Origins and Health Benefits of Acupuncture

AcupunctureAcupuncture is a Latin word and means “to puncture with needle”, but this practice was first popularized in China as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture is key to controlling the flow of Qi in the human body, and typically consists of inserting thin, sharp needles into pressure points. Acupuncture can also refer to the application of heat and pressure, and doesn’t strictly require the use of needles, although this is usually referred to as acupressure.

History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the oldest practices in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and one that has a history dating back over 2,000 years. In fact, the first publicized account of acupuncture was in 100 BCE, when it was discussed in the Huangdi Neijing medical text. Often considered to be the bible of Traditional Chinese Medicine, this book was probably created during the Han Dynasty, by which time acupuncture may have existed for many years, decades or even centuries.

Later dynasties would go into greater detail about acupuncture, writing comprehensive texts that have survived to this date and continue to be referenced by practitioners. There are also those who believe that acupuncture was more widespread and that it existed for many thousands of years prior to the reign of the Han Dynasty. One of the most interesting theories relates to Otzi the Iceman, a mummified body that was discovered in Italy and is said to be over 5,000 years old. Otzi had a number of tattoos on his body and these were said to be located on important acupuncture points. According to this ancient practice, those tattoos would have helped to alleviate a number of symptoms, all of which Otzi is said to have.

Of course, this is just speculation and is probably nothing more than coincidental, but whether acupuncture existed beyond China in those days or not, it certainly does now. In fact, acupuncture has become a huge part of many traditional medicines.

Myths and Legends

As is the case with most ancient civilizations, medicine and other essential parts of daily life was said to by controlled by a deity. The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were the gods and demigods associated with China at a time when the medicinal practices we know now as ancient, were in their infancy.

The Three Sovereigns in particular are the ones whose role it was to improve the lives of the Chinese people. As well as giving the people the skills they needed to build houses and to farm, these kings also invented medicine.

These gods and demigods are still important to the Chinese people and to their culture, although the ancient belief system is no longer there. There is a tomb in Shaanxi Province which is said to be the burial site of the Yellow Emperor, one of the most legendary of the gods and one who is said to have attained immortality, before leaving his human form behind on earth.

Benefits of Acupuncture

According to TCM, there are as many as 2,000 pressure points, and these are connected by 12 main pathways and 8 secondary pathways, which are known as meridians. It is through these pathways that Qi — the body’s energy — flows, connecting to the body’s organs. Qi is regulated by the forces of Yin and Yang, and when these are out of balance, which is caused by a blockage in Qi, acupuncture can help to restore normalcy. Blockages can be caused by a number of things, including direct trauma.

The range of problems that acupuncture can address include common complaints such as aches, pains, constipation, indigestion and food allergies, as well as psychological issues such as addiction, insomnia and emotional disorders.

Acupuncture appointments typically last around 45 minutes, but it depends on the patient and their condition. In most cases, your practitioner will recommended repeat appointments, because whilst most patients have an immediately positive response, it typically takes several visits for them to experience a full recover.


Assuming you are using a licensed practitioner, there is no risk associated with acupuncture. The needles are not designed to penetrate the skin like a hypodermic needle would. They are thin and solid, like a strong strand of hair, and they are not inserted very far into the skin.

If you have any preexisting health conditions, if you are a hemophiliac or if you have any other conditions that might cause you to react adversely, then you should inform your practitioner in advance.

Some first-time users worry about the potential for pain, but generally acupuncture is a painless and even exhilarating experience. There are those who feel minimal pain, but the majority of patients report a pleasurable experience and most of them relax almost instantaneously.


Acupuncture is currently practiced in large parts of North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. It is also relatively common across Scandinavia. Whilst it is typically considered to be an alternative medicine, in the United Kingdom and Germany it is available in pain clinics and is popular with a growing number of physicians. It is also incredibly very popular in Switzerland, where it has been listed as the most popular form of alternative medicine since 2004.

Generally, while acupuncture is at is most popular in China, the world is paying more attention to the efficiency of this practice. And it only took them 2,000 years.