History

The first known book of Chinese Medicine, the Classic of Internal Medicine of the Yellow Emperor, dates back to between the first century BC and the first century AD. All styles of acupuncture currently practised around the world trace their roots back to this wonderful text. It is important to credit the ancient Chinese physicians with their remarkable discoveries, which were well in advance of Western anatomy and physiology at the time. Ancient Chinese scholars discovered many aspects of bio-medical science. Traditional acupuncturists are no less scientific or sophisticated than western clinicians in their understanding of how the body functions and to this day they use terminology that reflects Chinese medicine’s cultural and historic origins.

In China during the early part of the twentieth century traditional medicine fell out of fashion as symptomatic healthcare treatments were imported from the West along with other cultural influences. Calls by western trained doctors to ban Chinese medicine were rejected by the National Medical Assembly in Shanghai on 17 March 1929. This day is still celebrated every year as Chinese Doctors’ Day.

Chinese medicine remained in the shadow of western medicine until the Long March of 1934-5. Without drugs, anaesthetics or surgery vast numbers of sick and wounded soldiers faced death until doctors of traditional Chinese medicine achieved amazing results using acupuncture and other traditional methods of treatment. From this point on, traditional Chinese medicine and western medicine were practised side by side in China.

In nineteen forty two the Chinese government commissioned the development of a uniform system of diagnosis and treatment, somewhat misleadingly referred to as TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), up until then nearly all training had been apprentice-style with masters usually within families. By 1978, whole hospitals and research departments were devoted to the practice of TCM.

Amongst Australian general practitioners (GPs), acupuncture is one of the most accepted forms of complementary medicine [5]. In 1998, a United States National Institute of Health Consensus Conference Panel reviewed the status of acupuncture and concluded that: “There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value.”[6] Similarly, in 2002, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that acupuncture is a safe, simple and convenient therapy and that its effectiveness as analgesia has been established in controlled clinical studies.

The WHO programs have contributed to western migration toward the validation of practise and theory of acupuncture and Chinese medicine throughout the world.  More and more people are able to benefit as traditional acupuncture becomes a recognized option within standard healthcare.