Effects of acupuncture on immune response related to opioid-like peptides

J Tradit Chin Med. 1998 Mar;18(1):55-63.


Experimental research has recently shown that acupuncture induces the formation of opioid-like peptides (OLPs) in animals. In order to provide further evidence, we tested the beta-endorphin levels and other parameters (VIP, lymphocyte subsets, NK cells and monocyte phagocytosis) in a group of 90 patients suffering from various painful disorders treated with acupuncture. Zusanli (St 36) and Hegu (LI 4) acupoints were selected. A homogeneous group of 30 subjects was used as control. Evaluation of the above parameters was made with 3 series of blood tests before treatment, 30 minutes and 24 hours after acupuncture treatment. In the acupuncture group, the following results were achieved: 1) A considerable increase in beta-endorphin levels remained high even 24 hours after acupuncture treatment. In addition, we demonstrated an inverted correlation between beta-endorphins and VIP; 2) 30 minutes after acupuncture session, 80% of the treated patients showed a significant increase of CD3 and CD4 values and an increase of CD8 24 hours after stimulation; 3) Monocyte phagocytosis was increased in 45% of the treated subjects 30 minutes from starting treatment, and in 100% of them after 24 hours. The percentage of NK cells was also increased in 40% of cases after 30 minutes, and in 50% after 24 hours. However, in the control group, no such significant changes in immune parameters were found.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Analgesia*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroimmunomodulation
  • Pain Management*
  • Phagocytosis
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / blood
  • beta-Endorphin / blood*


  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • beta-Endorphin