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The Rapid Spread Of Acupuncture In The Western World

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By Author: Duncan Mcgechie
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Chinese acupuncture dates back to the Shang Dynasty in China from 1600 – 1100 BC, so it has been around for a very long time. However, it has only sprung to prominence in the West since 1971 when a US journalist suffered from appendicitis in the country, had his appendix removed, and had acupuncture used to hasten his recovery. He subsequently wrote an article about it in the New York Times.

Since then – which is not yet 50 years ago – acupuncture has become used more and more in the West to deal with a range of different health conditions, and according to the latest figures from the Chinese government there are now some 200,000 acupuncturists practising outside China. Indeed, the marketing data research group QY Research recently estimated that in 2017 some 9.7 billion acupuncture needles – which are, of course for one-time use – were manufactured globally, generating a total revenue of around £70 million for the manufacturers.

There is now a World Acupuncture Day and on November 15th 2018 acupuncturists from all over the world met at Unesco Headquarters in Paris for the 8th World Acupuncture Day celebrations where the chair of the Governing Board of the British Acupuncture Council, Phillip Rose-Neil said: “We see huge potential for the continued growth of acupuncture…… and the advancement of medical technology will support acupuncture to achieve more impact.”

Indeed, acupuncture has become acceptable among celebrities such as Madonna, Sheryl Crow, and Meghan, now Duchess of Sussex. Acupuncture is not only used to cure such things as headaches, back pain, knee pain, and nausea, but is also used for conditions such as weight loss and stress relief. The Medical Director of The British Medical Acupuncture Society, Mike Cummings, said: “Acupuncture holds a unique position in our medical world today, because some of the benefits it brings to the human body find no substitute in other medical practices.”

Acupuncture started to spread from China in the 6th century when Korean traders gained knowledge of it. Japan and Vietnam caught on to it soon after this. However, the first ever mention of acupuncture in Europe was when a Dutch doctor, Willem ten Rhijne, wrote about it in the 1680’s after he had seen it being practiced when he worked for the Dutch East India Company. In the 1800’s there was a certain amount of interest when, in Britain and the US, there were articles written about it, although it was mainly seen as a novelty rather than serious medicine.

In the 20th century Chinese immigrants began to flourish in Britain and the US, and some other Western countries, and acupuncture began to take a hold, although it was still mainly confined to Chinese communities. However, this changed in Britain in 1993 when a Chinese acupuncturist in London, Luo Dinghui, managed to cure several patients of Chinese heritage of eczema. This makes the skin itchy and red, yet even today Western medicine has no cure for it. There is even a National Eczema Society in Britain whose scientists investigated and confirmed that, indeed, Luo’s acupuncture treatment had been successful. This caused a huge upsurge in Chinese acupuncture in London and then in the rest of Britain, and more and more clinics began to open.

Today, it is possible to get undergraduate degrees in acupuncture in several British universities including Middlesex, Southbank, and Westminster. Acupuncture is also growing elsewhere. In Switzerland, for example, it has been the form of alternative medicine most often used since 2004. It is also available under the public health system of Brazil. According to Chinese government statistics, acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine have been used by one third of the world population.

Wang Tianjun, who studied acupuncture at Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, came to Britain in 2007 and worked as a lecturer at the University of East London for their acupuncture programme. He said: “Many on these programmes are mature students whose fascination with Chinese traditional medicine led to them to look for a career change.” In fact, 90% of his students are not Chinese or of Chinese descent and have worked in a wide range of professions such as law, accountancy, banking, and office management. Their ages range from 30 – 60.

It most certainly seems that the practice of acupuncture will continue to spread in the West.

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