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Reformation: a rational movement of the 21st century with the aim to reform  outdated doctrines of 'alternative' medicines of the 20th century.


Versions of Old: Acupuncture (aka TCM), Homeopathy, Electrotherapy, Massage, Hippocratic Medicine, Oriental Medicine

Sept. 2009 Posted by the Grand Master

The Westernization of Acupuncture

by Prof. (Dr. of Med.) Charles McWilliams, ©2009

Although I was not at Woodstock, I was on the early chariot of the westernization of acupuncture. Though centuries old, the earliest European reports about acupuncture came from none other than Jesuit missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact, the word acupuncture was coined by French Jesuits, from the Latin acus (needle) and punctura (puncture). In 1671, Placide Harvieu, a jesuit priest wrote Les secrets de la Medicine des Chinois. Soon afterward, Father Clyer would write a book in Latin. A Dutchman, Willem ten Rhyne (1640-1900) practiced acupuncture in Java. But it was probably Dr. Louis Berlioz (1776-1848) was the first recorded to practice acupuncture in Europe. Germany was introduced to acupuncture from Japan by Dr. E. Kaempfer (1651-1716); his work 'Amoenitatum Exoticamm' was published in 1712. He introduced the word 'Moxa' from the Japanese 'Mogusa' (the herb that burns) and 'moxibustion' to acupuncture vocabulary. The first German Acupuncture Association was formed in 1937. The most significant treatise to be published in France was 'Medicine among the Chinese' by the French consul-in China, Dabry de Thiersant, in 1863. In England the first book on acupuncture - and probably the first book in English on the subject - was written by the Rev. D. Lawson Wood - 'Chinese System of Healing' 1959.  But acupuncture didn't receive widespread exposure in the United States until the 1970s while President Richard Nixon on his 1971 visit to China, an accompanying journalist, James Reston, fell ill with appendicitis, as the story goes and was treated with acupuncture following an emergency operation. Impressed by its benefits, Reston wrote of his acupuncture experience following his return to the United States in the New York Times, sparking interest that is now legion. Over the ensuing decades, acupuncture has gained mostly acceptance among mainstream Western medical organizations, but its mechanism is still hotly debated and misunderstood. 

In those early times of smoke and mirrors of acupuncture's legal status, I watched textbook elementary explanations become mainstream fundamental fodder of acupuncture book after book after book. Felix Mann with his "The Chinese Art of Healing and How it Works Scientifically" (1973) was typical of such fodder, but we add Mark Duke's book of "Acupuncture" which was followed by "An Outline of Chinese Acupuncture," by The Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (1975), and a litany others with most author's just copying what has been said before, over and over again. Some would add new dimension, like my colleague Dr. Ralph Alan Dale, composing a sorely needed article on "Microsystems," and of course Manfred Porkert would save face with his epic text Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine: Systems of Correspondence (1978). By that time, I had finished writing the 31 lessons of the Occidental Institute's course of Modern & Traditional Acupuncture, aka Five Dragons Complete Acupuncture Course. New books in English would come and go, many of them laughed at by my colleagues in Taipei and Hong Kong. Of course, nothing equals to date the seminal series - Traite de Medecine Chinoise, Tomes 1-6, by Dr. Chamfrault, known to so few. Knowledge of the points would radically change when Dr. Reinhold Voll introduced his first seminar in San Francisco on ELECTROACUPUNCTURE (1979) of which I became an immediate student and remain so to this day. These became exciting times, groups would push for state recognition and licensure, some successful, others not. Acupuncture was becoming a profession. Entrepreneurs and amateurs alike would invent and introduce gadgets, software would replace hardware and intelligence. Then, in a complete reversal, the prolific author Felix Mann in 1996 would make the public statement: "...acupuncture points are no more real than the black spots that a drunkard sees in front of his eyes." (Mann F. Reinventing Acupuncture: A New Concept of Ancient Medicine. Butterworth Heinemann, London, 1996,14.). The word drunkard seems an interesting analogy. 

Of course, no well trained body therapist would ever take such a statement serious, but others might, that would heap damage on our sacred "art." Forget not, the embarrassment acupuncture suffered when the Korean Kim Bonghan announced his discovery of "bonghan corpuscles" in the skin which he attributed to the anatomical equivalent of acupuncture points. No other researchers could objectify his findings, and he allegedly later committed suicide.  It simply amazes me that acupuncture authors, teachers and schools to this day pay scant attention to neurology and histology, for it is here we can begin to untangle the textbook mess and confusion of what is really an acupuncture point?

