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Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practise of inserting fine sterile needles into specific acupoints along meridians, in order to stimulate or suppress the flow of “life energy” (qi) where there is an imbalance. It is used most often in the West for pain relief, and is one of the most accepted of eastern therapies.

Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine and fundamental to it are the concepts of Yin and Yang. Yin indicates ‘moon’ or shade, and Yang ‘sun’ or sunshine, and they symbolise opposing but complementary forces within the body (and nature generally). It is essential for well being that these forces are in balance. The interaction of yin and yang generates “life energy” (qi) that flows around the body along channels called meridians. There are 12 main meridians that are usually named after the major internal organs that they pass through, and 6 are primarily yin (liver, lung, heart, kidney, spleen, pericardium) and 6 primarily yang (small intestine, bladder, large intestine, gallbladder, stomach, triple burner).

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Problems on a meridian can create illness at any point along it, and there are around 365 acupoints along the meridians at which qi is concentrated and can enter and leave the body.

Acupuncture involves influencing qi at these points, where fine needles are inserted to stimulate or suppress the flow. The needles vary in length and are made from stainless steel tipped with either steel or copper. They are usually inserted to a depth of 4 – 25 mm, depending on where the acupoint is. The herb moxa may be placed on a needle head and burnt to create heat and stimulate the acupoint (usually where there is a lack of qi). Cupping may also be used to stimulate acupoints, using little glass cups that create a vacuum and draw qi and blood into the cup.

Acupuncture can provide relief from many conditions, for example:

  • Providing pain relief and increasingly as a natural anaesthetic.
  • Musculo-skeletal problems and arthritis.
  • Addictions.
  • Allergies resulting in conditions such as hay fever and asthma.
  • Depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders.
  • Nausea and digestive disorders.
  • Migraines.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Women’s health problems.

Please note that a good Acupuncturist will always do a thorough consultation before commencing a treatment, and will also provide advice about aftercare and homecare. They will use sterilised or disposable needles.


The following books were referenced for this section:

Encyclopedia of Natural Healing by Anne Woodham and Dr David Peters

Holistic Therapy – A Practical Approach by Francesca Gould

See our full range of Holistic Therapy books in the Further Exploration section.

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