Acupuncture originated in China around 8,000 B.C. during the new Stone Age. Back then they did not use needles. They used a type of stone called "Bian" to puncture abscesses and lesions on the skin. This technique healed wounds by draining toxins from the body. As acupuncture developed over the centuries, so too did the acupuncture needle. It evolved from using stone needles to needles made from animal bones. During the Qin Dynasty metal was developed and metal needles replaced bone. There were copper needles, then silver and gold. Today we use sterile, one-time-use, stainless steel needles.
The earliest known textbook on acupuncture and Chinese medicine is called "Huang Di Nei Jing" which was written between 770 B.C. and 221 B.C. during the Spring/Autumn and Warring States eras. This book described in detail the theories of the acupuncture diagnostic system. These theories, which are still used today, include the Yin/Yang theory, Five Element theory, Organ (Zang/Fu) theory, Meridian theory, and Qi/Blood theory. Together they form the basis and foundation for Chinese medicine, which treats a person's health in a holistic way.
Meridian theory is the most important theory in acupuncture. Through centuries of observation, clinical practice and detailed documentation, Chinese doctors discovered sets of points on the body that, when needle properly, were able to resolve disease. By the 3rd century A.D., Chinese doctors had documented 365 acupuncture points located on 14 meridians, or pathways, on the body. From the 3rd to the 19th century, Chinese doctors documented a few hundred additional acupuncture points, called "extra" points, which are not on the main meridians. Acupuncture points, when needled, have powerful properties, including the ability to conduct sensations up and down the human body, influence organ function, and interact with other acupuncture points along the meridians.
As early as the 6th century, doctors from Japan and Korea came to China to learn acupuncture. Chinese doctors also traveled to Japan and Korea to teach acupuncture. Acupuncture spread to Europe in the 16th century, and became known to the U.S. in the 1970's. In 1971, the New York Times reporter James Reston went to China on business. During his visit, he was struck with an acute case of appendicitis. He went to a Chinese hospital to get treatment. The Chinese doctors successfully removed his appendix using acupuncture anesthesia and treated his post-surgery pain with acupuncture. He was very impressed with the acupuncture he received. When he came back to the U.S. he wrote an article about his experiences with acupuncture. That started the awareness of acupuncture in the U.S. You can read the article he wrote in 1971 on our website.