Adding acupuncture to regular medical care is an effective treatment for moderate to severe depression.

A large research study from Britain brings good news to those suffering from depression. If you have moderate to severe depression, the typical treatment may include antidepressants or painkillers. The trouble is, those medications may not be effective to reduce depressive symptoms. In an effort to find better ways to improve the lives of those struggling with this mood disorder, researchers found that adding acupuncture to the usual medical treatment provided more relief than just the usual medical treatment alone.

In this trial, three interventions similar to what a patient would experience in the real world were compared. The researchers wanted to see which of the treatments would be the most effective at reducing the symptoms of moderate to severe depression. Seven hundred fifty-five people who were receiving the regular medical treatment for depression were randomized into one of the following groups: 1) 302 people received the addition of acupuncture, 2) 302 received the addition of counseling, and 3) 102 received usual medical treatment alone. The usual medical treatment could include antidepressants or painkillers. Those who received the addition of acupuncture received up to 12 weekly acupuncture sessions based on their Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis by a qualified British acupuncturist. Those who received the addition of counseling also received up to 12 sessions by a qualified British counselor.

After three months of treatment, adding acupuncture to the usual medical treatment was more effective to reduce the symptoms of depression as measured on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Also of interest, the addition of acupuncture was just as effective in reducing depression symptoms as the addition of counseling to the usual medical treatment.

Why is this important? For those that have not had success with regular medical treatment or are seeking treatment alternatives, this study suggests acupuncture is an effective addition to usual medical care. Together, they manage the symptoms of moderate to severe depression at least as well as counseling added to usual care, but better than usual care alone.

How does acupuncture improve symptoms of depression? Moderate to severe depression is a complex disorder and can manifest in many ways.  It can also coexist with pain or other medical conditions. A primary manifestation of depression is feeling an abundance of sadness, anger, fear, worry, etc. In Chinese medicine theory, unbalanced and unresolved emotions can also be a cause of disease. An excess of these emotions was identified as a cause of imbalance and dysfunction in early Chinese medicine classical texts. When acupuncture is used, like it was in the study mentioned above, it can help resolve the emotional upset and encourage the body to return to an optimal state of function. It helps a person to become more emotionally resilient.

The exact mechanisms explaining how acupuncture works are not yet well understood. But, we do know that acupuncture can regulate the nervous system, brain, neurotransmitters and hormones, which may partially explain why some of these improvements occurred in the treatment of depression. While more research is needed to better understand how acupuncture can treat depression, this large study provides substantial evidence that acupuncture is a relevant and effective treatment for depression. If you or a loved one suffers from moderate to severe depression, consider adding acupuncture to your current depression treatment.

Guest Column by Lee Hullender Rubin, DAOM, LAc



1. MacPherson H, Richmond S, Bland M, Brealey S, Gabe R, et al. (2013) Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised Controlled Trial. PLoS Med 10(9): e1001518. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001518

Lee Hullender Rubin, DAOM, LAc is an acupuncturist, herbalist and clinical researcher specializing in reproductive medicine and pelvic/vulvar pain. She is a faculty member in OCOM's doctoral program. and has taught in the master’s program. She is currently funded by the National Vulvodynia Association to complete a feasibility pilot study to investigate acupuncture as a treatment for provoked, localized vulvodynia. She practices at the Portland Acupuncture Studio.


Student loan debt and the cost of higher education have been in the spotlight at a time when the United States economy continues its recovery from a protracted recession. The cost of higher education has doubled over the last 15 years, while the cost of living has gone up less than 50 percent during that same period.

The OCOM Board of Trustees has taken up this issue over the course of the last year, engaging in discussions with key faculty and college leaders. For the current academic year, OCOM instituted the smallest tuition increase — only 2.8 percent — in the history of our master's degree program. The Board of Trustees went a step further by voting to freeze tuition for the master's and doctoral programs for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Board Chair Peter Martin summarized the Board's judgment: "The cost of higher education has far outstripped inflation for years. OCOM is committed to finding new sources of revenue that complement our mission, while further reducing our dependence on tuition revenue."

Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) is pleased to announce that eight graduates of the college were named top “Complementary Medicine” medical professionals in the January Top Docs issue of Portland Monthly magazine. The list also includes OCOM co-founder Dr. Satya Ambrose, ND, LAc.

