acupuncture and moxibustion


acupuncture and moxibustion
Acupuncture and moxibustion constitute one of the most distinctive branches of Chinese medicine. Acupuncture refers to the therapeutic manipulation of needles at specific sites on the body, and moxibustion to the therapeutic warming or cauterizing of these sites with slow-burning moxa leaves. They are commonly used together in clinical practice, although acupuncture is the predominant technique. Acupuncture and moxibustion have a history of 2,500 years of practice in China and continue to be vibrant, evolving medical practices today.
Acupuncture and moxibustion practice first emerged during the late Warring States and early Han dynasty eras (c. 475 BC to AD 24). The oldest extant medical text in China, the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon (Huangdi neijing), a collection of some of the most important medical writings of this period, devotes considerable space to expounding the basic principles of acupuncture and moxibustion. The innovations of subsequent generations of scholars have relied heavily on the theoretical foundations laid down in this classic. In contemporary practice, acupuncture doctors must master the basic theory of Chinese medicine (see herbal medicine), with a particular emphasis on meridian theory, acupoint location, and needle and moxa manipulation techniques. Meridian theory describes the pathways and relationships that link specific organs, tissues and regions of the body. It constitutes the essential diagnostic and therapeutic guide for acupuncture practice. Most acupoints, the sites of therapeutic application, lie along meridian pathways.
Therefore skilful needle or moxa manipulation not only produces local physiological responses, but also operates through the meridian pathways to effect changes in distant corporeal sites.
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) health care policies have deeply influenced the contemporary practice of Chinese medicine. Reversing Republican era policies, the CCP incorporated Chinese medicine into the state health care system, creating medical schools, hospitals, research institutes, academic journals and administrative bodies specifically for Chinese medicine. Today acupuncture doctors can be found working both in Chinese medicine hospitals (in acupuncture and moxibustion departments) and in general hospitals (in Chinese medicine departments).
One of the greatest challenges confronting Chinese medicine practitioners today is the global hegemony of biomedicine. Health policy-makers and Chinese medicine institutions have responded to this challenge by encouraging integration of the two practices, in spite of the vast epistemological differences that separate them. Chinese medicine schools provide basic training in biomedicine, in addition to standard Chinese medicine curriculum. Many acupuncturists reinterpret their knowledge of meridian theory and modify their acupoint selection according to knowledge of the nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems. In addition to traditional adjunct therapies, such as cupping and scraping, acupuncturists also employ new modern forms of acupuncture that are based in part on biomedicine, such as ear acupuncture and head acupuncture. Electromagnetic energy sources—electrical current, magnetic fields, infrared light, lasers, etc.—are widely incorporated in clinical practice. But the growing authority of the biomedicine continues to encroach on Chinese medicine. In spite of their traditionally wide range of use, acupuncture and moxibustion are increasingly reserved for a narrow range of chronic illnesses that don’t respond well to biomedical interventions.
ERIC I.KARCHMER

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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