

          Maybe the mind altering you’re experiencing from marijuana is caused by other things in it, not the cannabinoids specifically. Acupuncture and maijurana could be linked in one aspect of each treatment, such as the release and increased cannabinoid acivity but have differences elsewhere if you get what I’m saying.

        • Steve Green

          Hello Crystal, have you ever had a High CBD Low to no THC (cannatonic #4 14.5%cbd & .9%thc) cannabis?

          • Shayne Soentpiet

            yeah cbds are a bit different for sure…

        • Gregory Apache

          Hi crystal one small remark here “believing” isn’t synonymous with knowing, neither is thinking which is the in between stage.. Its best to get facts right, then have an expressed opinion, otherwise is best to to ask more questions or pose your dilemmas as a question, its much wiser. And I say that in a kind tone..

        • Sarvepalli

          “…acupuncture does not alter the mind in ANY way except to make me feel good! ”

          If that’s not mind altering then what pray tell is?

        • Shayne Soentpiet

          I’ve had a chiro/accupressure session that was so ON, i left feeling extremely high and almost drove in the wrong lane on the way out!

          • Brendalee

            same lol, I felt intoxicated and usually laid down after.
            Perhaps the experience of both options is important, I have completed projects with both and continue to use both as a way to eliminate pain. (I have an aversion to needles thus the latter is always less intimidating, it also heightens some sexual desires and improved my eyesight also going through menopause I had little to no weight gain and experienced balanced sleep). My legs were so painful all the time that I couldn’t walk, my whole body froze up and I was in pain even standing to make dinner for my family. I can now be on my feet most of the day with short breaks in-between. ;D

    • Shayne Soentpiet

      well my dear, spices also change the brain….so…..oh yeah and sugar is manufactured and has the same effect on the systems as methamphetamine but on a lower level…. Oh yeah it’s legal because the government says so. Anything that affects the brain increases something in the system. What works for some does not for all. Do not be the judge of none but one. U.

    • Tim

      canabinoid is not thc. Thc is what gets you high cbd or canabidiol is what triggers your canabanoid receptors and gives pain relief. Its not all about getting stoned

      • Captain Jim

        THC and CBD are both two of an estimated 60 – 100 chemical compounds called cannabinoids found in cannabis.

        Our body makes it’s own cannabinoids as well known as endocannabinoids. So far the two I’m aware of are anandamide (basically identical to THC) and 2Ag.

  • d-ave

    “Finally” its what I hate about us western race of white retards.. we gotta be able to explain it to take it as fact.. Its worked for YEARS.. let alone herbal-ism and general hygiene of the body.. really annoys me of how much COULD be done yet don’t -.-’

  • xatcat

    for someone like me who deals with a lot of pain on regular bases, I must say Cannabis is as of now my only painkiller resource. it is the only active pain killer that does not make me more sick.. and helps me eat sleep, and let go of pain.. pleas legalize before everyone dies from liver decease and what not…

  • Steve Baranick

    I been in the Martial Arts for 30 yrs and I have had several acupuncture treatments and they do help with pain and whatever has got u down,,,

  • Matthew Rover

    How do we deal with the pain of a tyrannous Government?

    • Jim Kelly

      Same way.

    • Jefferson Scottland Munoz I

      Right?! I wonder if even half of the paranoia or social problems attributed to marijuana use would be a reality if it were legal. With most people, the fear of incurring legal charges and the stigma placed on them by their family or society in general is the source of the problem. If we were to legalize, i believe these “side effects” would drastically reduce.

      • mama

        Do you? Marijuana causes real damage to your brain. Check the scientific papers. Would it be undone?

        • Jefferson Scottland Munoz I

          The only paranoia associated psyche problems i have ever experienced through marijuana use is the fear of getting put in jail. I’ve been arrested for marijuana 3 times and have been traumatized. Also, being stigmatized by family and society in general induces greater social anxiety than the drug itself. You wouldn’t have kids sneaking away from their family to go smoke with other users as often– taking time away from family bonding. If these people were accepted, they would think much differently and would be less likely to abuse the substance and more likely to behave like normal citizens.

        • Kerry Tolhurst

          The “scientific papers” show no damage. Please try reading them. None have ever said damage. Some show differences. Different is not damaged. Science also uses words in a more direct way. A difference is exactly that, a difference. None say damaged.

        • Fernando B

          what real damage to the brain? no scientific papers say so…just the opposite, cannabinoids are potent anti inflammatory and neuroprotective, even last research show cannabis is effective protecting the brain in traumatic encephalopathy. reading the Daily Mail or drinking alcohol causes real damage to your brain

        • Jeffey

          Why don’t you do some more research my non-friend marijuana helps in at more ways than it supposably “harms” you if it causes so much problems with your brain why has no one been diagnosed with something? It doesn’t kill brain cells is numbs them until your not “high” so before you think you know what your talking about is be carful

        • moses

          Liar. Where is your proof. Find it.
          Because there are 50000 ppl dying every year from alcohol and another 50000 from prescribed medication. Tired of the lies
          if I say nothing about your lie . It lives to destroy more lives. Stop judging people. I pray for you.

  • Shayne Soentpiet

    We have a cannaboid system….recently discovered. Just like we have a other systems…blood, nervous, etc. Also recently discovered is that there is thc in breast milk, naturally….

    • Joel Munson

      Its not THC. Its an endocannabinoid called 2-AG.

      • Brendalee

        Did not know this :D

    • Captain Jim

      This system also happens to regulate every other system in the body.

  • Joel Munson

    I think I’ve read that any place in the body that is “out of balance” develops a higher concentration of CB receptors in an attempt to maximize the chance that they will come in contact with a CB and be able to restore balance.

  • StevenRobert

    I’m not sure that traditional acupuncture has the same effects as electro-acupuncture, or if it’s necessary to use needles for electroacupuncture, since most likely the electrical current would be grounded out by the ionic conductivity of skin and tissue fluids as soon as the current touches the skin and subcutaneous tissues unless the needle is insulated except for the tip penetrating into the tissues.
    Electroacupuncture would probably have a more physiological effect than cannabis which might overwhelm the modulating effect of the endocannaboid system on the neurons, and no telling what the effect would be.
    That’s not to say that cannabis doesn’t have a role to play as medical marijuana, in conditions such as chronic pain and possibly even for treatment of tumors, although probably there hasn’t been that much research on cannabis as chemotherapy for cancer or malignant tumors.
    Probably, since most drug companies carry out research on medicines which they are able to patent and sell at a profit, it’s not likely cannabis will be assessed as a regular chemotherapy agent.
    Probably cannabis does have some effect on immunity, since the CB2 receptors affect immune cell receptors, while the CB1 receptors are affected by THC, and have a psychological effect.
    It’s thought CBD or cannabidiol, another cannaboid in marijuana plants and apparently hemp, or low THC marijuana plants, may have physiological effects without the psychological effects of THC, so it is being actively investigated for some medical use.