Objective: To investigate the effect characteristics and mechanism of acupuncture in autonomic nerve regulation through a comprehensive literature analysis.
Methods: CNKI and PubMed databases were searched for the studies on acupuncture in autonomic nerve regulation in the past 30 years, and Excel was used to perform a descriptive analysis of research subjects, intervention methods, intervention sites (acupoint selection), intervention parameters, and effect mechanism of acupuncture.
Results: A total of 202 studies were included, among which there were 51 clinical studies, mostly on the nervous system and the circulatory system; Neiguan (PC6), Zusanli (ST36), Fengchi (GB20), and Hegu (LI4) were the most frequently used acupoints, manual acupuncture was the most common intervention method, most of the acupoints selected were in the extremities, head, face, and neck, and heart rate variability was the main parameter for evaluation. Among the 151 animal experimental studies, there were many studies on the digestive system and the circulatory system; "Zusanli" (ST36), "Neiguan" (PC6), and "Shenmen" (HT7) were the most frequently used acupoints, electroacupuncture was the most common intervention method, most of the acupoints selected were in the extremities, and the main effect mechanism was to regulate the central vagus nerve activity and the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway (CAP).
Conclusion: Acupuncture has a good effect on autonomic nerve regulation. The acupoints in extremities, head, and face are mainly used in studies. The main action pathways are central vagus nerve activity and CAP, as demonstrated in the animal experiments. Acupuncture has specific effect characteristics, which are closely associated with the acupoints, methods, and parameters of stimulation.
Keywords: Action pathway; Acupuncture and moxibustion; Autonomic nerve; Effect characteristics.