Monday, April 28, 2008

History of Acupuncture

In China, the practice of acupuncture can perhaps be traced as far back as the stone age, with the Bian shi, or sharpened stones. Stone acupuncture needles dating back to 3000 B.C. have been found by archeologists in Inner Mongolia. Clearer evidence exists from the 1st millennium BCE, and archeological evidence has been identified with the period of the Han dynasty (202 BC?220 AD). Forms of it are also described in the literature of traditional Korean medicine where it is called chimsul. It is also important in Kampo, the traditional medicine system of Japan.

Recent examinations of ?tzi, a 5,000-year-old mummy found in the Alps, have identified over 50 tattoos on his body, some of which are located on acupuncture points that would today be used to treat ailments ?tzi suffered from. Some scientists believe that this is evidence that practices similar to acupuncture were practiced elsewhere in Eurasia during the early bronze age. According to an article published in The Lancet by Dorfer et al., "We hypothesised that there might have been a medical system similar to acupuncture (Chinese Zhenjiu: needling and burning) that was practiced in Central Europe 5,200 years ago... A treatment modality similar to acupuncture thus appears to have been in use long before its previously known period of use in the medical tradition of ancient China. This raises the possibility of acupuncture having originated in the Eurasian continent at least 2000 years earlier than previously recognised.", .

Acupuncture's origins in China are uncertain. The earliest Chinese medical text that first describes acupuncture is the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (History of Acupuncture) Huangdi Neijing, which was compiled around 305?204 B.C. However, the Chinese medical texts (Ma-wang-tui graves, 68 BC) do not mention acupuncture. Some hieroglyphics have been found dating back to 1000 B.C. that may indicate an early use of acupuncture. Bian stones, sharp pointed rocks used to treat diseases in ancient times, have also been discovered in ruins; some scholars believe that the bloodletting for which these stones were likely used presages certain acupuncture techniques.

According to one legend,, acupuncture started in China when some soldiers who were wounded by arrows in battle experienced a relief of pain in other parts of the body, and consequently people started experimenting with arrows (and later needles) as therapy.

R.C. Crozier in the book Traditional medicine in modern China (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1968) says the early Chinese Communist Party expressed considerable antipathy towards classical forms of Chinese medicine, ridiculing it as superstitious, irrational and backward, and claiming that it conflicted with the Party’s dedication to science as the way of progress. Acupuncture was included in this criticism. Reversing this position, Communist Party Chairman Mao later said that "Chinese medicine and pharmacology are a great treasure house and efforts should be made to explore them and raise them to a higher level."

Representatives were sent out across China to collect information about the theories and practices of Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine is the formalized system of Chinese medicine that was created out of this effort. TCM combines the use of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tui na, and other modalities. After the Cultural Revolution, TCM instruction was incorporated into university medical curricula under the "Three Roads" policy, wherein TCM, biomedicine, and a synthesis of the two would all be encouraged and permitted to develop. After this time, forms of classical Chinese medicine other than TCM were outlawed, and some practitioners left China.

The first forms of acupuncture to reach the United States were brought by non-TCM practitioners -such as Chinese rail road workers- many employing styles that had been handed down in family lineages, or from master to apprentice (collectively known as "Classical Chinese Acupuncture").

In Vietnam, Dr. Van Nghi and colleagues used the classical Chinese medical texts and applied them in clinical conditions without reference to political screening. They rewrote the modern version: Trung E Hoc. Van Nghi was made the first President of the First World Congress of Chinese Medicine at Bejing in 1988 in recognition of his work.

In the 1970s, acupuncture became vogue in America after American visitors to China brought back firsthand reports of patients undergoing major surgery using acupuncture as their sole form of anesthesia. Since then, tens of thousands of treatments are now performed in this country each year for many types of conditions such as back pain, headaches, infertility, stress, and many other illnesses.