On the most basic of levels, acupuncture can be described as the insertion of very fine needles (sometimes in combination with electrical stimulus or with heat produced by burning specific herbs, called Moxibustion) into the skin at specific acupuncture points in order to influence the functioning of the body.
Traditionally, there are 365 acupoints on the body, most of which have a specific energetic function. Some are the meeting of meridian pathways while others are junctions with an internal pathway of the meridian. Some points tend to move qi (Chi energy) towards the interior of the body while others bring energy to the surface. The choice of acupuncture points varies from patient to patient and from treatment to treatment and relies on very careful diagnoses of different kinds. Diagnosis entails the observation of the body through looking, touching, smelling and listening.
One of the primary and fundamental diagnostic methods of traditional Chinese medicine is pulse taking, which is far more intricate than pulse taking in the West. It has been said to take upwards of fifteen years to master this diagnostic art. The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture's effectiveness in treating over 200 conditions.
Among other things, acupuncture can:
Treat Colds and Flu
Although not common knowledge, acupuncture is actually quite effective not only in preventing colds and flu but in drastically shortening the time one is sick.
Treat and Prevent Allergies
Acupuncture is very effective in treating both respiratory and food allergies.
Stress is now recognized to be the leading cause of illness in our society, and a programme of relaxation is one of the most important things we can do to improve and maintain our health. Acupuncture is one of the easiest ways of producing a beneficial state of relaxation, and has been shown to produce the Relaxation Response as described by Herbert Benson.
Relieve Pain and Speed the Healing of Injuries
This aspect of acupuncture is now becoming common knowledge. Acupuncture is effective in treating injury-related pains (such as whiplash) and also other pains like headaches and migraines.
Improve Sleep and Relieve Insomnia
Whether you feel like you're sleeping too little or too much, acupuncture is an excellent natural remedy. And it is entirely without the undesirable side effects of drugs.
Acupuncture is recognized as one of the best treatments for the withdrawal symptoms of many hard drugs. But it is also effective for other addictions such as smoking and possibly even overeating.
Help with Emotional Problems
Conditions like depression and anxiety respond well to acupuncture, again without the debilitating side effects of most pharmaceutical drugs.
Treat Hypertension and other Circulatory Disorders
Conditions like high blood pressure and even angina respond well to acupuncture.
Relieve PMS and Painful Menstruation
Acupuncture is effective in relieving the pain, cramping, mood swings and other symptoms associated with premenstrual stress. Acupuncture can successfully treat irregular or painful menstruation, and also male or female infertility.
Heal Urogenital Disorders
Problems from urinary tract disorders to sexual dysfunction are effectively treated by acupuncture.
Acupuncture provides excellent supportive therapy for many other chronic and painful debilitating disorders (such as arthritis).
Acupuncture for Children
Most childhood disorders (from colic to teething to asthma) respond very well to acupuncture. A special style of pediatric acupuncture, known as shonishin, is performed without inserting needles and is completely painless.