Acupuncture History

Acupuncture History – a brief outline

How old is this ancient art?

Acupuncture history abounds with evidence to suggest it hass been used in the Far East for over 2,500 years although there is evidence to suggest it is much older. As far back as the Stone Age evidence of acupuncture type procedures have been noted. Bian stones and bone needles have been found in various parts of China which date back to the 21st – 16th centuries BCE. There is also evidence to suggest that acupuncture type therapies were used elsewhere in Eurasia as far back as 5,000 years ago. This evidence comes from the discovery of Otzi the iceman whose 5,000 year old body was discovered buried in the ice of the Italian Alps when it began to melt. The body bore small circular tattoos at various points which correspond to acupuncture points in use today.

The first acupuncture needles were made from sharpened stones and bone and then later, beginning in the 2nd century BCE (Han Dynasty), they were made from bronze, gold and silver. The earliest written record of acupuncture is the Chinese text Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian, 100 BCE) although the most widely read and accepted was the medical text Huangdi Neijing, written around 300 BCE (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic of Internal Medicine). This text describes the principles of natural law including the theories of yin and yang and the five element theory. It also describes an organ system and a meridian network with acupuncture points as well as details of many pathologies.

Acupuncture experienced a large decline in China from the end of the 16th Century in favour of herbs and in 1911 Western medicine arrived and acupuncture and herbal medicines were used much less. Chairman Mao Zhedung, however, realised that the majority of the population could not access western medicines and relied heavily on TCM, acupuncture and herbs and so acupuncture saw a resurgence in use and popularity. In 1950 Chairman Mao officially merged TCM and acupuncture with Western medicine and both are now practised side by side in Chinese hospitals.

Acupuncture did not arrive in the UK until the 1950’s although it had been introduced to the West by Jesuit priests who had picked up knowledge of it while working in China during the 17th Century.

Acupuncture in practice uses the technique of needle insertion into specific acupuncture points located on the meridians described above and then manipulation to increase the effect. Through the meridians a life force or qi (chi) runs and illness occurs if the flow in the meridians becomes blocked, hindered or stagnated or there is an invasion of external pathogens. Diagnosis in acupuncture depends on a detailed history of a patient’s presenting symptoms and examination of the pulse, tongue and face. It may also include palpation of channels and the abdomen. Treatment principles are to move and unblock qi, expel pathogens and to tonify and strengthen deficient organs and systems.

Auricular Acupuncture – History and facts

Ear acupuncture is thought to date back some 3,000 years although it is not well documented in China where it originated. Documentation of its use in Ancient Egypt, Greece and India has been found throughout history. Its most popular use during the ancient times was in the treatment of sciatica, cauterisation of wounds and as a contraceptive!

The ear can be considered a microsystem of the body in the same way as the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands (as in reflexology). The ear, however, is rather different in that areas of the ear represent the organs and body parts in the same arrangement as an upside down foetus, as shown in the diagram. It was in the 1950’s that the French Canadian, Dr Paul Nogier, developed a model of the ear based on an upside down foetus using techniques such as embryoloy and psychotherapeutic principles. His model was then improved and reproduced in China and is the model used today.

If there is pathology present in any organ the corresponding area on the ear is often tender to touch. Hence, the ear can be used as an indication that an organ or body area may require treatment. Similarly, when the organ/body area recovers it is often noted that any tenderness disappears.

Modern Uses of Auricular Acupuncture

Detoxification: It was first noted in the 1970’s that ear acupuncture helped stop cravings due to drug use. It was in a Hong Kong hospital that a young drug addict received ear acupuncture as part of a general anaesthetic. After needling the ear the patient found that he no longer felt any cravings. Further research carried out at the Lincoln Memorial Hospital, New York resulted in the Acudetox program which uses 5 specific ear points. The acudetox program is used in many drug rehabilitation clinics today and is known as the NADA protocol and the NADA (National Auricular Detoxification Association) was formed in the US in 1985 and in 1991 in the UK.

See our treatment page for a range of illnesses that can be helped with auricular (ear) acupuncture.