Acupuncture & The Western Hemisphere

Acupuncture & The Western Hemisphere.

It took almost 300 years for Europe and 400 years for the US to appreciate the therapeutic value of acupuncture, which is considered an alternative and complementary medicine in the US, but is a traditional medicine in China. During the European Middle Ages, especially from 1500 to 1700, the Dutch East India Company, while pursuing merchant trading in China and Japan, brought Chinese acupuncture procedures back to Europe. One result of this was the development of the Western hypodermic needle from Chinese acupuncture needles.

Sporadic clinical reports in Europe discussed the use of acupuncture to relieve pain. Interest in the US was aroused relatively late, compared to Europe. Through the 18th, 19th & 20th centuries, interest within the medical establishment fluctuated. In the early 1800s, articles about acupuncture were published in several U.S. medical journals. Dr. Franklin Baché, a physician, experimented on prisoners (published in the North American Medical and Surgical Journal in 1826) and concluded that acupuncture was, at the time, the most effective pain-management technique. In 1892, Sir William Osler stated in his classical textbook: The Principles and Practices of Medicine that lumbar acupuncture is the most efficient treatment for managing acute pain. Acupuncture remained relatively unknown to the U.S. public until former President Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, where a useful medical modality was noticed by the visiting people from the United States.

Upon his return, Major General Walter R. Tkach, of the U.S. Air Force and physician to Nixon, wrote an article in the July 1972 issue of Readers Digest, entitled, “I Watched Acupuncture Work,” which helped to popularize acupuncture in the United States. Just prior to Mr. Nixon’s trip to China, James Reston, vice president of The New York Times, had an appendectomy performed in Beijing, China, under acupuncture anesthesia. He was awake during the entire surgical procedure.



NIH: . 2013 Oct; 25(5): 311–316.


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