Acupuncture : History and Therapeutic Benefits

Tao L | 15 October 2023
Reading time : about 8 minutes
Acupuncture :  History and Therapeutic Benefits

    Acupuncture, a therapeutic method involving the treatment of specific points on the body with needles, is a well-known facet of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in France. But when did it originate and how has it evolved over time ?

    According to many experts, acupuncture has ancient roots, dating back to the Chinese Neolithic era, some 6,000 to 4,000 years BC. Remains of bronze needles bear witness to this ancestral practice.

    Over the following centuries, historical writings provided more detailed information on this medical method. For example, the Chinese historian Sima Qian recounts how the famous physician Bian Que used acupuncture to save a person from coma in the 5th century BC. A fundamental text in the history of acupuncture is the Internal Classic of the Yellow Emperor, also known as the Huangdi Nei Jing Su Wen, dating from the same period. This text details dissection, physiology, pathology, diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

    Another essential work is the Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, written by the Chinese physician Huang Fu Mi between 215 and 282 CE. This book lists 349 acupuncture points with their precise location, indications and methods of manipulation.

    Over the centuries, other texts continued to explore this practice, although some have unfortunately been lost. However, in the early 20th century, acupuncture declined in France in favor of Western medicine. Despite this, some Chinese doctors continued to practice it. Mao Zedong, China's leader from 1949 to 1976, initially sought to suppress acupuncture before supporting traditional Chinese medicine.

    The transmission of acupuncture to the West was in part thanks to missionaries, notably the Jesuits, who shared their discoveries about Chinese culture. In the 18th century, European doctors also practiced this oriental medicine, and several texts were written to recall the knowledge of the time. These included Dr. Jules Cloquet's Traité de l'acupuncture in 1826, and Dr. Louis Berlioz's Mémoires sur les maladies chroniques, les évacuations sanguines et l'acupuncture in 1816.

    However, it was George Soulié de Morant, a 20th-century French diplomat, who played a major role in promoting acupuncture in France. After studying the Chinese language and carrying out missions in China, he devoted much of his work to promoting this therapy. He published a five-volume work entitled "L'Acuponcture chinoise" from the 1930s onwards.

    Other important figures in the spread of acupuncture in France include Father Claude Larre, founder of the Ricci Institute in Paris and co-founder of the European School of Acupuncture, as well as philosopher Élisabeth Rochat de La Vallée and acupuncturist Jean Schatz.

    Today, acupuncture is widely practiced in France, with numerous theoretical and practical books and clinical trials evaluating its efficacy and exploring its diverse applications.

    The Essence of Qi : Understanding Vital Energy in Chinese Acupuncture

    The term "Qi", pronounced "Tchi", is often translated as "energy". Some prefer to use the term "breath". The more traditionalists, or those deeply rooted in Chinese culture, choose not to translate it to avoid distorting its meaning. Qi" is a fundamental notion in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, as it is the source of life, its maintenance and transformation. It circulates throughout the body, and in fact there are several types of "Qi", each with a specific function, such as protecting the body against external aggression. In acupuncture, pathology is often the sign of an imbalance in "Qi" or its circulation.

    Meridians are another essential concept in the Chinese conception of the human body. They form a complex network throughout the body, known in the West as meridians. Qi" circulates through the body via these pathways, of which there are one hundred and eight. Some meridians conduct energy, while others carry blood, similar to our blood vessels.

    These meridians have different paths, some longitudinal, others transverse, and they can be located deep down or close to the surface of the skin. Acupuncturists distinguish several types of meridian, including the twelve main meridians, the twelve distinct meridians, the eight curious energy-regulating meridians, the twenty-eight Lo meridians (which are transverse), and the tendinomuscular meridians.

    In addition to these meridians, there are acupuncture points, called "Hsueh" or "energy wells", which are immaterial and located on the body's surface. They enable the acupuncturist to access the meridians and modify or rebalance energy when it is in excess or deficient. These points react sensitively to pressure, and can be used to diagnose and treat illness through acupuncture.

    Acupuncture involves the use of needles placed on these acupuncture points, or the practice of moxibustion, which consists of heating the points by placing moxas (cones) on them.moxas (mugwort cones or cigars) to stimulate and regulate energy and the functioning of specific organs or functions.

