Additional value of auricular intradermal acupuncture alongside selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: a single-blinded, randomized, sham-controlled preliminary clinical study

Hong Wang, Xiao Ru Liu, Xiao Jing Wu, Ti Zhen He, Dan Miao, Jin Feng Jiang, Hui Fen Qiao, Wing Fai Yeung, Zhi Ling Sun

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background: To evaluate the antidepressant effects of auricular intradermal acupuncture (AIA) of areas innervated by both the auricular branch of the vagus nerve and the trigeminal nerve. 

Methods: Forty-nine patients with depression were randomly allocated into an AIA group (n = 25) and a sham AIA group (n = 24). Both groups received selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as conventional treatment. The AIA group received AIA stimulation, and the sham AIA group received sham AIA, which constituted being subjected to an attached needle that did not penetrate the skin. The needles were retained for 4 h each session, with five sessions a week for a total duration of 2 weeks. The outcomes were assessed by the 17-item Hamilton depression rating scale (HAMD-17), five factors (sleep disorder, retardation, cognitive dysfunction, anxiety/somatization, and weight) and self-rating depression scale (SDS) at weeks 0, 1, and 2. 

Results: Fifty-four patients were randomly assigned to the AIA (n = 27) and sham AIA group (n = 27), of whom 25 patients in the AIA and 24 patients in the sham AIA group were analyzed. AIA-treated patients displayed a significantly greater reduction from baseline in HAMD-17 scores (p = 0.03) and SDS scores (p = 0.02) at week 2 compared to patients receiving sham AIA. The AIA intervention also produced a higher rate of clinically significant responses in sleep disorders (p = 0.07) compared to sham AIA. No adverse events occurred in either group. 

Conclusion: According to the findings of this preliminary study, AIA appears to have additional value compared to SSRIs alone in treating patients with depressive disorder.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAcupuncture in Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Mar 2021


  • auricular intradermal acupuncture
  • depression
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • trigeminal nerve
  • vagus nerve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this