An Historical Review and Perspective on the Impact of Acupuncture on U.S. Medicine and Society

Med Acupunct. 2013 Oct;25(5):311-316. doi: 10.1089/acu.2012.0921.


Background: It took almost 300 years for Europe and 400 years for the United States to finally appreciate the therapeutic value of acupuncture. 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.

Context: In the United States, there is significantly increased familiarity with acupuncture and U.S. patients have sought acupuncture treatment to relieve stress-related syndromes, to enhance the immune system, to reduce insomnia, to improve athletic performance, and to address Alzheimer's disease, as well as for cardiac and poststroke therapy. This article briefly reviews the history of acupuncture in the United States and discusses the potential of this modality in the the future.

Discussion: Acupuncture can be combined with conventional Western medicine for pain management in patient with cancer to reduce dosages of narcotic medications, side-effects, adverse reactions, and the possibility of narcotic addiction. Because of acupuncture's increased popularity, acupuncture training schools have been set up in the United States, and some insurance companies cover acupuncture therapy.

Conclusions: By studying both Eastern and Western medicine and using them in a complementary fashion, we open ourselves to many discoveries for the benefit of humanity.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Health Care; Impact; Perspective.

Publication types

  • Review