Biliary colic was placed among the group of diseases in which acupuncture efficacy was proven in a WHO report from 2003(source)1. Similarly, in his review from 1999 David Diehl considered the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of biliary colic as “definite”(source)2. Unfortunately both reviews are based mostly on Chinese trials, frequently performed without proper randomisation, or even without control group. Conclusions from those trials must be treated with caution.
The low of bile from gall bladder to the duodenum depends on the tension of Oddi’s sphincter. Regulation of its motility is achieved through the cooperation of nerves, neurotransmitters (e.g. nitric oxide) and gastro-intestinal hormones like cholecystokinin, or Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide. In recent immunohistochemical trial acupuncture was shown to be beneficial for Oddi’s sphincter motility causing the increase of distribution of cell containing cholecystokinin and VIP in the area of duodenum ond the Oddi’s sphincter(source)3.
1 World Health Organization, “Acupuncture: review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials,” 1–87, 2003.
2 Diehl DL. “Acupuncture for gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary disorders.” J Altern Complement Med. 1999 Feb;5(1):27-45.
3 Kuo, Y,L, Chiu, J-H, Lin. J-G, Hsich, C-L, Wu. C-W. „Localization of Cholecystokinin and Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide in Lower Biliary Tract in Cats Following Electroacupuncture on Right Qimen (LR14) and Riyue (GB 24): an Immunohistochemistry Study” Acupuncture & Electro-therapeutisc Res, INT J,. Vol 30, pp, 15-25, 2005