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  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

Acupuncture Study on Heart Rate Variability Proves True Acupuncture Better Than Sham

Real Acupuncture Better Than Sham

Longtime followers of my blog will note that I have one basic underlying theme covering a good portion of the posts. Namely, that scientific evidence shows the difference between needling in true acupuncture points as opposed to non acupuncture points; and that needling produces different effects than merely touching the point.   I have already quoted several scientific articles on this, and there is no harm in adding one more.

Here is the newest study that the skeptics will once again choose to ignore:

Effect of acupuncture at HT7 on heart rate variability: an exploratory study. (

Image courtesy of digitalart /"

Image courtesy of digitalart /”

HT 7 Shenmen and Heart Rate Variability

Heart 7 Shenmen is the Yuan Source point of the Heart Meridian of Hand Shaoyin.  It is often indicated for problems of the Heart as well as the Shen or mind.

Heart Rate Variability is defined as:

Heart rate variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. (wikipedia)

In layman’s terms, it measures changes in the time between beats.  The big deal is that it has various applications both in the physical heart and in the psychosocial aspects.  A reduction in HRV is related to increase in death rate after heart attack.  At the same time, HRV is related to emotional arousal.

So how did they study this?

The Study

This is how the study abstract described the procedure:

120 subjects were divided into four groups using a random number table. The following groups of acupuncture interventions were used: HT7 verum acupuncture; HT7 non-penetrating sham acupuncture; acupuncture at a sham point; and no acupuncture. HRV was recorded 10 min before, during and after each stimulation using an Actiheart ECG recorder.

This means that the subjects were divided into four groups.   The first group had real acupuncture on point HT7.  The second and third groups had sham acupuncture  – the second group had stimulation at the point, but no penetration; the third had real acupuncture but at a place near the point but not at a true acupuncture point.

In other words, both of the typical kinds of sham were used.

The Results

The results were as follows:

The HT7 verum acupuncture group had higher very-low frequency, low frequency and high frequency components of HRV compared with the control groups during but not after acupuncture. The HT7 verum acupuncture group also had higher SD of normal intervals compared with the sham needling and no acupuncture control groups

In plain language, there was an effect ONLY in the true acupuncture group.  The scientists noted this as well:

Our preliminary study suggests, subject to limitations, that acupuncture at HT7 could affect cardiac autonomic neural regulation in healthy subjects, manifest as increased HRV, most likely via the parasympathetic system.

So there we have it again, more proof that real acupuncture, at a real point, has different effects than just stimulating the point without needles AND putting a needle in a nearby non acupoint.


Huang, et al. Effect of acupuncture at HT7 on heart rate variability: an exploratory study. Acupunct Med. 2014 Dec 4. pii: acupmed-2013-010441. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2013-010441.

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