Acupuncture is an element of Traditional Chinese Medicine and originated in China over 5000 years ago.

It is based on the belief that health is determined by a balanced flow of qi (or called chi) the vital life energy present in all living organisms. The theory is that qi circulates in the body along 12 major energy pathways called meridians, and each meridian is linked to specific internal organs and organ systems.

When special needles are inserted into the specific acupoints, just under the skin, they help correct and rebalance the flow of energy and help relieve pain and restore health.

In the 1960s, Professor Kim Bong Han and a team of researchers in Korea, attempted to document the existence of meridians in the human body using micro-dissection techniques. They found evidence that there exists an independent series of fine duct-like tubes corresponding to the paths of traditional meridians. Fluids in this system sometimes travel in the same direction as the blood and lymph, but other times flow in the opposite direction. They realised that these ducts are different from the vascular and lymphatic systems that Western science has identified.

The existence of the meridian system was further established by French researcher Pierre de Vernejoul, who injected radioactive isotopes into the occupants of humans and tracked their movement with a special gamma imaging camera. The isotopes travelled 12 inches along acupuncture meridians with four to six minutes.  Vernejoul then challenged his work by injecting isotopes into blood vessels at random areas of the body rather than into the acupoints. The isotopes did not travel in the same manner at all, further indicating that the meridians do indeed comprise a system of separate pathways within the body.


The World Health Organisation has cited over 40 conditions that acupuncture can treat, including migraines, sinusitis, the common cold, tonsillitis, asthma, inflammation of the eyes, addictions, myopia, gastrointestinal disorders, Meniere’s disease, tennis elbow, paralysis from stroke, speech aphasia, sciatica and osteoarthritis. According to Maoshing Ni, D.O.M., PhD., L.Ac,. President of Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in California, other conditions for which acupuncture can be effective, either alone or when used in conjunction with contemporary conventional medicine, include stroke rehabilitation, headaches, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, low back pain, hormonal imbalances and sleep disorders.


Acupuncture has proven to be a successful treatment for pain relief, as it appears to stimulate the release of endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural painkilling chemicals. Acupuncture is more effective than massage for neck pain.  In one study of over 20 000 patients at the University of California, LA, acupuncture reduced both the frequency and severity of muscle tension headaches and migraines. Another study, involving 204 patients suffering from chronic painful conditions resulted in 74% experiencing significant pain relief for over three months after acupuncture treatment.


In 1989, the British medical journal, The Lancet, documented a study noting that when acupuncture was added to the treatment program of chronic alcoholics, it significantly increased the percentage of those who completed the programme. Furthermore, it reduced their need for alcohol, with fewer relapses and readmissions to a detoxification centre. Other studies have documented the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of opium and heroin addictions, with a 100% success rate in alleviating the symptoms of withdrawal. Acupuncture also claims good success rates with cigarette addiction, where a newly discovered occupant called Tien Mi is used in conjunction with other traditional acupoints, particularly those located in the ear,” says Dr Ni.


Professor Pierre Huard of the Medical Faculty of Paris and Dr Ming Wong of the Medical Faculty of Rennes, both in France, report that acupuncture “is equivalent to the effect of tranquilisers in cases of depression, worry, insomnia, and nervous disorders, and its action is swift and lasting.”


Conventional medicine treats cancer conditions in three ways: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. “These methods often produce debilitating side effects and leave patients weakened and dispirited”, says Dr Ni. Symptoms can include nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, dizziness, fatigue, hair loss, muscle and joint pain, neuropathy, swelling, depression, weigh loss, anaemia and low white blood cell counts. In one study of patients with breast cancer receiving high-dose chemotherapy, adjunct electroacupuncture was more effective in controlling nausea and vomiting than conventional medications. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to be very effective in countering the adverse effects of chemotherapy and radiation”, says Dr Ni, who reports that 90% of his cancer patients are referrals from oncologists who have seen the often dramatic results of acupuncture for their patients. “When combined with Chinese herbal medicine and dietary adjustments, can help increase production of red and white blood cells, as well as platelet counts, and increase patients’ vitality tremendously”, adds Dr Ni. “It gives patients a new lease on life”.


As more and more women postpone childbearing until later in life, the rate of infertility has risen sharply. “Conventional allopathic medicine employs hormonal and technological methods to treat infertility”, Dr Ni says. Acupuncture, on the other hand, focuses on normalising and enhancing fertility functions”. According to Dr Ni’s brother, Dr Daoshing Ni, a specialist in fertility medicine at the Tao of Wellness Centre, Santa Monica, California, Acupuncture is a viable procedure for improving age-related infertility and any other infertility conditions due to weakened function. Its efficacy can be applied to situations of substandard semen perimeter, poor follicular recruitment, weak follicular quality, poor vaginal lubrication, sluggish or quickened ovulation, luteal phase defect, decreased thyroid and adrenal functions, and hypothalamic dysfunction”. Though acupuncture is the main procedure, its effectiveness can be maximised with the combination of Chinese herbal medicine, moxibustion, Qigong and dietary and lifestyle modification.

There is a growing understanding and greater respect for acupuncture, resulting from tests being conducted worldwide. The acceptance by the conventional medical establishment of acupuncture is attested to by the fact that nearly a third of all conventional medical schools in the United States now include content related to acupuncture as part of a required course.

I have been treated by two Acupuncturists, both of whom I have great respect for.  For those of you living in the Gauteng or KZN areas, here are their contact details:
Dr Otis Chiu
63 Dely Road, Alphen Park, Pretoria
Contact: 082 667 7211
Dr George Chen
61 Methven Road, Westville
Contact: 031-2623143  /  082 720 7445

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE – The Definitive Guide – Larry Trivieri, Jr and John W. Anderson)