It has been reported that acupuncture can decrease blood pressure in patients with hypertension, possibly by an endocrine mechanism. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of acupuncture on arterial blood pressure and the secretion of renin, vasopressin and cortisol in hypertensive patients. Acupuncture was performed in fifty untreated essential hypertensive patients resting in the supine position. Thirty min after acupuncture there were decreases in systolic pressure from 169 +/- 2 to 151 +/- 2 mm Hg, diastolic pressure from 107 +/- 1 to 96 +/- 1 mm Hg, and heart rate from 77 +/- 2 to 72 +/- 2 bpm (P < 0.01). Plasma renin activity decreased from 1.7 +/- 0.4 to 1.1 +/- 0.2 ng/ml/2h (P < 0.01), but there were no significant changes in plasma vasopressin or cortisol concentrations. These results confirm that acupuncture decreases blood pressure in hypertensive patients, and suggest that the decrease results, at least in part, from a decrease in renin secretion.