Evidence pooled together in a systematic review has shown that acupuncture plus moxibustion is safe and effective for the treatment of acne, and possibly better than routine western medicine.(Li 2009) (see Table below) In one randomised controlled trial, acupuncture treatment of moderate acne vulgaris was associated with reduction of inflammatory lesions and improvement of the quality of life, but there was no non-acupuncture control for comparison (Son 2010). In another, adding warming moxibustion to a baseline acupuncture treatment improved the outcomes similarly to that of adding the drug isotretinoin(Mi 2010). Finally, one trial found body acupuncture to have some effect in the treatment of acne vulgaris, and that the addition of laser auricular irradiation may improve efficacy (Lihong 2006). There is very little research on acupuncture and acne outside of China. Most of the trials to date are of low quality and the conclusions of the systematic review should be viewed in that light.
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body's homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress (Hui 2010)
Acupuncture may help to treat acne through one or more of the following general mechanisms, but as yet we have no specific information from studies on people with acne:
- reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007);
- enhancing natural killer cell activities and modulating the number and ratio of immune cell types (Kawakita 2008);
- increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling;
(Article from the British Acupuncture Council website)