Acupuncture in the West: The History, Western Discovery, and its Transition from East to West

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Oonk, Emiko
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The subject of this paper was inspired by my cousin, David. My cousin has been diagnosed with acute hypoglycemia and several severe food allergies to things such as wheat, flour, and garlic. Before he was diagnosed, he spent several years and hundreds of dollars visiting "traditional" American doctors. Each doctor basically came up with the same conclusion; there was nothing wrong with him. Western doctors could not figure out what was wrong with him, yet prescribed him such things as steroids (which are highly addictive) to "take care of his pain." Finally, someone suggested that he see an "alternative" doctor; i.e. a physician practicing Eastern medicine. Within five minutes of his first appointment, my cousin was diagnosed and put on a new diet. Today, my cousin has to watch what he eats very carefully, but he is no longer dependent upon drugs (as the Western doctors had prescribed), and no longer in pain. I had heard of cases like this before; an incurable disease being cured through Eastern practice. However, this was the first time I had ever witnessed it first hand. Seeing this "miracle" inspired me to do a little more research on Eastern "alternative" healing. There are so many different methods of Eastern healing, not only characteristic of the Chinese culture, but also to other Eastern cultures like India and Japan. I made my decision to focus on acupuncture after I was able to witness live acupuncture for the first time. The process of performing acupuncture intrigued me, and I was also surprised to see that it did not hurt whatsoever. While talking with the acupuncturist, I found that the way Western doctors perform and think about acupuncture was slightly different than the way Eastern doctors think about it. I wondered why this was, and this led me to do a deeper historical background check on Western acupuncture. After doing research, my findings were initially surprising to me, but after reflecting upon similar situations in world history I found that the problems acupuncture faced were nothing new at all. As many controversies have sprung in all nations regarding the lack of information about certain historical topics/events, I found the same problem in Western acupuncture. Through the transition of acupuncture into Western culture, much of the underlying meaning has been lost, thus changing the way Western doctors learn and think about acupuncture. This paper will discuss Eastern beliefs and practices of acupuncture, Western beliefs and practices of acupuncture, and the transition of acupuncture from the East to West.
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