Traditional Chinese Medicine, Part II
When we study acupuncture and history, we find that a lot of misinformation about it has been conveyed by both academia and the media, giving this form of medicine mystical or magical qualities. This is due to the difficulties of translation from an ancient form of Chinese no longer in modern usage, and a misunderstanding of Chinese medical terminology.
The history of acupuncture has simply been distorted. Fundamentally, this form of medicine is based on the idea of returning the body to a state of harmony or ideal functioning, akin to the medical definition of homeostasis.
How Did the Ancient Chinese Know So Much About Anatomy?
Two thousand years before it was known in the West the Chinese understood blood circulation and had a fundamental understanding of the immune system. Historical texts describe the internal organs, and the entire vascular and muscular systems in detail.
The ancient Chinese had a basic understanding of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves, and the vascular and neural connections to the heart, eyes and optic nerves. They understood that one could propagate sensations along pathways associated with vascular and muscular anatomical features, possibly involving the nervous system.
In researching acupuncture and history, we find that early Westerners in medieval Japan found that acupuncture doctors there had constructed complex mechanical models of the human vascular system in an effort to describe how blood circulates in the body.
The Physiological Basis of Acupuncture Points and Meridians
The Chinese, through the practice of anatomical dissection, were able to identify many of the structures of the vascular and nervous systems. Through this research and through empirical practice, they were able to identify neuro-vascular nodes, which we call acupuncture points, that are concentrations or junctures of fine vascular structures and related nerves.
By stimulating these areas through the use of a variety of techniques including acupuncture needles; cupping; Gua Sha scraping technique; heating with moxabustion therapy; or massage, ancient doctors were able to observe the profound effects on the body.
The continual practice of this therapy over millennia led to a very sophisticated system of diagnosis and treatment techniques that can seem magical or mysterious to untrained Westerners.