A Brief History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture and it’s Interesting History

chinese-booksAcupuncture has been used by millions of people around the world to heal all kinds of ailments for centuries. Acupuncture has for a long time now, been attributed to having its origins in China. However, modern developments have thrown that theory into disarray.

Acupuncture may still have originally come from China, after all, the most ancient of Chinese medical texts detailing the practice of acupuncture, the Su Wen, are from China around 1115-1234CE. Furthermore, the Chinese are the ones largely responsible for the development and evolution of the practice of acupuncture.

So why the doubt as to whether acupuncture originated in China?

This concern first arose back in the early 1090’s, when a mummified body was discovered frozen in the Otztal Alps, between Italy and Austria.

This discovery is so far to date, the best-preserved example of a mummified body and was said to have lived between 3359 and 3105 BCE.

What was strange, however, about this mummy, is that he had strange tattoo markings in specific areas of his body. These markings were later recognised by a German acupuncturist as being synonymous with various acupuncture points and channels.

otzi-iceman.pngThe Iceman, affectionately nicknamed Otzi by the scientists working on his body, also had with him in his possession a small nap sac containing fine needles made of bone and flint. So the presupposition that Otzi was administering acupuncture to himself was looking more and more likely.

Acupuncturists then discovered that the specific points and channels that were marked on Otzi’s body were, and still are today, used for a few conditions specifically, one of which being arthritis of the hip. Upon dissecting the hip joint, the scientists revealed that Otzi was, in fact, suffering from a degenerative hip disease.

Even more convincing, another combination of the acupuncture points is also used for stomach pains. The scientists, therefore, proceeded to cut into the iceman’s stomach only to find still preserved in his stomach, a whipworm, which would have caused the kinds of pains and symptoms that those points are known to alleviate.

So, it is now widely believed that Otzi was, in fact, administerning acupuncture to himself while on his mountainous journeys. However, the mysterious notion arises when one considers that firstly, Otzi was of occasion descent and secondly, his body was found many thousands of miles from the Orient, on an entirely different continent in fact.

Many people have surmised that either Otzi had once travelled to the far East, or that Oriental migrants skilled in acupuncture may have moved from the Orient and settled in the European vicinity where Otzi’s body was discovered. Although either scenario may indeed be possible, it is still an incredibly unlikely occurrence as travelling vast distances of many thousands of miles would have been extremely difficult, or near impossible during that period, as some might say.

Furthermore, referring to the aforementioned ancient documents of Chinese medicine, which date back around 3,000 years or so and told me to be the oldest known Chinese medical texts in existence, Otzi’s body far predates these texts and is around 5,000 years old. Therefore, it is now a mystery as to the exact origins of acupuncture.

If you would like to know more about the history of acupuncture, please see this video from acupuncturist, Gillian Marsollier