Traditional Chinese medicinal bleeding (blood-letting) for high blood pressure

Blood-letting might not sound like a modern treatment for high blood pressure, but this element of traditional Chinese medicine is starting to receive some feedback from up to date scientific research.

High blood pressure (hypertension)

High blood pressure is not ideal. Even if you’re not feeling any symptoms like headaches or blurred vision, it can be quietly doing damage in the background to your kidneys, heart and your risk of a stroke.

What does the research say?

Enough studies have been done on this question that researchers have been able to do systematic reviews and meta analyses, meaning studies of all the available studies, where they can pool the patient data and re-examine it.

“Although some positive findings were identified, no definite conclusions regarding the efficacy and safety of Blood Letting Therapy as complementary and alternative approach for treatment of hypertension [high blood pressure] could be drew due to the generally poor methodological design, significant heterogeneity, and insufficient clinical data. Further rigorously designed trials are warranted to confirm the results.”A 2019 systematic review and meta analysis of bloodletting for high blood pressure

“Bloodleting on ear apex as monotherapy or adjuvant therapy might have benefits in treating primary hypertension [high blood pressure]… However, since the number of studies included and the sample sizes were small, and the methodological quality was poor, these findings should be interpreted with great caution. Further well-designed studies need to be conducted to confirm these results.”A 2018 systematic review and meta analysis of bloodletting for high blood pressure

Basically, so far they seem to be concluding that although there have been some good signs in some studies, the evidence base is not yet clear, and further research, including more rigorous studies, will be needed to reach clear conclusions.

Traditional Chinese medicinal bleeding

People often have a few questions about what is involved in receiving traditional Chinese medicinal bleeding. This is a much milder treatment to receive than you may imagine! The best approach will be tailored to your individual diagnosis, circumstances and preferences, but often it can involve allowing just a few drops of blood to bleed from the top of your ear. In my clinic I use automated ‘click’ lancets for this, like the ones people with diabetes use to prick their fingers and test their blood. Generally people don’t find it painful at all, just a feeling of pressure.

Additionally, if you have superficial dark veins visible on your skin, for example on your legs, it may also be beneficial to bleed those a little. In traditional Chinese medical terms, this can release what is known as ‘stagnant’ blood, blood which has not been circulating properly and may be getting oxidised. (We never bleed raised/swollen varicose veins directly.) In any scenario though, we let your body decide how much blood it wants to release, and the quantities are always a fraction of, for example, making a blood donation.

Give it a try

If you’d like to see whether traditional Chinese medicinal bleeding may help your high blood pressure, just get in touch.


Chan-Young Kwon, Boram Lee, Ju Ah Lee, Efficacy and safety of bloodletting on ear apex for primary hypertension: A systematic review and meta-analysis,
European Journal of Integrative Medicine, Volume 23, 2018, Pages 90-100, ISSN 1876-3820,

Xiong, Xj., Wang, Pq. & Li, Sj. Blood-Letting Therapy for Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 25, 139–146 (2019).

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