Acupuncture for anxiety

Research suggests that between one to 30% of the global population suffers from some form of anxiety.  According to the most up-to-date evidence, acupuncture is an effective treatment (1). In 2017, The Acupuncture Evidence Project, co-authored by Dr John McDonald, PhD and Dr Stephen Janz, was published, providing an up-to-date comparative review of the clinical and scientific evidence for acupuncture. (2)

This comprehensive document, updating two previous reviews, determined that acupuncture is moderately effective in treating anxiety according to high level evidence. (3) Their evidence included a 2016 systematic review with over 400 randomised patients which concluded that ‘the effects from acupuncture for treating anxiety have been shown to be significant as compared to conventional treatments’. (4) The largest of these studies, which included 120 randomised patients, found that acupuncture had a large effect on reducing anxiety and depression compared to conventional treatment involving pharmacological approaches and psychotherapy, with over twice the reduction in symptoms. (5)

A more recent systematic review published in 2018 found that all 13 included studies ‘reported an anxiety decrease for their treatment group relative to the control groups’. Three of these studies used pharmaceuticals as controls. (6)


  1. Baxter AJ, Scott KM, Vos T, Whiteford HA. Global prevalence of anxiety disorders: a systematic review and meta-regression. Psychological Medicine. 2013; 43:897-910
  2. McDonald J, Janz S. The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review. Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd. 2017
  3. Bazzan AJ, Zabrecky G, Monti DA, Newberg AB. Current evidence regarding the management of mood and anxiety disorders using complementary and alternative medicine. Expert Rev Neurother. 2014;14:411- 23
  4. Goyata SL, Avelino CC, Santos SV, Souza Junior DI, Gurgel MD, Terra FS. Effects from acupuncture in treating anxiety: integrative review. Rev Bras Enferm. 2016 Jun;69(3):602-9
  5. Arvidsdotter T, Marklund B, & Taft C (2013). Effects of an integrative treatment, therapeutic acupuncture and conventional treatment in alleviating psychological distress in primary care patients–a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 13(1), 308
  6. Amorim D, Amado J, Brito I, Fiuza, SM, Clinical, NATI (2018) (nd). Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for anxiety disorders: A systematic review of the clinical research. Elsevier.


For more research into how acupuncture can help with other conditions, go to:

Acupuncture and depression

Acupuncture for pain

Acupuncture for hay fever and rhinitis

Acupuncture and fertility, IVF, PCOS and endometriosis