EA at P 5–6 and S 36–37 using low current and low frequency may be able to reduce elevated blood pressure in a subset of patients (~70%) with mild to moderate hypertension. The effect is slow in onset but is long-lasting. Experimental studies have shown that EA inhibition of cardiovascular sympathetic neurons that have been activated through visceral reflex stimulation is through activation of neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, vlPAG in the midbrain and NRP in the medulla, which, in turn, inhibit the activity of premotor sympathetic neurons in the rVLM. The arcuate also provides direct projections to the rVLM that contain endorphins. Glutamate, acetylcholine, opioids, GABA, nociceptin, serotonin and endocannabinoids all appear to participate in the EA hypotensive response although their importance varies between nuclei. Thus, a number of mechanisms underlying the long-lasting effect of EA on cardiovascular function have been identified but clearly further investigation is warranted.
Keywords: Hypertension, Arcuate nucleus, Ventrolateral periaqueduct gray, Rostral ventrolateral medulla, Glutamate, Endorphins, Enkephalin, GABA, 5-HT