What is Acupuncture?


Acupuncture has been practiced in various forms the world over, both the Ancient Egyptians, Mayas, Incas and Traditional Peoples of Northern Africa practiced similar techniques, and indeed Avicenna and later some medieval European physicians practiced a form of Acupuncture. But it was in China where acupuncture reached its highest development and the greatest level of technical perfection.

The principles and practice of Acupuncture were first formally set out in the book he “Huang Di Nei Jing” which was compiled around the 4th. century BC. The first part of this book, which is called the “Ling Shu”, deals mainly with the prevention of disease. It states that: “To treat an illness is like digging a well when you are thirsty, or like commencing to forge weapons once the war has started”. The Ling Shu composes about 85% of the whole work. The second book is the “Su Wen”, which deals with treatment methods involving Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Moxibustion.

The Huang Di Nei Jing is written in the form of a dialogue between Huang Di (the legendary Yellow Emperor) and his minister Chi Po, and commences by stating that in ancient times people had a much greater vitality and longevity than was the case at the time, because they lived more in harmony with nature. It then introduces the life force or Qi (Ki in Japanese) and describes its flow through the body with the blood as well as through hypothetical channels called meridians. It gives the many causes and effects from an excess and a deficiency of Qi and goes on to explain how imbalances in Qi may be corrected and diseases may be prevented or cured by puncturing specific points along these meridians.

Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles at varying angles and depths at anatomically located points. It is still applied in much the same way as was done by the ancient Chinese physicians. When acupuncture is used for the treatment of health conditions however, it is generally combined with herbal medicine or other traditional Chinese Medicine approaches.

The effect of Acupuncture.

Acupuncture has 5 main effects:

  1. Analgesia.
  2. Sedation.
  3. Re-establishing of the Homeostasis.
  4. Immune support and anti-inflammatory effects.
  5. Motor recovery (used for muscle weakness or paralysis).

The Laws of Acupuncture treatment.

  1. The Great Law of Bu-Xie. This is the law of tonification (Bu) and of sedation (Xie). In the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine the correct method of treatment is described as follows: “Supply energy where there is deficiency and sedate energy when there is an excess.” Thus when there is an excess underlying a condition, it must be calmed or sedated; where a deficiency is the underlying factor, stimulation should be employed in any treatment given. The Traditional Chinese Law of treatment by opposites is called the Great Law of Bu-Xie; it is fundamental to all Traditional Chinese Medicine applications; the correct application of this law is essential in order to achieve efficacy of treatment.
    • Tonification (Bu). Bu is any action which augments or has a stimulating effect. Bu is used to supply Qi when organs have been adversely affected by a lack of Qi. In this technique the needles are usually left in place and not disturbed until it is time for their removal. Bu is used for the treatment of all conditions, excepting those listed below under the treatment by Xie.
    • Sedation (Xie). Xie represents any therapeutic action which has a dispersing, calming or sedating effect; these actions are used to balance the Qi when an excess has been caused by internal or external perverse energies. In Xie type of treatment needles are usually gently manipulated in order to elicit a sensation called Te-Qi, a sensation of soreness, heaviness or a tingling which radiates from the point being needled, and often follows the path of the meridian which the point is on (although Te-Qi is not seen as important in many Korean and Japanese approaches of acupuncture). Sometimes a small electrical current is passed through the needles to enhance the sedating effects. Xie is used for: Acute disorders, severe pain, anaesthesia in surgery, to facilitate and control the pain of childbirth, for resuscitation in fainting, etc.
  2. The Mother/Son Law. Draw the deficient energy from the Mother to the Son, which means drawing energy from the previous element.
  3. The Midday/Midnight Law. A troublesome organ or its Meridian is best treated when it is at its maximum phase during its diurnal cycle. Sometimes if a Meridian peaks at a time that makes it difficult to see the patient, the Meridian on the opposite side of the diurnal cycle may be treated in the opposite manner (e.g. by using Bu instead of Xie or vice versa).
Qi Clock and the Diurnal Cycle

A diagram of the daily Diurnal Meridian Cycle as compared with daily physiological activity.
The branches emanating from the inner rainbow wheel link the coupled meridians.

Advanced Acupuncture Rules and Methods.

There are other rules for selecting acupuncture points based on the experience that certain points are more active at certain times than at others.
Over the centuries a number of systems have been developed that incorporate the Ten Stems and Twelve Branches of the Chinese solar calendar.
Originally these systems used a combination of the five day cycle derived from the five Yin and five Yang cycles of the Ten Stems together with the Twelve Branches, thus providing a 60 day cycle. As time went on, the complexity of the calculations involved gave impetus to the development of simpler systems that only use the Ten Stems. In more recent times, each of these systems has tended be relegated to a specific set of therapeutic applications; and these methods are now collectively referred to as “Acupuncture Chronotherapy.”
A commonly used  method that uses the 60 day cycle of both the Ten Stems and the Twelve branches is:

                                                    Ling Gui Ba Fa – or the “Eight Methods of the Marvellous Turtle”

The most commonly used methods that only use the Ten Stems are:

                                                     Feng Teng Ba Fa – or the “Eight Soaring Methods”
                                                     Na Jia Fa – or the “Day Prescription Acupuncture Method”
                                                     Zi Wu Liu Zhu  – or the “Time Flow Treatment Method”

These methods are primarily used to optimise treatment effectiveness and to minimise the number of needles required for a treatment.
Another traditional acupuncture treatment method that must be mentioned is used to correct disorders acquired at birth. Here the meridian that was active at birth is determined and is balanced with the currently active meridian. Treatment is normally done in conjunction with a chronotherapy method in order to harmonise meridians and organs and to avoid the possibility that new imbalances will be created by the treatment.

For acupuncturists that wish to utilise chronotherapy, there are two utilites that will simplify this and avoid a great deal of time-consuming calculations.
First download a program called “Calendar Magic” from the Eurosoft Website and install the program. Run the program and under “options” and then “location” enter the name of your city or locality, your longitude and latitude and your time zone. The Stem and Branch for the day may be found by clicking on the top bar on “dates”, then selecting “date conversions” (ensure the conversions are set to “Gregorian”) and scrolling down; while the current solar time to civil time offset may be found under “utilities”, and then “sun and moon data”.


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