OCOM alumni recognized as top medical professionals in the category of “Acupuncture” were David Berkshire (‘01), Erik Isaacman (‘04), Oliver Leionetti (’04), Casey McGuire (’05), Bradley H. Whisnant (’07) and Daniel Delapp (’96). Additional OCOM graduates Regina Dehen (’95) and Justin Levy (‘08) were included in the “Naturopathy” and “Touch Therapy” categories, respectively. “We are very proud of our graduates,” said OCOM President Michael Gaeta, ”and are thrilled to see them acknowledged for the excellent patient care they provide to the Portland metro community.”

President Gaeta also thanked the magazine’s editors for their visionary inclusion of “complementary medicine” categories in the 2014 issue. “We applaud Portland Monthly’s decision to include acupuncturists and other complementary medicine providers for the first time in their annual Top Docs publication. We believe that doing so accurately reflects the growing recognition and use of acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) as an effective health care option — one suitable for any person seeking preventative, effective and affordable whole body care.”

Since its founding 30 year ago, OCOM has graduated more than 1,200 master’s and doctoral students with degrees in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. OCOM graduates serve a diverse community in Portland, across the U.S. and around the world, practicing in 44 states and seven countries. They have provided more than 10 million patient visits since 1983.

Studies show that acupuncture is effective for treating a number of conditions, and is increasingly utilized by patients seeking affordable, effective and preventative health care options. The National Institutes for Health’s (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) recognizes acupuncture as effective for specific conditions including chronic pain, low back pain, chronic stress and many other conditions. The most recent study by the NIH in 2007 indicates that more than three million people have used acupuncture to support their health; that number is estimated to nearly double by 2014, especially given acupuncture’s growing inclusion as a covered health benefit.

Founded in 1983, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) is a single-purpose professional graduate school that offers two specialized degree programs — Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MAcOM) and Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM).

OCOM was ranked the number one college in the nation in 2012 for earning a degree in acupuncture by based on the quality of faculty, success in training students, program comprehensiveness including research and doctoral degrees, and reputation for excellence over time. OCOM operates the largest Chinese herbal medicinary in the Pacific Northwest, and our two teaching clinics and student community clinic interns provides more than 20,000 patient visits each year.

In December 2013, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine welcomed Bill McCrae as Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

bill-mccraeBill McCrae brings over 30 years of financial management experience and leadership to OCOM. As CFO, he is responsible for the overall financial management of the college, including its financial reporting, accounting and business operations.

McCrae is one of the region’s most respected professionals in real estate development and financing. He most recently served as a member of Carroll Community Development, a real-estate firm that provides financial services to a variety of non-profit entities and educational institutions. Prior to joining OCOM, he played a leadership role at Carroll Investments in developing some of the largest condominium projects in Portland, Oregon including The Edge, The Elizabeth and The Eliot Tower. McCrae holds an MBA in finance from the Atkinson Graduate School of Management at Willamette University. A native Oregonian, he and his family live in southwest Portland.


What is prevention with regards to Oriental medicine? Diet, exercise, appropriate sleep, nontoxic food, water and air, happy relationships, spiritual connection… these are all essential to being optimally healthy. But how do we include them in our lives? I believe there are five important areas, with a special focus on diet and nutrition.

But first, we'll need to think about this: What are the illnesses in our society? Today, the most common illnesses are heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. Are they preventable? Yes indeed, they are preventable, and they are all effectively prevented by the same methods — through lifestyle.

Ideally, we need to start with creating healthy lifestyle process with women and men before they have children. If a woman or man is unhealthy when they conceive, there's more heart disease, diabetes and cancer in their child's future. Planning is important — thinking carefully about how one wants one's own life to go, as well as your child's life, is essential. So, where do we start prevention?

In the ancient Chinese medicine text, the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine, the emperor is told by his teacher that there are three levels of physician. The first level will treat the symptoms and heal 70 percent of patients. The second treats the disease and the cause and heals 80 percent of the patients. The highest level teaches "right life" and heals 90 percent of patients. With the idea of prevention, we are talking about the second two categories, removing the cause and living "right life."

Let’s start with the primary cause of disease in our society. In 1999, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) identified poor diet as the primary cause of disease in our country. In second, toxin exposure. If the incidence of cardiac problems, cancer, obesity, diabetes and other diseases are related to our diet, then how do we solve this problem? In the book, The China Study, data is presented that suggests strong relations exist between what we normally eat in the U.S. and the occurrence of these diseases. There is some controversy, but the base of the diet that we all agree about is fresh plants.

