Acupuncture is a medical procedure of inserting and manipulating needles into various parts of the body. The aim of acupuncture is to relieve pain or treat a present medical condition. There are many variations of acupuncture practiced throughout the world but it is still controversial among medical researchers and experts. The World Health Organization and the United States' National Institutes of Health approve medical use of acupuncture in the treatment of neurological conditions and pain.
Brief history of acupuncture
Acupuncture is very old procedure, dating for about 2000 years. There is some evidence it has been practiced in China for about 4000 years, but these origins are uncertain. According to some researchers, the practice of acupuncture in China can be traced back to the Stone Age when the primitive sharp stones were being used and later replaced by fish bones, bamboo clips and various metal shapes and needles. The Chinese refer to the acupuncture by the character 'Chen', which literally means 'to prick with a needle'.
The oldest records of acupuncture are found in the Shiji, also known as the Records of the Grand Historian. The first known Chinese text that deals with acupuncture is the Nei Ching Su Wen, dating from around 305-204 B.C. This book is also known as Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, or the Canon of Medicine. The book is divided into two sections. The initial text, a discussion between the Yellow Emperor, Huang Ti, and his Minister, Ch'i Pai, deals with the philosophical basis of traditional Chinese medicine. The second section, known as The Ling Shu, deals with the acupuncture and explains acupuncture points and techniques of using needles.
At some point in the Warren States Era (421-221 B.C.) the stones used for acupuncture were replaced with metal needles that were initially made of bronze, gold or silver.
Acupuncture spread from China to Korea, Japan and Vietnam and other parts in East Asia. Between the Han Dynasty and the Song Dynasty, around 90 different works about acupuncture were written in china. There is a bronze statuette with the meridians and acupuncture points, which was made in 1023. In those times, acupuncture was still considered a technique rather than a real medical science.
Acupuncture in the modern era
Acupuncture was brought to the West by Portuguese missionaries. The first European text on acupuncture was written by Willem ten Rhijne, a Dutch physician. Rhijne studied acupuncture for two years in Japan. In China, the practice was live only among the lower-classes and illiterate practitioners, and it started to decline. In 1822, acupuncture practice and teaching were banned in China but the Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong rehabilitated acupuncture in the early years of the Chinese Civil War. The ancient technique gained popularity in the United States when the American President Nixon visited China in 1972, together with a reporter James Reston, who wrote about his personal experiences with acupuncture in The New York Times. Since then, acupuncture raises interests as a form of alternative medicine.