    Indications for acupuncture

    Recommended acupuncture applications include :

    • Relief of acute and chronic pain (migraine, headache, back pain, shingles, neuralgia, cruralgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, arthritis, sprains, hemorrhoids, heavy legs, etc.).
    • Treatment of allergies.
    • Management of anxiety states.
    • Improve sleep quality to treat insomnia.
    • Relief of genito-urinary disorders (cystitis, sterility).
    • Alleviation of menopausal symptoms.
    • Management of pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
    • Minimizing the side effects of cancer treatments.
    • Support for mental health, including depression.

    The effectiveness of acupuncture can vary according to the patient's individual condition and many factors. Some clinical studies have shown notable efficacy in treating chronic pain and nausea, while results are more mixed for other conditions.

    Choosing acupuncture points

    The choice of acupuncture points to treat specific conditions is based on a personalized energetic diagnosis of each patient, taking into account factors such as symptoms, individual constitution and other characteristics. Consequently, there is no single point for every pathology. Acupuncturists select points according to each patient's specific energetic needs.

    For example, for irritable bowel syndrome, there is no standard acupuncture point, as each patient may have unique symptoms, history and energetic imbalances. The body's meridians, numbering 362 points, offer a wide range of options, and around 60 points are associated with the treatment of insomnia. The choice of points is guided by a thorough assessment of the patient's symptoms, physical condition and individual characteristics. As a result, each acupuncture treatment is highly personalized to optimize results.

    Guide to Tui Na Massage

    Tui Na massage, a practice dating back over 2000 years, is gaining in popularity in Europe. Much more than a simple moment of relaxation, it is considered a therapy in its own right, on a par with acupuncture or phytotherapy. This technique acts on the body's energy centers, releasing tension, eliminating blockages and rebalancing the flow of energy throughout the body. The practitioner begins by performing an energetic assessment of the patient, followed by observation of posture, spinal curvatures and joints such as shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Several techniques can then be used, such as massage with the palm of the hand, elbows, forearms or even fingertips, depending on the energy blockages and their location. The practitioner can also use methods such as pressure, pinching, kneading, rubbing, rolling or percussion. In other words, a Tui Na massage can be both gentle and slow, or energetic and fast.

    According to Dr. Yves Réquéna According to acupuncturist Dr. Yves Réquéna, Tui Na massage is indicated for a variety of conditions, including low back pain, shoulder and knee problems, tennis elbow, physical and mental fatigue, overweight, painful rheumatismasthma, migraines, tinnitus, varicose veins, sleep disorders, menopausal problems and aging. However, there are certain contraindications, including acute illnesses, contagious diseases, high blood pressure, dermatoses, bleeding diseases, fractures, hip or knee prostheses and osteoporosis.

    Qi Gong, a physical practice in movement

    The importance of physical activity for mental and physical health is well established, with benefits such as improved energy circulation, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, joint stress and muscle strengthening. Qi Gong, a form of gentle gymnastics, is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine, and encourages everyone to take care of their bodies by mobilizing them on a daily basis. The term "Qi Gong" means breath control and aims to harmonize body and mind, sharing philosophical similarities with yoga. Although Qi Gong is not considered a therapy in France, unlike in China, it is recognized as a beneficial physical practice for refocusing the body and relieving the tensions generated by modern life.

    Yin Yang dietetics

    Traditional Chinese medicine places the emphasis on prevention, using Qi Gong to keep body and mind in balance, as well as a healthy diet. Chinese dietary principles recommend the consumption of fresh, seasonal, minimally processed and pesticide-free foods. In addition, they distinguish between foods according to their Yin (cold) or Yang (hot) properties, the former being recommended in hot weather and the latter in cold. Flavors are also taken into account, and a balanced diet should include acid, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty elements. Physical characteristics, such as shape, color, consistency, odor, hydration rate, direction of digestion (ascending or descending), and density of each food are also taken into consideration to create a balanced meal.

    Chinese Pharmacopoeia

    Phytotherapy is considered the first of the Chinese therapies, even before acupuncture. Chinese practitioners are particularly interested in the Yin Yang qualities of plants, which are classified according to their nature (hot, cold, neutral, lukewarm, fresh) and flavors. All plant characteristics, including shape, color, consistency, odor, hydration, direction of action (ascending or descending), and weight, are carefully considered when prescribing natural remedies. Chinese pharmacopoeia is an essential component of traditional Chinese medicine, offering a diverse range of herbal treatments for a multitude of conditions.

    Published on 15 October 2023 at 14:32

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    Tao L

    Tao L

    Web Editor

    My name is Tao and I am very passionate about complementary medicine. In my home country, I trained in traditional Chinese medicine. I like to pass on the knowledge gained from my experience.