According to the China Study diet, to maximize your health one should:

  • Eat many types of vegetables. One-half to two-thirds of the plate should be plants. The plants should be raised from the traditional seeds, if possible, as they contain the most nutrients. Genetically modified foods are potentially irritating and damage our immune system, so I recommend avoiding them.
  • Eat lots of different types of unprocessed fruit. Fruit is a good dessert, in small amounts. Eating few refined carbohydrates is essential and, yes, that means to cut out eating candy and cakes.
  • Be careful with oils and raw organic nuts and seeds. Use primarily coconut, olive, organic, or sesame oils, or grass fed butter. Don't eat food that has been fried.
  • Eat less animal protein, including fish and eggs. Some people interpret this diet to mean one should avoid meats and dairy altogether (this last category is the one that is the most controversial). According to Paul Jaminet in The Perfect Health Diet, eating unprocessed whole foods with healthy free range organic meat, wild fish, organic free range eggs and poultry is the best. Different amounts work for different people. I think eggs and fish that are healthy should be primary foods, with occasional healthy red meat and poultry additions. Depending on the person, 1-3 servings per day is good, about the size of your palm.
  • Consider cutting back on carbohydrates, if the goal is to lose weight or have less fat.
  • Eat less and practice moderation. We don't need as much as we are eating. InThe China Study, and also in the Mediterranean diet, they eat much less than we do. This results in much less illness.

So, diet is a key to staying healthy, or the "prevention" of illness — but what else? Appropriate exercise is also a key.

What is “appropriate” exercise? I believe we should walk at least 30-60 minutes a day. We should stretch every day. We should lift weights every day. These exercises maintain our heart, our brain, immune system, our neurological system and helps us keep our weight down. We also need to do balance exercises. There are lots of ways to do so: taiji, qigong, yoga, dance, various exercise approaches. Whatever is chosen should be fun, enjoyable, and not dangerous.

Another key to health is detoxification. In our current climate of cultural experimentation with food, and with toxins in our air, water and living space, this is very important. I recommend saunas and herbs to help people detoxify, and to avoid chemicals whenever possible.

Relationships are also key to health and managing stress patterns. This is the psychosocial aspect of life that is so essential. People who visit with family and go to church of some sort, who have established and supportive communities, live longer. Working towards a healthy family and community is key to a healthy life.

I believe the fifth key to health is a spiritual belief system of some sort. Hope and optimism are essential for quality of life and longevity.

There are many herbs, acupuncture techniques and other Oriental medicine approaches that align us with our goals. But they do not take the place of a healthy lifestyle. Good health means healthy food, regular exercise, avoiding toxins, psychosocial health and healthy spiritual beliefs. So, take care of yourself, kiss your loved ones, dance frequently, eat well, stay clean, and don't forget to pray and laugh.

Guest Column by OCOM co-founder, Satya Ambrose, ND, LAc

T.C. Campbell and T.M. Campbell. The China Study. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, 2006.

Esselstyn, Jr., C. B. "Is the Present Therapy for Coronary Artery Disease the Radical Mastectomy of the Twenty-First Century?" The Amer. J. Cardiol. 106.6 (2010): 902-904.

Forks Over Knives, Dir. Lee Fulkerson. Based on the book The China Study by T.C. Campbell and T.M. Campbell. Monica Beach Media, 2010

In 2011, the Oregon Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (OAAOM), the state’s Chinese medicine professional and advocacy organization, launched an effort to overturn a ruling that allowed Oregon chiropractic physicians to perform acupuncture after only 24 hours of training. Sharing concerns for patient health and in support of upholding rigorous acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) educational standards for the practice of Chinese medicine, OCOM supported the association’s efforts to overturn the decision with a $10,000 donation.

On January 23, the OAAOM won their appeal — the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the Oregon Board of Chiropractic Examiners’ "dry needling" administrative rule enacted in 2011: "Dry needling is not within the practice of chiropractic...and the rule thus exceeds the scope of the board's statutory authority."

“With this conflict behind us, and looking ahead,” said association president Beth Howlett, “the OAAOM plans to work with chiropractic physicians, naturopathic physicians and others on non-discrimination under the Affordable Care Act. Now that professional boundaries have been clarified, we hope that there is a renewed effort on collaborative efforts across disciplines to assure patient access to all kinds of health care providers.”

Read more on the OAAOM website.

Read the full text of the decision.

