Acupuncture is a centuries-old medicine that was developed primarily in China. ‘Acu’ means needle and ‘puncture’ means prick. The oldest needles were found in the South of China dating back to 4,000 BC and they were made of stone. The current disposable needles consist of surgical stainless steel. So you can say that the needles have become much more subtle.
Chinese Medicine assumes that in the human body there is a system of energy lines, the meridians or channels, on which the acupuncture points are located. In Chinese language, the energy in the meridians is called ‘Qi’ or life force energy. This Qi is traditionally divided into Yin and Yang. The Huang Di Nei Jing says literally: ‘Hanqi (= Cold-Qi) generates turbid (= Yin) and Reqi (= Heat-Qi) produces lucid (= Yang)’. These two energies have to be balanced with each other for optimal health. If there is any imbalance between Yin and Yang, disease can occur. By needling a selection of specific acupuncture points, the imbalance may be removed and health restored.
The effect of acupuncture has also been explained by neurotransmitter activity. A neurotransmitter is a part of the central nervous system and simply a ‘messenger’ that transmits a signal to the brains. The brains in turn provide a signal to the body through which a particular function is activated.
As the needle enters the skin, neurotransmitters are activated such as nitric oxide and the protein nitrogen synthetase, which produces nitric oxide. Transmitters have an influence on the release of prostaglandins. These are substances that dilate blood vessels and bronchi, regulate blood pressure, inhibit gastric secretion, stimulate hormone production and uterine contractions, etc. Release of neurotransmitters caused by needle stimulation can be determined by a functional MRI scan. The needling of the fourth point of the Large Intestine meridian point (LI4-He Gu) activates the limbic system in the brains (the part of the brain where the emotions are stored) and the seven sixtieths point of the Bladder meridian (BL67-Zhi Yin) affects the visual cortex that involves eye function. Watch this interesting BBC documentary ‘The Science of Acupuncture’ (episode from 2006).
Chinese herbs support the results of acupuncture and reduce any existing energy shortages. The Chinese herbs I use in my practice (usually in tablet or capsule form) may be ordered at the NatuurApotheek in Pijnacker, www.natuurapotheek.com. The NatuurApotheek specializes in Chinese and Western Herbal Medicine and meets the strictest requirements. The NatuurApotheek is controlled by a certificate of analysis provided raw materials. This will ensure maximum safety.
During the first consultation, I conduct an intake based on pulse, tongue and facial diagnosis and give each patient a ‘Chinese’ diagnosis. This diagnosis determines the acupuncture points to be needled and whether additional Chinese herbs, supplements or Western lifestyle and dietary advice are needed.
You may be sent to the family doctor for blood tests or to make an X-ray to make sure that there are no contraindications for acupuncture. Contraindications may include: fever or cancer. The acupuncture needles used in my practice are sterile, disposable needles and of the best quality out there (Seirin®, Cloud & Dragon).
Do you want to know more about the scientific basis of acupuncture? Watch at Nederland Kenniscentrum Acupunctuur.