Pins and Needles
ARGUABLY CHINA’S OLDEST FORM OF MEDICINE, ACUPUNCTURE HAS EVOLVED FROM AN ANCIENT PRACTICE (USING STONE AND BONE NEEDLES!) TO A POPULAR TREATMENT IN PHYSIOTHERAPY TODAY
– the insertion of metal needles into the body as a form of therapy – is an ancient Chinese medical procedure that was invented thousands of years ago. Ancient Chinese literature credits the invention of acupuncture to two Taoist sages, Fu Xi and the Yellow Emperor.
Early acupuncture needles were made of stone, called bianshi – as there were no techniques for casting iron in ancient times. These needles evolved from stone knives that early Chinese people used to incise abscesses, drain pus and conduct bloodletting. Stone knives later evolved into stone needles, relics of which have been found in Shandong Province and Inner Mongolia, dating back to the Chinese stone age.
Records on the use of bianshi were traced by researchers to around 300 BCE in Chinese texts such as the Yellow Emperor’s Classicofinternal Medicine. It claims that bianshi originated along China’s east coast. Historians theorised that thorns, bamboo or sharpened bone followed these stone needles before metal needles were finally introduced.
The Chinese believe that energy, called qi, flows through the body. Disruptions to this flow cause disease and ill health. By pricking the flow at specific points, the normal flow of energy is restored, thereby healing and relieving pain. The needles may be heated or electrically stimulated, and are left in for about 20 minutes.
Researchers discovered that acupuncture promotes the body’s natural healing response, creating its famous therapeutic effect. The needles stimulate electromagnetic signals in the body, activating endorphins, immune cells and other substances that act as natural painkillers. They also promote the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that boost the immune system and normalise blood pressure and temperature.
According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture has been shown to improve the condition of patients for 28 medical conditions such as stroke, hypertension and arthritis. It was shown to be at least somewhat effective at healing 63 other diseases.
It has been noted that acupuncture is particularly effective for healing tension headaches, tennis elbow and stress-related ailments; it has also been proven as a means of reducing nausea caused by chemotherapy.
However effective, the treatment remains controversial. Chinese medical theory claims that the body contains a meridian system where vital energy runs, to which acupuncture points provide access. However, Western doctors argue that no proof exists of such meridians or points.
Today, acupuncture is practised in many parts of the world, where treatments are sometimes given in combination with Western medicines. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Kim Kardashian have received acupuncture treatments – and have praised its benefits widely on social media.
and balanced diet. Cautioning against overeating meat (and getting drunk), Confucius believed that cooking and eating well was the way to good health. Food had to be stored properly and prepared hygienically; if food was spoilt, smelled bad or looked off-colour, it should not be eaten.
Confucius also emphasised that dishes should be well-cooked, and that ingredients should be seasonal and sourced locally. Some accounts even record that sauces had to be matched to meat dishes correctly – or Confucius would not eat them. The famous philosopher’s cooking repertoire was reportedly created from entertaining officials in his hometown of Qufu. The sage also advised that people should eat only at fixed mealtimes, and stop after they were 70 percent full. Portion sizes should be controlled. People should not talk, slurp, or gulp as they ate, which would lead to poor digestion. Many dietitians today still praise the wisdom of Confucius’ advice, finding it to be highly relevant even in modern times.
In 2015, China began preparations to bid for the inclusion of “Confucius cuisine” in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, alongside traditional Japanese cuisine and the Mediterranean diet. ag