History of acupuncture

The Chinese love to point out the legendary origins of many aspects of their culture and science, and this is also the case with acupuncture. According to legend, many thousands of years ago, one of the emperor’s subjects suffered from terrible headaches. One day he hit a stone with his foot and, surprisingly, the headache subsided. Since then, everyone with a headache hit the same spot on the foot. As the method was quite drastic, the emperor ordered the stone to be replaced with needles. And so, according to the Chinese, acupuncture was born.

We can find further references to this method of dealing with pain in the times of the legendary Yellow Emperor. During his reign, a book was created in which the organs were divided into groups and it was indicated that they interacted with each other. The causes of diseases are also described, namely the effects of cold, heat, wind and moisture on the body. However, it should be noted that other nations also claim the priority of discovering acupuncture. They are Koreans and people from Nepal and Tibet.

However, the oldest written source on acupuncture is from the Warring States era (474/5 to 221 BC). It is the treatise “Nature and Life”. We find in it the most important theories about this method, incl. description of needles, meridians, location of acupuncture points, insertion techniques and contraindications. Excavations and research prove that acupuncture was popular as early as 1000 BC

Important for the development of acupuncture was physician Hua Tuo (141 – 205 AD). He can be called the ancestor of Chinese surgery, he also created a special type of gymnastic exercises. The creator of the 12-volume book on acupuncture was Huangfu Mi (215 – 282), who accurately placed 649 points, described the puncture techniques and gave the basics of Chinese diagnostics, writing about the pulse test.

Acupuncture evolved into an independent medical specialty during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and a separate medical department was established to teach this method. Previously, acupuncture was family knowledge, passed down in clans. In 1027, bronze figures were cast, on which acupuncture points and meridians were marked. Nowadays, you can buy similar miniature models made of plastic. Doctor Wang Wei Yin also wrote acupuncture textbooks that have served medical students for centuries.

During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), new works were created, in one of them we can find engravings of 9 types of needles. However, the good period of acupuncture ends when the Manchurians (1644-1912) take power. The method was considered primitive and officially banned. Doctors began training in the Western fashion and fought against “outdated” techniques, which was also recognized as acupuncture.

It was not until 1949, when the communists came to power, that acupuncture returned to favor. The Central Institute of Traditional Medicine was established in Beijing, and similar began in other cities. This method was developed by combining it with modern technological achievements.

Acupuncture today

Currently, acupuncture is widely used not only in Chinese clinics and hospitals, but also in other Asian and Western countries. It came to Europe in the 13th century. The father of European acupuncture is Michał Boym, a Polish Jesuit who emigrated to China and died there. Intrigued by acupuncture, he studied it, described it, and translated Chinese works. At first, acupuncture spread to the Netherlands, Italy, England and Russia.

The acupuncture boom broke out in the US after Nixon’s visit to China. During the visit, one of the journalists accompanying the American president fell ill and had to be operated on. Instead of anesthesia, an effective anesthetic acupuncture treatment was performed on it, thus making a great advertisement for this method.

It is worth noting that acupuncture has been recognized as a therapeutic method by the WHO and is widely used in many Asian and European countries, America and Australia.

Based: Acupuncture treatment, dr n. med. H. Operacz, PZWL Medical Publishing, Warsaw

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