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About Acupuncture

If you're new to acupuncture, you might be wondering how it came about and why it's used. Acupuncture as a therapy aims to heal disease by inserting thin needles at certain points on the body. The first comprehensive written descriptions were compiled in a text called The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing) in around 200BC, but the ideas and techniques date back much further. 

Acupuncture and Qi

Central to ancient Chinese philosophy was the notion of Qi. It is a notoriously elusive concept to translate. It is both material and non-material, the stuff that everything is made of and the breath or force which animates it. Ideally it is in constant flow, moving and changing, dying and becoming. In a particular place and time, however, it can be too little, too much, or become stuck. 

Qi forms and moves the human body just as the rest of nature. According to Chinese medical theory it flows in the body in a complex system of channels or meridians, and it is these that the acupuncture needles access in order to regulate and boost the body’s qi and return it to health and balance.

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Acupuncture as part of Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture is part of a whole system of medicine in China. Chinese medicine also incorporates herbal medicine, massage (tui na), and a specific approach to diet and exercise. The medical theories and techniques are based on an astonishingly precise empirical observation of people, their bodies and their illnesses, and also place a strong emphasis on the connection of people to their wider world and its climates and seasons.

From Ancient China to the West now

Acupuncture has been in near constant use since the appearance of the Yellow Emperor’s Classic in 200BC. Over the centuries many different schools developed in China, with a healthy culture of debate and argument over ideas. 

After the Opium Wars in the 1840s and the subsequent British involvement in China, Chinese traditional medicine was however forced into the background. Mission hospitals were founded to fill the gap, staffed by European doctors; their quality was very variable. When Mao and the Chinese Communist Party came to power after World War II they reinstated Chinese medicine as an integral part of healthcare. 

As China began to open up to the West around the time of President Nixon’s visit in the 1970s, the ideas and skills of Chinese medicine quickly spread to the US and Europe and have become increasingly popular throughout the world ever since.


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