About the Article

Published in: Vol. 5, No. 4
Category: Commentaries

About the Author

George A. Ulett


Anomalous Improvement


Notes on James S. Gordon, MD, Chair of the WHCCAMP


Acupuncture Legislation: What Is the Point?

TRADITIONAL CHINESE ACUPUNCTURE (TCA) was introduced to the US in 1972 as a “miracle cure-all.” In 1974 the American Medical Association (AMA) warned against acupuncture quackery1 and in 1982 the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs questioned its effectiveness as a medical treatment.2 Despite this, it grew rapidly under the magic umbrella of “alternative” medicine.3 An estimated 20 000 acupuncturists administer millions of treatments each year. In 1997 it was endorsed by a National Institutes of Health/Office of Alternative Medicine (NIH/OAM) panel. However, that report noted a possible placebo action; “so-called ‘nonspecific’ effects account for a substantial proportion of its effectiveness. . . .”4 Now, Chinese researchers have scientifically demonstrated the absurdity of the metaphysical theories of TCA.

Acupuncture is a part of Chinese folk medicine traced from the superstitious cosmology of the Shang Dynasty 3500 years ago. Different kinds of acupuncture are variants of the “body energy/meridian” hypothesis described in the ancient text The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine.5 Disease is supposedly caused when qi, a mysterious body energy, becomes blocked in hypothetical channels called “meridians.” Needling selected from among 365 acupoints, “one for each day of the year,” is believed to cure disease and balance cosmic “yin and yang.” Other mystical concepts describe 5 “elemental forces”—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—relating to 12 body organs, including an imaginary “triple heater.” Such mystical theories are the basis of the acupuncture widely practiced in the United States today.

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