About Acupuncture

“One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions”

1997 NIH Consensus Development Conference

Acupuncture originated in China and has been in use there since at least 400 BC. It’s based on the concept that the body contains energy known as qi (pronounced "chee"). According to Chinese medicine, qi streams throughout the body in 12 main pathways or meridians, and hundreds of collaterals. Illness occurs when qi gets stuck or doesn’t flow smoothly. By stimulating with thin needles some of the 2,000 acupuncture points on the body’s meridians, the acupuncturist helps qi flow. In this country, the Food and Drug Administration regulates acupuncture needles as medical devices which must be sterilized and disposable.

Studies show that acupuncture triggers the release of chemicals that control pain. It also appears to affect blood flow, though scientists do not know why. Inserting acupuncture needles shallowly in the skin also stimulates the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain to secrete hormones. And acupuncture seems to increase the release of neurotransmitters, though the reason is not clear. The effects of such hormones and neurotransmitters include increased relaxation and reduced swelling.

It appears to improve hormonal balance and to reduce inappropriate inflammatory responses in the body. It also appears to improve digestive function, which helps the body to assimilate necessary nutrients. It seems to have an influence on the nervous system, and recent studies using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) show an immediate change in brain activity in patients receiving acupuncture.

More research will have to be done to explain how acupuncture works in western medical terms. Some good books about acupuncture are Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield, Efrem Korngold and The Web That Has No Weaver by Ted J. Kaptchuk. The Way of Chinese Herbs by Michael Tierra is a introduction to Chinese herbology.

“There is nothing that heaven does not embrace
There is nothing that earth does not nourish”
— Chuang Tzu 369-286 BC

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