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Acupuncture being performed by an oreintal medicine practitioner

Along with Chinese Traditional Medicine, acupuncture emerged in Asia as a technique to cure people of their disease simply by inserting needles at certain points, where the disease is said to lie.

The practice of acupuncture is believed to have a shamanistic origin. Shamans are those who profess to commune with spirits, ghosts, and the dead. They believed that people were cursed for any number of reasons, and this curse manifested in the form of physical symptoms. All diseases were simply versions of the curse, and when the patient was injected or subjected to moxibustion, which is the burning of particular herbs at various points of the body, the curse left.


Moxibustion involves the burning of herbs at various points of the body Image source: wikimedia commons


Oriental medicine requires its students, or trainees, to memorize the various points in the body that affected or released pain from another point. Statues were used for reference, to identify various meridians or channels through which Qi flowed. This was considered the primary life force in Taoist philosophy, and it was imperative to know the exact flow of this energy from point to point in the body, to be able to correctly diagnose the ailment.

Acupuncture was not very well received in China when it began because they believed that the body should not be dissected for study. Practitioners could only learn from observation, and therefore penetration through needles was harmful. When western medicine came to China, the practice of acupuncture became more accepted. It then travelled through the trade routes to Europe where it was practiced.

A statue in a Chinese museum that depicts the different meridians on the body Image source: wikimedia commons


These days, acupuncture is gaining momentum in the west, not as a medical practice, or alternative to medicine as it was originally designed. Instead, it is being researched based on a neurological model which states that the use of needles alters the mechanism of pain and stimulation in the brain. It is used in mild operations, to relieves headaches, dental aches, and so on.

Keywords: Acupuncture, Moxibustion, China, Western Medicine, Oriental techniques, Shamanism


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