Harvard Heart Letter

Sticking it to blood pressure?

If acupuncture really lowers blood pressure, its effect is likely to be small — and definitely temporary.

For more than 2,000 years, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have used acupuncture to treat high blood pressure and symptoms related to it. A small but growing number of Americans have turned to acupuncture as an alternative to blood pressure pills ever since ping-pong diplomacy helped thaw relations between China and the United States in the 1970s. There's just one nagging question: Does it work?

Acupuncturists and people who choose to have this ancient Oriental procedure say it does. The results of Western-type clinical trials aren't so clear. In fact, they are downright muddy. Some show that acupuncture lowers blood pressure; others don't.

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