Acupuncture is over 2500 years old and practiced in most countries throughout the world. In the past three decades, there have been extensive studies on acupuncture and great efforts have been undertaken to conduct controlled clinical trials, including the use of “sham” acupuncture or “placebo” acupuncture controls. During the past decade, there has been a growing convergence between the most advanced research knowledge from physiology, biochemistry and pharmacology, and knowledge obtained by research in the field of acupuncture; that is to say, a convergence of modern international science with traditional Chinese medicine.
Findings from basic medical research that acupuncture stimulation causes release of endorphins, serotonin, enkephalins, and γ-amino-butyric acid (GABA; a major inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain), norepinephrine, and dopamine helped to explain the acupuncture effect on a biomedical and pharmacological basis that was acceptable to the Western medical establishment. Numerous articles are being published on the efficacy of acupuncture for many types of diseases.
In the Americas and Europe there is significantly increased familiarity with acupuncture and thousands of patients have sought acupuncture treatment to relieve pain and stress-related syndromes, to enhance the immune system, to reduce insomnia, to improve athletic performance, to address neurological conditions, as well as for cardiac and poststroke therapy. From the viewpoint of modern medicine, the principle action of acupuncture is to regulate the function of the human body and to increase its resistance by enhancing the immune system and the antiphlogistic, analgesic, antispastic, antishock and antiparalytic abilities of the body.
Acupuncture now occupies a unique place in modern medicine. Research on acupuncture has taken place in many universities and research institutions around the world, increasing our understanding of how the human body works. These articles only review a fraction of the research that has been conducted on acupuncture.