By Alexa Boyce
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that seeks to alleviate illness by inserting and manipulating needles into 'acupuncture points' on the body. This system stirs controversy over its efficacy in modern medicine, but it has been widely used throughout Asia for at least the last 5,000 years. Some scholars believe that Chinese acupuncture has been in use since the 1st millennium B.C.
Perhaps acupuncture has derived from traditional bloodletting as a form of medicine. The specific points and what they are used to treat varies, though this practice was regulated under Chairman Mao during the Cultural Revolution. This is known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Those acupuncturists who did not follow TCM because they used techniques passed through families or from master to apprentice were outlawed. Many of them emigrated to the United States, bringing with them the West's first taste of traditional Chinese medicine.
The basic concept is that illness is a disruption in the homeostasis of "systems of function" in the body. These systems are often associated with, but not directly related to a specific organ. The belief is that this homeostasis can be restored by modifying the activities of the systems through needles, pressure and heat.
Acupuncture is called 'pseudoscience' by some, as the points used can vary, and often cannot be completely reconciled with current biomedical knowledge. Diagnoses in TCM are made by taking the left and right radial pulses at three levels of imposed pressure and analysis of the tongue coating, color and the absence or presence of teeth marks around the edge. Other forms of acupuncture employ additional diagnosic techniques. In many forms of classical Chinese acupuncture, as well as Japanese acupuncture, palpation of the muscles and the hara (abdomen) are central to diagnosis.

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