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Acupuncture history

In this article, we will travel through the history of acupuncture to learn how it came to be a common medical practice today.

Acupuncture was first mentioned in China during the time of the yellow emperor Huang Di (黃帝) 2698–2598 BCE. He was the author of the oldest medical work in the world, Nei Jing. Chinese medicine and modern acupuncture is based on a copy of this oldest medical bible from the year 475.

Japan was the second country to accept acupuncture as a scientific method of treatment. This method was brought by Japanese doctors who completed their education in China in the 5th century BC. After Japan, other countries in the Far East began to apply this technique, as well.

In Europe, acupuncture has been practiced since the 17th century. In 1680, the first medical description of acupuncture was recorded by Dutch physician Willem Ten Rhijne. During his work for the East India Company, he went to Japan and there encountered the practice of acupuncture for first time.

The first scientific dissertation dealing with the treatment of rheumatic arthritis was defended in London in 1682.

It is believed that Dr. Franklin Baché, great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, introduced acupuncture to US during the 1800s. He first encountered acupuncture in France during his vacation where the practice intrigued him. After his return to America, he spent a great deal of his professional life in analyzing, researching, and spreading this medical way of healing.

In 1822 the term "acupuncture" is mentioned for the first time in the medical literature of the United States.

The famous French internist and neurologist, Trouseau, examined acupuncture through his work practice and left behind experiences in its practical application. His expert reports, dating from 1830, do not lose their significance, even today.

1912. Acupuncture is recognized in Western medicine thanks to a medical publication. Renowned physician Sir William Osler described how acupuncture relieves back pain.

A great scientific contribution to acupuncture was made by French diplomat George Soulié de Morant, who work in China in the beginning of 20th century. He dedicated himself to the study of acupuncture. After arriving in France in 1928, he published his major work, Chinese Acupuncture. Shortly afterwards, he received the status of academician at the French Academy of Sciences, after which he was nominated for the Nobel Prize.

1941. The International Acupuncture Society in Paris was established in Europe. Starting this year, Europe began to take a more serious stance on acupuncture.

1971. American interest in acupuncture grows after a member of the American press received this treatment in China. The experience was described in the New York Times, which prompted American doctors to travel to China to evaluate acupuncture. In the following years, multiple case reports emerged where therapeutic success was obtained after using acupuncture.

1979. In June, the World Health Organization held a symposium in Beijing on acupuncture. At this meeting, acupuncture was introduced as a treatment for 43 diseases. This meeting led to a subsequent meeting in Manila.

1984. The World Health Organization held a regional consultation meeting on the standardization of acupuncture nomenclature. Starting this year, the standard nomenclature used for acupuncture was established. In addition, the WHO officially accepted acupuncture as a method of healing. As the effectiveness of acupuncture was demonstrated, so did scientific research on its application. This led to the demonstration of its effectiveness in the management of pain, nausea, headache, and other ailments.

1987. The third regional working group of the World Health Organization is held on the normalization of the acupuncture nomenclature. The meeting is held in June in Seoul.

1997. At a consensus conference of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), positive evidence about the effectiveness of acupuncture is reported. This formally recognized acupuncture as a treatment for pain relief, chemotherapy, and postoperative nausea, as well as morning sickness. Its treatment in asthma, stroke rehabilitation, and fibromyalgia were also recognized. Additionally, the NIH recommended teaching acupuncture in medical schools.

In the following years, different studies were carried out focused on confirming the effectiveness of acupuncture. Since 1980, through a series of international scientific meetings of the World Health Organization, the terminology and location of acupuncture points have been standardized and regulated.

What is acupuncture?

  Acupuncture is an ancient form of traditional Asian healthcare system, where pain and illness are seen as signs of bodily misbalance. This disbalance occurs when emotional, mental, and physical aspects of life are in disharmonious relationship. The focus of acupuncture is to restore the body’s equilibrium. Traditional acupuncturists describe acupuncture as a procedure that restores natural energy (Qi) that flows through the body and is responsible for overall health. Any disruption of this energy can cause illness and pain.

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