We can’t talk about the histories of various alternative therapies, without mentioning acupuncture. It is one of the oldest known medical treatments. In fact, according to many, the only types of treatment that seems to have predated it are herbal medicine and some types of bodywork therapies (massage type). In China, there is evidence that goes as far back as from 4,000 to 10,000 years ago showing that acupuncture type needles were used. Now, they were more primitive and made out of primitive materials, but they were there, none the less, and were being used in what seems like the same way as they are being used in the present! Now acupuncture is one of the most popular alternative therapies in the world. It is one of the most accepted and respected as well. In fact, there are many places in the West, the USA included, where acupuncture is practiced almost everywhere, and is no longer considered an obscure treatment. Even here in Kuwait, there is an entire branch of a government-run (ministry of health) hospital devoted to nothing else but Traditional Chinese Medicine, near the Shuwaikh industrial area, and there are countless privately run clinics where qualified Chinese practitioners treat people
Historically, acupuncture can be traced all the way back to the New Chinese Stone Age. There have been many examples of stone acupuncture needles, called “bian” (meaning the use of a sharp edged tool to treat disease), dated from this time that have been found. There are differing accounts as to how it all came about though.
Chinese medicine is all based on the idea of the natural flow of bodily energy. When the natural flow of this energy is hindered in any way, the body becomes diseased, and when the energy is flowing properly, the body is healthy. This concept came from the religion of the Tao, the history of which goes back beyond 8,000 years ago. While meditating, the Taoists would note the flow of energy between their own bodies and the universal energy. The most notable wise man of that time in Chinese history was a man called Fu Hsi, who lived in the Yellow River area of China. It is said that he is the first person to notate the idea of Yin and Yang (which stands for the eternal dance of good and evil, light and dark, black and white, male and female, cold and hot, heavy and light, etc). This was the basis for the I-Ching, which was and still is the foundation point of Chinese medicine, Feng Shui (another healing art, dealing with the healing of places), Chinese astrology, and more.
In hieroglyphs dating from about 1000 BC (Shang Dynasty), the use of acupuncture (and Moxibustion, which is a treatment using burning cones of herbal material) was noted, as well as the discovery of bronze needles also dating from that time period.
Previously, in the time of the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) (in around 2600 BC), a dialog is said to have taken place between the emperor and his physician, and this conversation became the basis of a perhaps the greatest written medical work in all of Chinese history, “Nei Jing” or the “Classic of Internal Medicine” (which was only compiled later, between 200-300 BC). This great work consisted of two important sections. One called the “Su Wen” which consisted of medical information such as the etiology, treatment, and prevention of disease, kinds of pathology, anatomy and physiology, and more. The other called “Ling Shu” which consisted of information about the meridians (zones) of the body, bodily energy and energy points, types of needles, needle techniques, and more.
Later on, in the period of the Warren States Era (from around the 200 years preceding 221 BC), metal needles formally replaced the stone needles that had been used for thousands of years. Gold and silver needles that were found in an excavation of a tomb have been dated from that era. From the same time period at least three important works on medicine were written, one on the various types of acupuncture needles, another about the most important medical practitioners of that time, and the third about medical theory.
Over the centuries the Chinese practice of acupuncture has been honed to an exact science, and there have been many, many important volumes written on the subject over the years, as the practice was perfected. Although the practice of acupuncture has changed somewhat over the literally thousands of years of its history, it is still based on the original ancient concepts. Acupuncture is still an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and is taught right alongside what is considered to be “conventional” medicine in China, although it was discouraged from the 1600’s, and was practically stamped out in the early 1900’s. Luckily though, practitioners continued to practice the art of acupuncture either secretly or unofficially, until its place was restored by Mao Zedong in around 1950, when it began to be practiced side by side with the so-called “allopathic” medicine that had taken over in China for several decades.
Presently, in China, as well as the rest of the world, acupuncture and the other corresponding Chinese medical treatments that go along with it, are being practiced with fervor. There are thousands of practitioners of TCM who are experts in acupuncture who have never been to China before, and there are schools of acupuncture and TCM sprouting up everywhere in the world now, particularly in the Americas and Europe.
The history of acupuncture is long, and over the thousands of years of its practice, the efficacy of the treatment has never been doubted. The practice of acupuncture is much the same today as it was then, with only minor changes or perfections having taken place over all the years of its history, making acupuncture one of the oldest medical treatments in the history of the world.