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What Is the History of Acupuncture?

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  • Written By: Patrick Lynch
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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It is believed that the history of acupuncture begins more than 5,000 ago. It began in China but did not spread to Europe until the early 1900s, so the history of acupuncture in the West is less than 100 years of its entire history. Another 70 years was to pass before the process of acupuncture became popular in America. In this short space of time however, acupuncture became one of the most commonly used forms of alternative medicine in the world.

The history of acupuncture begins in ancient China and is said to have originated long before the written word came into existence. Archaeological evidence was found in China in 1963 which suggests that acupuncture is as least 5,000 years old. A stone dated to that era is believed to have been used to create acupuncture needles. The first textbook relating to acupuncture is called the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Inner Medicine and is believed to have been written in 200 B.C. The book explains that ancient people lived longer than their modern counterparts because they knew how to live life according to nature.

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In the history of acupuncture, the first Europeans to discover it are likely to have been missionaries who traveled to Asia in the 16th century. In 1683, a Dutch doctor wrote about Chinese acupuncture, but the practice was not brought to Europe until the early 20th century, when it was practiced in France. It slowly spread to various other countries in Europe but was generally only used by physicians.

It was not until American President Richard Nixon visited China in the early 1970s that acupuncture became known in the United States. Washington D.C became the first place in America to allow non-physicians to practice acupuncture. The Acupuncture Centre of Washington was opened in 1972 and was the first clinic of its kind in the nation. Acupuncture quickly gained popularity as a method of treating aches and pains with hundreds of patients being treated per day in the Washington Clinic. It survived a legal attempt at a shut down by anxious members of the medical establishment. In 2011, there are estimated to be more than 20,000 licensed acupuncturists in the United States.

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