A&M and the West
Acupuncture spread from China to Korea, Japan, Vietnam and elsewhere in East Asia.
Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century were among the first to bring reports of acupuncture to the West. Jacob de Bondt, a Danish surgeon travelling in Asia, described the practice in both Japan and Java. However, in China itself the practice was increasingly associated with the lower -classes and illiterate practitioners.
The first European text on acupuncture was written by Willem ten Rhijne, a Dutch physician who studied the practice for two years in Japan. It consisted of an essay in a 1683 medical text on arthritis; Europeans were also at the time becoming more interested in moxibustion, which ten Rhijne also wrote about.
In 1757, the physician Xu Daqun described the further decline of acupuncture, saying it was a lost art, with few experts to instruct; its decline was attributed in part to the popularity of prescriptions and medications, as well as its association with the lower classes.
Acupuncture gained attention in the United States when President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972. During one part of his visit, the delegation was shown a patient undergoing major surgery while fully awake, ostensibly receiving acupuncture rather than anesthesia. Later it was found that the patients selected for the surgery had both a high pain tolerance and received heavy indoctrination before the operation; these demonstration cases were also frequently receiving morphine surreptitiously through an intravenous drip that observers were told contained only fluids and nutrients.
The greatest exposure in the West came when New York Times reporter James Reston, who accompanied Nixon during the visit, received acupuncture in China for post-operative pain after undergoing an emergency appendectomy under standard anesthesia. Reston was so impressed with the pain relief he experienced from the procedure that he wrote about acupuncture in The New York Times upon returning to the United States. In 1973, the American Internal Revenue Service allowed acupuncture to be deducted as a medical expense.
Today, acupuncture can be seen in many countries, from German to Singapore to Canada. In the UK, it is used to help fight drugs and treat AIDS patients. By rough estimates, about 3000 acupuncture clinics existed in the UK in 2003, with over 300 located in London.
A South Korean player is having acupuncture when competing with her rival on the game of Go in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.
In early 2006, Germany for the first time recognized acupuncture as a conventional treatment, and its local laws now require insurance companies to cover bills for acupuncture treatment.
A 2006 report by The World Federation of Acupuncture- moxibustion Societies revealed that more than 140 countries had applied acupuncture and moxibustion in their public medical systems, and the governments were also planning to invest heavily in the oriental procedures.
Among the glaring success, however, many problems still linger.
Acupuncture and moxibustion are still accepted as complementary and alternative medicine in many countries. Due to its erratic efficacy, many people doubt its effect and some research centers also pose challenges after years of investigation. The treatment’s Achilles' heel is lack of clinical, anatomic, or other basic science evidence, thus failing to support the claims of its effect on diseases.
In addition, some foreign physicians accept the therapies without fully understanding their context. They simply dismiss the moxibustion as many patients fear being burned, and so do their Chinese colleagues. A growing trend is that people tend to associate moxibustion with witchcraft or religious rituals performed in ancient times. The loss of moxibustion is a frustration to many experts in the medical community, as they fear it will eventually conform to social trends and lose its real character.
Editor: Xu Xinlei