When the acupuncture point locator became available in the late 70s, we thought once and for all we could objectify point locations and thus mystery solved. Well sorry, that is sheer fantasy. Such notions as a few volts and kindred milliamps do not conduct themselves in "meridians" but only permeable points along the dermatomes of the skin that will be found by that method. The phenomenon of dermatomal conduction had been worked out already by Sir Henry Head in the 1890s.(1) Of course, that is not bad, as it is here in the hard wire of the dermatomal maps most intercalary, we may stake claim on Voll's electrodermal screening points and verifies the back-shu and front-mu acupuncture points of those so ancient. But, we are not measuring meridians, or anything of the like. Some of us learned while most others ignored, that there was no substitute for study of topographical anatomy, for it is here that one can only, and genuinely, locate the points proper. 

Then in the 1980s came the argument of that elusive well known but least understood phenomenon, or rather phenomena, of de qi sensation: the necessity of qi (ch'i) sensation or de qi during acupuncture therapy to substantiate proper location of the point and desired result. It is argued here that Qi sensation is not only necessary for accurate acupuncture point finding, but also for successful point stimulation and optimal acupuncture effectiveness. This can be indirectly supported by the physical characteristics of acupuncture points, de qi's anatomical relationship to nervous structures, and supported by millennia of clinical practice in Asian countries. But many would ignore this fundamental, declaring that the elements rule, and the attributes of the points determined by their elemental association was the esoteric value par excellance. Therefore, puncture need only penetrate the skin, filiform hair-like needles could be jolted painlessly down steel tubes so the westerner need not be subjected to any exquisite discomfort, and the forces of aether would do their job irregardless. Sheer acupuncture folly.  

And of course, what everybody missed were those elusive points of Weihe. In 1875 Dr. Weihe introduced the method of "painful" pressure points of homeopathic correspondence. This implies that when a homoeopathic remedy is indicated, its corresponding Weihe point produces an acute pain when pressed. When the remedy is administered, soon thereafter the tenderness vanishes as the patient improves.  Some even insisted that digital pressure of the weihe point/remedy is like a temporary application of the remedy itself. in 1929 Ferreyvelles of France and in 1932, De La Fuye, also of France, made first observations to bridge the gap between Oriental and 0ccidental Medicines, specifically between homoeopathy and acupuncture. The homoeopaths, Weihe and Goehrum were the first to observe that each type of disease, cured by a specific homoeopathic remedy was accompanied by a specific point on the body, which was tender to pressure (Ah-Shi or Alarm point). For example, whenever Nux vomica was the a point at the tip of the eleventh rib of the right side was usually tender.These points are now known as the Weihe points. Today, few homoeopaths use the Weihe points to confirm the simillimum. They are especially helpful, however, when it is difficult to select the simillimum from several remedies which have closely similar drug pictures. In the course of his research, Weihe was able to locate some 197 points coupling which these specific tender points, upon palpation, point to a particular homeopathic remedy (the simillimum), which is indicated for that specfic remedy. Of the 197 Weihe Points, 132 correspond exactly with traditional acupuncture points. Several more (48) coincide with the later discovered extra-ordinary points.There are 189 homeopathic remedies corresponding to the Weihe points: some remedies have more than one corresponding point. I have added some 100 more points of the Weihe method, thus coupling the long awaited antahkarana of acupuncture and homeopathy.(2)

In this series of articles, I will be laying the foundation of acupuncture point ontology, anatomy, neurology, axiology, methodology, and phenomenology while touching on the omphalology which has become so legion. Acupuncture must now enter the 21st century and is in dire need of reformation. 

(1) In the 1890s Sir Henry Head discovered certain areas of the skin that develop tenderness, spot on, in the course of visceral disease. These areas were later termed ‘Head zones’ and would become known as the phenomenon of referred pain. He discovered the existence of specific points within these zones, that he called ‘maximum points’, a finding that is all but forgotten today. It is relevant d that two important groups of acupuncture points, the diagnostic Front-Mu and Back-Shu points, spatially and functionally coincide with these maximum points to a large extent. A comparison of Head's papers with the Huang Di Neijing (Yellow Thearch's Inner Classic) and the Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing (Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion), two of the oldest texts still extant Chinese sources on acupuncture, revealed astonishing parallels between the two concepts regarding both point locations and functional aspects. These findings suggest that the Chinese discovery of viscerocutaneous reflexes preceded the discovery in the West by more than 2000 years. Furthermore, the fact that Chinese medicine uses Front-Mu and Back-Shu points not only diagnostically but also therapeutically potently gives us new insights into the underlying mechanisms of acupuncture. 

(2) Antahkarana bridge: Also know as the "Rainbow Bridge", this is the personal Divine Corridor, the pathway to expansion of consciousness, moving into higher dimensions.

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