A Short History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used by the Chinese and other East Asian cultures as a system of healing for over 2500 years. Originally, needles were fashioned from stone or bone because these were available and could be fashioned into ‘needles’. These early implements are known as bian and are the origin of the acupuncture treatments used today. Eventually, needles made of bronze and iron were substituted for the stone and today, stainless steel is the most common form of needle.

The first written medical account of acupuncture is found in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, entitled  “The Nei Jing”. It was compiled around 305-204 B.C. and consists of two parts. The second part, The Ling Shu – Miraculous Pivot, Spiritual Axis, mainly focused on acupuncture and moxabustion, describing the meridians, their relation to the organs, needle types, functions of the acupuncture points, types of Qi, needling techniques, and the location of 160 points.

Acupuncture became more familiar to the Western world in the early 1900s in France. From there, it gradually spread to other European countries. Up until the early 1970s, most Americans had never heard of acupuncture. That all changed with Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972.  A reporter from The New York Times, James Reston, was traveling with Nixon. While in China, Reston had to undergo an emergency appendectomy. Following the surgery, he received acupuncture. Reston was so impressed with the post-operative pain relief he experienced from the procedure that he wrote about acupuncture upon returning to the United States. He was responsible, in great part, for finally informing America about this amazing medicine!

The first clinic, the Acupuncture Center of Washington, opened in 1972 and now there are several thousand practitioners all over the country as well as hundreds of clinical studies showing the benefits of acupuncture.

Comments 3

  1. Did the ancient chinese ever use Bamboo to fashion acupuncture needles. I heard they did when they would insert a bamboo needle and sit and meditate on the flow of chi direction and the sensations they felt.

  2. I heard that the ancient chinese used bamboo needles when they were mapping the acup points. After inserting the bamboo needle they would sit and meditate on the direction of the chi flow and the sensations in the body along the pathway.

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