Objective: According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture is a suitable treatment for complex chronic diseases such as bronchial asthma. In a randomized, controlled study we investigated immunologic effects of Chinese acupuncture on patients with allergic asthma.
Patients and methods: The effects of acupuncture treatment given according to the principles of TCM (TCM group, n = 20) were compared with those of acupuncture treatment using points not specific for asthma (control group, n = 18). All patients were treated 12 times for 30 minutes over a time period of 4 weeks. Patients' general well-being and several peripheral blood parameters (eosinophils, lymphocyte subpopulations, cytokines, in vitro lymphocyte proliferation) were determined before and after acupuncture treatment.
Results: In the TCM group, significantly more patients indicated an improvement in general well-being (79% in the TCM group versus 47% in the control group; p = 0.049) after acupuncture treatment. The following changes were found in the TCM group: within the lymphocyte subpopulations the CD3+ cells (p = 0.005) and CD4+ cells (p = 0.014) increased significantly. There were also significant changes in cytokine concentrations: interleukin (IL)-6 (p = 0.026) and IL-10 (p = 0.001) decreased whereas IL-8 (p = 0.050) rose significantly. Additionally, the in vitro lymphocyte proliferation rate increased significantly (p = 0.035) while the number of eosinophils decreased from 4.4% to 3.3% after acupuncture (p > 0.05). The control group, however, showed no significant changes apart from an increase in the CD4+ cells (p = 0.012).
Conclusion: The results imply that asthma patients benefit from acupuncture treatment given in addition to conventional therapy. Furthermore, acupuncture performed in accordance with the principles of TCM showed significant immune-modulating effects.