Acupuncture for Anxiety: How Acupuncture Can Help Calm You Down


Finding ways to improve your mental health can be tough, but acupuncture for anxiety can be a viable option. About 44 million adults in America suffer from an anxiety disorder — disorders that can impact a person’s life in various ways. However, it can be difficult to find the right medication or the right therapist that can help you with your issues. Fortunately, acupuncture can help you take back control of your life.


acupuncture for anxiety
Photo by Sydney Sims/


What is anxiety?

Anxiety was actually instrumental in the survival of our species. Our ancestors developed mechanisms that protected them from potential danger. In dangerous situations, such as the approach of a predatory animal, the body would sound the alarm in the form of an increase in adrenaline. The adrenaline would, in turn, cause an increase in awareness, sweating, and a faster heartbeat.


This is what we call our “fight-or-flight” response. It allowed our ancestors to think and act quickly in pressing situations, which allowed them to increase their chances of survival. However, most humans in modern times don’t have to worry about outrunning and escaping large predators. Even so, this fight-or-flight instinct has not left us.


Anxiety in a nutshell

We all experience anxiety in varying degrees and varying situations. You may feel anxiety because you’re late for class for the nth time this semester, or because your boss has called you into their office. You may feel anxiety over an ailing loved one, or because you’re entering an unfamiliar, potentially dangerous place.


Feeling anxiety is normal — to a certain extent, that is. However, when your anxiety becomes persistent, becomes more intense that it should be in a given situation, or begins to affect your daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.


When anxiety becomes a disorder

There are many stressors around us that can trigger anxiety. However, when your anxiety seems disproportionately intense compared to its trigger, or you experience physical symptoms such as nausea or dizziness, it’s possible that an anxiety disorder is in the works. It’s also possible that an anxiety attack may occur without an obvious trigger.


There are different types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and phobia. All these types are different in nature, but at they can all affect the way you function in your everyday life.


How anxiety can affect you

Anxiety can affect you in a variety of ways. You may experience sudden but passing feelings of fear and terror, accompanied by physical symptoms such as breathing issues, increased heart rate, dizziness, and shakiness. It’s also possible that you begin changing your behavior or avoiding certain things or situations to avoid panic or anxiety attacks.


These symptoms can have a significant impact on your everyday life, and you may feel compelled to take drastic measures to avoid triggers. Going through an anxiety attack can also be extremely unpleasant, and finding ways to avoid it is vital to your physical, mental, and social well-being.


There are certain medications and techniques that can help you deal with anxiety, but you can also turn to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for relief.


Acupuncture for anxiety

acupuncture for anxiety
Can acupuncture help you with anxiety? Photo by Dingzeyu Li/


Acupuncture is one of the most important components of TCM. While there is still a dearth of research on the subject, studies have found that acupuncture can potentially be helpful in dealing with anxiety. At worst, it will have no effect on your anxiety, but at least it can benefit you in other ways.


While acupuncture has not been scientifically proven to cure anxiety disorders, it does provide relief from the symptoms during the treatment. It can be an important component of a multi-part treatment plan to help cope with anxiety. If you for any reason can’t take medication for your anxiety, or if you’re struggling with therapy, acupuncture for anxiety can help you keep your fears and worries in check.


Acupuncture basics

TCM bases its techniques on principles that differ from the principles of Western medicine. For one thing, in TCM, treatments are based on the symptoms experienced by the individual. In Western medicine, however, treatments are based on the nature of the ailment itself.


Acupuncture and TCM are also based on the principle that a life force called qi (pronounced “chee”) governs our health and emotional well-being. Qi flows through different parts of the body along markers called meridians. When the flow of qi is disturbed or becomes concentrated around certain meridians, it can result in an illness.


The flow of qi can be corrected with the use of hair-thin needles that are inserted into specific acupuncture points. These needles stimulate these points and push the flow of qi back into its normal path.


How acupuncture helps with anxiety

Scientific research on acupuncture for anxiety is still limited, and the results are somewhat mixed. Some studies claim that acupuncture can indeed reduce the symptoms of people with generalized anxiety disorder. However, later studies also claim that the previous research had been designed poorly.


Still, a more recent study on rats concluded that there is a possibility that acupuncture may be able to affect a person’s fight-or-flight instinct. There is also evidence that acupuncture may be able to help reduce the body’s stress response by regulating the production of stress hormones and inducing the production of endorphins.


Even though the research on acupuncture for anxiety isn’t comprehensive yet, it does show promise. However, this doesn’t have to stop you from undergoing acupuncture, since there’s no evidence that the procedure could worsen anxiety. Thus, there is very low risk but there can also be significant reward.


acupuncture in Santa Barbara


Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture has been found to be generally safe, with very low risk of side effects. You may feel some tingling or a feeling of heaviness after a session. However, practitioners consider this to be a sign that the treatment is working.


Usually, when acupuncture has negative effects, it’s not related to the treatment itself. A possible side effect is due to the use of unsanitized needles, which can cause infections.  However, licensed and experienced acupuncturists take care to sanitize their needles. These needles are only used once and only on one patient.


At the Santa Barbara Herb Clinic, you won’t have to worry about infections or inexperienced practitioners. Our owner and Licensed Acupuncturist, Tram Pham, has a Master’s Degree in Chinese Medicine from Yo San University in Los Angeles. She also has years of experience with acupuncture and other practices in TCM. With her as your Acupuncturist, you’ll be in good hands.


Acupuncture at the Santa Barbara Herb Clinic

Dr. Jean Yu founded the Santa Barbara Herb Clinic in 1986. Since then, it has been providing the people of Santa Barbara with holistic and all-natural healthcare. Tram took over the clinic from its second long-time proprietor, the late Dr. Han, and has been continuing to provide the clinic’s services since then.


Interested in acupuncture for anxiety? You can call us at 805-563-0222 or email us at We are open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5:30pm. You can also have a consultation with Tram over the phone or via video call.