Acupuncture comes from Latin and English words for “with a needle” and “puncture.” It dates back to the reign of China’s Yellow Emperor, Huangdi - beginning around 2700 BCE. Historians report a “dialogue” between the emperor and his physician Qi Bo that set the stage for the development of Chinese medicine. This collaboration produced the Huangdi Neijing, the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor, traditional Chinese medicine’s earliest book. The work is composed of two texts, each consisting of eighty-one chapters each, and has been the source of fundamental medical doctrine for over two millennia.
What it is and How it Works
Acupuncture is based on the belief that energy flow (qi) disruptions in the body cause disease. Its practitioners use fine needles to stimulate qi areas under the skin to restore flow through pathways that are known as meridians.
Dr. Ting Bao Explains
Dr. Ting Bao, an integrative medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York says, “Basically, you put the needle through specific points in the body and stimulate the nerve. The nerve sends signals to the brain, and the brain releases neural hormones such as beta-Endorphins. By doing that, the patient may feel euphoric, or happy, and this increases the pain threshold and they feel less pain.” (source: livescience.com)
Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine center around creating whole-body harmony, underscoring the yin-yang theory of balance between opposing forces. Health and wholeness inevitably follow the state of harmony, which is dispelled by negative, peripheral states of illness, disease, and internal decay.
The Ancient Healing Arts Allow the Body to Heal Itself
All of the ancient arts of healing allow the body to heal itself, using natural substances and treatments, without external interference. This is the opposite of what modern allopaths call medicine, instead they rely largely on drugs that primarily treat symptoms, and frequently prolong or even interfere with healing. Many times, however, they conceal the underlying disease.
Over the centuries, acupuncture has seen considerable change. Some practitioners more closely isolate puncture points and incorporate massage, special diets, and herbs into treatment plans.
In 1690 Dutch physician and botanist Willem Ten Rhijne became the first western doctor to describe acupuncture after observing its practice in Japan. Over a hundred years later, America and Britain saw a surge of interest in acupuncture.
Dr. William Osler
Although used as a part of the Chinese system of medicine since the 27th century BCE, acupuncture came to North America around the end of 19th century CE when a Canadian physician named Sir William Osler (1849–1919) used it to treat lower back pain. Osler wrote about the importance of taking a good medical history, saying, “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis.” Despite being known as the “Father of Modern Medicine”, it wasn’t until 1972 that acupuncture began to be widely known in the United States.
Coming to America
The popularity of acupuncture rose in the United States after an American journalist underwent an emergency appendectomy in Beijing, China in the 1970s. After that, U.S. doctors traveled to China to explore the value of acupuncture for its analgesic uses during surgery.
Westerners initially lost interest after concluding the practice was unreliable. However, curiosity grew over the next 30 years as chronic pain sufferers found little relief from conventional western medicine. Many felt that somehow there just had to be a better way.
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