Herbal plaster treatment at acupuncture points can change gut microbiome structure

Application of a herbal paste to acupuncture points can change the bacterial community structure in the gut microbiota of healthy adults, and might thus be able to influence potential therapeutic targets for related diseases, reports a Chinese research group. Their study involved 72 healthy adults, who were randomly divided into two groups: Group A received traditional summer acupoint application treatment (SAAT, also known as ‘Sanfujiu’), while Group B received a placebo treatment. Adhesive SAAT plasters containing extracts from Yanhusuo (Rhizoma Corydalis), Semen Sinapis Albae (Bai Jie Zi), Gan Sui (Radix Euphorbiae) and Xi Xin (Herba Asari) were applied to Feishu BL-13, Geshu BL-17, Pishu BL-20, and Shenshu BL-23 acupoints. The placebo plasters contained an inert starch paste. All subjects received SAAT or sham treatment three times per year on the hottest days of summer, over two consecutive years. Fecal microbial analyses were performed via ribosomal ribonucleic acid sequencing on participants’ stool samples collected before and after two years of treatment. The results showed that no significant differences were present between the two groups at baseline, however, after treatment, the relative abundance of Firmicutes was significantly increased in both groups. The relative abundance of Fusobacteria was significantly decreased in the SAAT treatment group, while the abundance of Bacteroidetes was decreased significantly in the placebo group. At the genus level, the relative abundance of Faecalibacterium and Subdoligranulum species in both groups were significantly increased. Additionally, a significant reduction in the relative abundance of Blautia, Bacteroides, and Dorea in Group A and Eubacterium hallii and Anaerostipes in Group B was observed after treatment. The authors conclude that SAAT can substantially influence bacterial community structure in the gut microbiota of healthy Asian adults, providing a foundation for future studies aimed at elucidating the microbial mechanisms underlying SAAT for the treatment of various conditions such as obesity, insulin resistance, irritable bowel syndrome.

Effect of summer acupoint application treatment (SAAT) on gut microbiota in healthy Asian adults: A randomized controlled trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2023 Mar 3;102(9):e32951.