They say that acupuncture offers "far more than the placebo effect"—in other words, its benefits are real and not just imagined—and makes conventional medication far more effective across a range of health problems, from chronic pain, osteoarthritis, headaches and migraine.
People who use acupuncture alongside their medication are seeing a significant lowering of pain and enhanced movement if they have osteoarthritis, so much so, in fact, that many have reduced or stopped the anti-inflammatory drugs they were taking, say researchers from the UK's University of York.
It also works for people with depression. Combining acupuncture with counselling lowered the severity of depressive episodes, a benefit that continued for a year after treatment stopped.
It's a new way to treat a condition that is only partially helped by antidepressants, which are effective in only half of cases, says the study's head researcher Hugh MacPherson.
The researchers looked at 29 high-quality clinical trials that had featured acupuncture as part of the treatment, and compared the results with those where conventional therapies were exclusively used.
Acupuncture has been dismissed as a placebo treatment, but its benefits are far beyond anything that has been achieved by 'sham acupuncture', where the needles are put in the wrong places around the body, the researchers say.
Not only are its benefits real, it's a cost-effective option that can relieve a range of chronic conditions for which conventional medicine has only limited answers.