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Acupuncture is an ancient practice of the East with a long history, which has been incorporated into modern Western use, and has been met with mixed reviews by the public and scientific communities.
The History of Acupuncture
The Origins of Acupuncture
Early tools and methods
Evolution of Acupuncture
F. Development of schools and comprehensive Texts
Eastern Medicine Meets the Modern West
Medical Missionaries to China
Adoption of Western Practice
The Decline of Acupuncture
Communist Support for Acupuncture
Regrowth and new methods
Acupuncture in Use Today
FDA Approved Needles
Universities and Physicians
New variations on Acupuncture
E. Why Western Medicine Fails
Arguments Against Acupuncture
A. The skeptics
C. How to avoid Risks
Scientific Proof and Conclusion
A. Studies have varying conclusions
B. Remains widely used by prestigious medical institutions and private practitioners
C. Acupuncture makes people feel better, therefore it works
Although there is a great deal of controversy surrounding alternative forms of healing today, many forms of natural or complimentary medical treatments seem to be more popular today than any time in recent centuries. There has been particular influence from the East invading the American medical system and changing the assumptions of many patients about where treatment and relief can be found. Chinese herbs and philosophy alike have become standard sale items at specialty shops, malls, and drug stores, and they have been used to lure in feeble minded consumers for the sake of a dollar, as well as providing real hope and sincere assistance to faithful users. Among the products and services developed from Eastern healing beliefs now available regularly in America is acupuncture. As one acupuncture practitioner states, " You've probably already seen acupuncture features on a television show or in a newspaper or magazine article. I'm encouraged to see it's even made it into the comic strips! It tells me that acupuncture has become part of our culture." (Sollars, 4) Acupuncture is an ancient system of diagnosis and treatment that could possibly be administered for almost any physical or mental ailment, because it is based on the theories about energy flow through the body. While the similar practice of acupressure is performed using a form of massage to clear the energy channels or meridians which may be "clogged" within the body at certain pressure points, acupuncture is met with a stronger resistance from many people because it is performed using needles. Needles are inserted into the skin at specific locations depending on the symptoms. While some people swear to the miracle of this system, others are more than skeptical of its medical benefits. Acupuncture is an ancient practice of the East with a long history, which has been incorporated into modern Western use, and has been met with mixed reviews by the public and scientific communities.
The term "acupuncture" itself is only a few hundred years old, but the practice is much older. Meaning "needle puncture," a Dutch physician in the seventeenth century coined the term for the medical practice he witnessed on a trip to Nagasaki, Japan. The Chinese, on the other hand, refer to this practice as "to prick with a needle," represented by the character Chen. (Lewith) It is clear from historical records that the practice of acupuncture is at least two thousand years old, having existed for the entirety of the Common Era, however many historians believe it has actually been a part of Chinese medicine for around four thousand years. In fact, other historians have found evidence that acupuncture may have been practiced even five thousand years ago, originating in Egypt and Saudi Arabia before spreading to China and elsewhere. Although Chinese acupuncture "purists" will adamantly argue that acupuncture originated within the Orient, not Egypt, no historians claim that any other culture has done more for the development of the practice of acupuncture over time, or so far as introducing it to the world.
The origins of acupuncture are probably the stone-age practice of using a knife made of a sharpened stone to puncture and drain abscesses. Most likely, it was developed the most during wartime. The sharp tools that would have been used for this purpose during the stone age are represented by the Chinese character Bian. "the Chinese character 'Bian' means the 'use of a sharp edged stone to treat disease', and the modern Chinese character 'Bi', representing a disease of pain, is almost certainly derived from the use of 'Bian stones' for the treatment of painful complaints." (Lewith) The earliest document regarding acupuncture that is known today is the Nei Ching Su Wen, also known as "The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine," or "The Canon of Medicine." The book had two sections, one for the simple questions, and one for the more complicated ones. The format of the book is reminiscent of that used by many philosophers, utilizing a dialogue between characters to present medical information and philosophical thought. The section of simple questions features the Yellow Emperor and two other characters. "The Nei Ching Su Wen is timeless and deals almost exclusively with philosophical concepts, many of which seem to be as important today as they were 2,000 years ago." (Lewith) The concepts of the Yin and Yang, certain numbers, and others are vital to Chinese medicine, but have no place in Western healing. The Warring States period is one during which a great deal of advancements in acupuncture were made in Chinese medicine, led by the philosophical movements of Taoism and Confucianism. Confucianism taught that the entire body is sacred and should remain intact, inhibiting the use of surgery. "Acupuncture and related methods were the logical answer to this constraint, as they were able to cure internal disease with external means." (Lewith) For Taoists, health is focused on balance, and therefore acupuncture, which is used to balance energy, was also logical.
Bian stones used for lancing evolved into needles made of stone, metal, and pottery. There are nine specific shapes which developed for the acupuncture needle. "The 'nine needles' comprised the arrowhead needle for superficial pricking, the round needle for massaging, the blunt needle for knocking or pressing, the three edged needle for puncturing a vein, the sword-like needle for draining abscesses, the sharp round needle for rapid pricking, the filliform needle, the long needle for thick muscles and the large needle for puncturing painful joints." (Lewith) Many of these needles have now evolved into other tools, such as the sword needle which has been replaced by the surgical scalpel. The original set of needles has been found intact in tombs of royalty from over 2100 years ago.
Another element, other than needles, which has been used in acupuncture therapy throughout time is moxibustion, the burning of the herb moxa on the skin in the same pressure points used for needle insertion. This term means "to scar with a burning object" although no scarring is involved. This actually developed separately from acupuncture, but over time it has become entwined with acupuncture therapy to the degree that it is important to mention. "Moxa can be used in a variety of ways. Loose moxa is made into a cone and burnt on the skin, the cone then being removed when it is half burnt, to avoid blistering. It may also be burnt on ginger or garlic so that the skin is isolated from extreme heat, or a moxa stick may be used and burnt a centimeter or two away from the skin." (Lewith)
Originally, acupuncture was performed without predetermined locations for application, but as it developed, the most effective areas were identified and recorded. The energy flow systems were mapped out and different points for different ailments discovered. When the first medical college was formed in China, during the Sui dynasty (561-618 AD), a number of texts and a great deal of knowledge was already established about acupuncture. Formal training was provided in acupuncture, as well as needle craftsmanship, and other herbal and medical arts. Training was done in a master-to-apprentice style, unlike formal medical colleges today. Later, during the Tang dynasty, acupuncture would continue to flourish and the Thousand Golden Remedies, another important text on acupuncture, was written with color charts and great detail about where the acupuncture points are. Books were also being printed in limited quantities during this time, using carved stone for printing blocks. However, many texts were being copied by hand by calligraphers rather than those who were medically trained, so there is a lot of confusion from some of the medical texts of this time. In the eleventh century, a somewhat comprehensive text was finally compiled by Wei-yi, including text and illustrations. He also had models of the human body made for practicing acupuncture. These were both incredible teaching tools. Acupuncture was encouraged to continue during the industrial revolution of the Ming dynasty, and Li Shih-chen wrote a treatise on the Eight Extra Channels, and Kao Wu released a summary of all previous writings on acupuncture and moxibustion. 'Yang Chi-chou edited the Compendium of…[continue]
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