Evidence & Research

To date, the National Institutes of Health have funded almost 800 clinical trials on acupuncture. Research continues to build as new studies are completed and others are proposed.

The Society for Acupuncture Research is an international membership organization which is devoted to creating a wide network of researchers around the world, aligned with Evidence-Based Assessments.

Additionally, links to PubMed systematic reviews on specific topics of acupuncture research are below.

Acupuncture for pain

Acupuncture for cancer pain


Acupuncture proven effective for 28 diseases, symptoms or conditions

 World Health Organization. WHO traditional medicine strategy: 2014-2023.

The World Health Organization has determined, after years of review, that acupuncture is deemed effective for at least 28 conditions.                                   

Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy

Allergic rhinitis/hay fever

Biliary Colic

Depression (also neurosis and post-stroke)

Dysentery (acute bacillary)

Dysmenorrhea (primary)

Epigastrlgia (acute)

Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)


Hypertension (essential)

Hypotension (primary)

Induction of labor

Knee pain


Low back pain

Malposition of fetus

Morning sickness

Nausea and vomiting

Neck pain

Pain in dentistry work

Periarthritis of shoulder

Postoperative pain

Renal colic

Rheumatoid arthristis




Tennis elbow

Acupuncture-Associated Vasovagal Response: Revised Terminology and Hospital Experience

Medical Acupuncture, Volume 29, Number 6, 2017
Kimberly A. Christensen, MOM, DiplOM, LAc, Barbara J. Gosse, MSOM, DiplAc, LAc, Celia Hildebrand, DAOM, DiplAc, LAc, and Lynn A. Gershan, MD, CM

Vasovagal responses associated with acupuncture therapy are relatively uncommon adverse events, occurring in *0.02%–7% of treatments. The complex neurocardiovascular reflexes involved in vasovagal responses can induce a range of symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, sweating, bradycardia, hypotension, and, in some cases, syncope or convulsions. Although patients typically recover quickly with proper support, these events may be of concern and anxiety-producing for both patient and provider. Providers need to be well-versed in methods for prevention and treatment of acupuncture-associated vasovagal responses to promote safe practice environments, patient satisfaction and comfort, and cost-effectiveness.

Inserting Needles Into the Body: A Meta- Analysis of Brain Activity Associated With Acupuncture Needle Stimulation

Journal of Pain, Vol. 14, No 3 (March) 2013
Younbyoung Chae, Dong-Seon Chang, Soon-Ho Lee, Won-Mo Jung, In-Seon Lee, Stephen Jackson, Jian Kong, Hyangsook Lee,  Hi-Joon Park, Hyejung Lee,  and Christian Wallraven

Study Design and Participants: This article summaries a meta-analysis of 28 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, including 51 acupuncture and 10 tactile stimulation research studies.

Results: Patterns identified show that following acupuncture needle stimulation, the sensorimotor cortical network was activated, while the limbic-paralimbi neocortical network was deactivated. Controlled tactile stimulation of the acupoint was observed to havea weaker, but similar pattern response. Researchers concluded that the brain experiences a hemodynamic response to acupuncture needle stimulation. This response is reflected in cognitive, sensory, and affective dimensions of pain.

Effect of True and Sham Acupuncture on Radiation-Induced Xerostomia Among Patients with Head and Neck Cancer

Garcia et al, 2019, JAMA.

Study Design and Participants: Patients with head and neck cancer were subjects of a randomized clinical trial conducted over a four-year period, to measure changes in xerosomia, salivary flow, and other negative conditions resulting from radiation therapy. Research compared a standard care control (SCC) with true acupuncture (TA) and sham acupuncture (SA). Patients selected were undoing radiation therapy for oropharyngeal or nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

Results: One year after treatment, patients were still experiencing fewer, and less severe Radiation-induced xerostomia (RIX) symptoms.

A randomized controlled trial of acupuncture in stable ischemic heart disease patients

Mehta et al, 2014, International Journal of Cardiology.

Study Design and Participants: This was a Randomized controlled study of Traditional Acupuncture (TA), sham acupuncture (SA), and waiting control (WC) performed for 12 weeks with 3 treatments per week, in 151 Stable Ischemic Heart Disease subjects. Specific acupuncture sites were chosen; the TA group received needle insertion at these selected sites; sham acupuncture (SA) was practiced at non-acupuncture sites, and the Waiting Control group received neither sham, or acupuncture.

Results: Significantly higher HRV was recorded for the 12 weeks among subjects who received Traditional Acupuncture, compared to Sham Acupuncture. Secondary outcome measures were not significantly different between the TA vs SA group. Researchers determined that neither traditional risk factors or medication doses were negatively impacted.

Acupuncture for essential hypertension

Wang et al, 2013, International Journal of Cardiology.

Study Design and Participants: This article cites a literature review using the Cochrane Library resource base, including 35 randomized trials involving 2,539 patients. The review included randomized control trials (RCTs) focused on acupuncture for hypertension, compared with sham acupuncture , western medicine, or lifestyle intervention.

Results: Two trials reported the effect of acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture in combinations of western medicine, and in which acupuncture significantly reduced SBP.

Utilization of Acupuncture Services in the Emergency Department Setting: A Quality Improvement Study

Burns JR, et al. 2019. Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews

Study Design and Participants: This is a retrospective analysis of data gathered from an urban center Emergency Department, involving patients at least 18 years old and presenting with acute pain (i.e., new pain or acute pain superimposed on chronic). 379 patients received acupuncture; 46.4% received opiods.

Results: A little more than 50% of patients entering the ED during time of study, were accepting of acupuncture. Successful results in reducing acute pain, as well as stress measures (5.7 vs 1.9), anxiety (4.8 vs 1.6), and nausea (1.6 vs 0.6)led to the interest of conducting additional research.

Acupuncture for Treatment of Uncontrolled Pain in Cancer Patients:
A Pragmatic Pilot Study

Garcia et al, 2014, Integrative Cancer Therapies 

Study Design and Participants: This was a preliminary trial, including 115 screened patients of which 52 (45%) were eligible and agreed to participate. Patients received individualized acupuncture treatments 1 to 3 times per week for a total of 10 treatments in an acupuncture clinic.

Results: Participants experienced significant reductions in pain; 34% received fewer pain medications at the study’s end, than when they entered the study. Almost 30% of patients who were prescribed opiods at the beginning of the study, were off the opiods at end of treatment (81% at entry vs 52% at end)

Effects of acupuncture on hot flashes in perimenopausal and
postmenopausal women multicenter randomized clinical trial

Kim et al, 2010, Journal of the North American Menopause Society

Study Design and Participants: This RCT was conducted in four acupuncture centers in South Korea (Seoul, Ilsan, Jecheon, and Busan). Participants were perimenopausal or postmenopausal women with a score of 10 or higher hot flash score for the week prior to screening vists. Participants were randomly divided into two groups, with the treatment group received 12 sessions of acupuncture and maintained usual care for four (4) weeks. The control group received only their usual care.

Results: After 12 sessions of treatment over four weeks, participants in the acupuncture plus usual care group noted significant improvement (62.15% reduction) versus the group receiving only usual care (26.7% reduction) in hot flashes, including the number, severity, and overall score.