Researchers suggest acupuncture promotes cardiac coherence.
A key determinant of overall health is cardiac coherence. This is a measure of coherent heart rate variability (HRV). According to the HeartMath organisation:
“HeartMath researchers have conducted numerous studies tracking people’s coherence levels by observing their heart-rhythm patterns. The research shows that the greater an individual’s level of coherence, the more efficient and harmonious the body’s cardiovascular, nervous, hormonal and immune systems function.”
Heart rate variability (HRV), the beat-to-beat fluctuation in cardiac rhythm, results from the regulation of the heart by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Low HRV is associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality and is a marker for a wide range of diseases. Coherent HRV patterns are associated with increased synchronisation between the two branches of the ANS, and when sustained for long periods of time result in increased synchronisation and entrainment between multiple body systems.
The authors propose that acupuncture may function by mediating global physiological regulation through improvement of HRV and synchronisation of the two branches of the ANS. This view, which is in alignment with systems biology and complexity theory, is also congruent with Chinese medical theory, which considers the Heart to be the ‘ruler’ of the internal organs. The authors suggest that future research into the mechanisms of acupuncture should focus on HRV and other systems-level markers of physiological function rather than on specific molecular markers that are more appropriate for investigating less complex interventions.
(Acupuncture and heart rate variability: a systems level approach to understanding mechanism. Explore (NY). 2012 Mar-Apr;8(2):99-106).