On April 5, 2014, 200 community partners and supporters joined Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) at Montgomery Park for the 2014 Cherry Blossom Dinner and Awards. This second annual fundraising event honors the contributions of community leaders who are helping transform health care by advancing Chinese medicine, and raised more than $50,000 for 2014 the college’s annual fund.

OCOM trustee and Board Secretary Lisa Francolini served as master of ceremonies, introducing awardees and distinguished guests including Mayor Charlie Hales, Representative Jules Kopel Bailey, Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, PDC Board Chairman Scott Andrews, and PDC Executive Director Patrick Quinton.

Five community partners representing a diverse community of health care champions were honored at the dinner. The OCOM Alumni Association Scholarship was also awarded at the event.

2014 Community Partner in Healing Award
Kaiser Permanente
Since 2009, Kaiser Permanente’s Volunteer Gives fund has awarded OCOM a total of $60,000 to support expanding access to health care to low-income communities. Thanks to Kaiser’s support in 2009, 2011 and 2013, OCOM has been able to deliver $15 health care visits  to more than 500 low-income individuals in our intern teaching clinics. Their partnership has been instrumental in delivering much-needed care to a vulnerable population, and has supported OCOM clinics and students in providing accessible and effective health services to those who would otherwise be unable to afford care.

Michael Martinez, a patient who benefited from the Kaiser grant this year, introduced the award. Presenting sponsor The CHP Group CEO Michell Hay presented the award to OCOM physician and OCOM trustee Dr. Charles Elder.

2014 Legacy Award
City of Portland and Portland Development Commission
Offered for the first time this year, the Legacy Award was presented to Portland Mayor Charlie Hales by OCOM Board President Peter Martin.This award recognized the City of Portland and Portland Development Commission (PDC) for their instrumental role in OCOM’s 2012 move to Old Town Chinatown. Thanks to their support, OCOM was able to meet a strategic  vision of relocating to the heart of Portland to ensure the long-term success of the college.

2014 Partner in Healing Award
Brad Malsin
OCOM President Dr. Michael Gaeta presented the 2014 Individual Partner in Healing Award to Dr. Malsin in gratitude for his unwavering support for OCOM’s relocation to Old Town Chinatown, and for his continued support for the mission of the college. Thanks to Malsin’s help, OCOM was able to double its educational space in a beautifully restored LEED Gold building designed to better serve students, faculty, staff and clinic patients. The impact of the new campus has allowed OCOM to develop important community partnerships to help advance and ensure the profession of Chinese medicine for the future.

2014 Scholar Award
Hong Jin
Dr. Joseph Coletto, the 2013 awardee, presented the Scholar Award to Dr. Hong Jin, OCOM Chair of Oriental Medicine. Jin was selected to receive the 2014 Scholar Award due to her visionary leadership over the last 21 years. Her work to advance Chinese medicine through exemplary teaching, national and international leadership roles, and innovative research has made substantial positive  contributions to the field of Chinese medicine, as well as to the college.

A leader in the regional, national and international health care community, Dr. Hong Jin is a 1985 graduate of Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and a 2007 graduate of OCOM’s Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) program.

2014 Alumni Ambassador Award
Beth Howlett
Anna Lewis, OCOM Director of Admission, presented the 2014 Alumni Ambassador Award to Beth Howlett, who received the award due to her ongoing efforts to strengthen the statewide Chinese medicine professional organization, Oregon Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s (OAAOM).

As a former board member and now as president, Howlett helped increase membership while providing exceptional advocacy leadership at the state level, resulting in expanded Oregon Health Plan acupuncture benefits and a recent legal victory in the “dry needling” case, among others. This award also honors her work as a leader at OCOM as both a faculty and staff member, which has resulted in substantial, long-term contributions to the college’s outreach and community-building efforts.

OCOM Alumni Association President, Lara Dilkes, also presented a $1,500 scholarship award to current OCOM master’s student Patrick Gazzini. Gazzini is a second-year student and Vice President of the OCOM Student Association. He has a background in athletics and exercise physiology, with a BA in biology from Villanova University, and a master’s degree in health and human performance from McNeese State University.

OCOM thanks the many supporters, friends and community partners who made the 2014 Cherry Blossom Dinner and Awards a great success.

Founded in 1983, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) is a nonprofit single-purpose professional graduate school offering master’s and doctoral degrees in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Named the number one acupuncture college in 2012, OCOM’s mission is to transform health care by educating highly skilled and compassionate practitioners, providing exemplary patient care, and engaging in innovative research within a community of service and healing.