Acupuncture at the Zhongwan acupoint has been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve symptoms of diabetes mellitus. Our study investigated the effect on plasma glucose of electroacupuncture applied at the Zhongwan acupoint in rat diabetic models. Plasma concentrations of insulin, glucagon and beta-endorphin- were also determined using radioimmunoassay. A decrease in plasma glucose was observed in rats after electroacupuncture (15 Hz, 10 mA) for 30 min at the Zhongwan acupoint. This was observed in normal rats and rat models with Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. No significant effect on plasma glucose was observed in rat models with Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus: neither the streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats nor the genetic (BB/W) rats. Further, the hypoglycaemic action of electroacupuncture stimulation disappeared in rats with insulin-resistance induced by an injection of human long-acting insulin repeated daily to cause the loss of tolbutamide-induced hypoglycaemia. An insulin-related action can thus be hypothesised. This hypothesis is supported by an increase in plasma insulin-like immunoreactivity after electroacupuncture stimulation in normal rats. Participation of glucagon was ruled out because there was no change in plasma glucagon-like immunoreactivity resulting from electroacupuncture stimulation. In addition to an increase in plasma beta-endorphin-like immunoreactivity, the plasma glucose lowering action of electroacupuncture stimulation at Zhongwan acupoint was abolished by naloxone in a sufficient dose to block opioid receptors. Thus we suggest that electroacupuncture stimulation at the Zhongwan acupoint induces secretion of endogenous beta-endorphin which reduces plasma glucose concentration in an insulin-dependent manner.