Article

Energy - Meridian misconceptions of Chinese medicine

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Abstract

Numerous lay and medical practitioners of Chinese needling therapy (acupuncture) rely on the Western metaphysical construct of energy and blood circulation by meridians/channels. This scheme was put forth by Georges Soulié de Morant in 1939 in his rendering of the Chinese vessel theory of cardiovascular circulation of vital substances. This idea is contrary to the historic facts of Chinese medicine, as well as to known anatomy and physiology. Soulié de Morant interpreted the Chinese character "qi" (air and vapor) as "vital energy" and "jing" (longitudinal) as "meridians." He believed meridians were: "an additional circulatory system having no relation to the nervous, circulatory, or lymphatic systems." Later in his life, Soulié de Morant concluded that the vascular system actually supplied blood and energy to all the body cells. Converting potential energy sources to "vital energy" was thought to be in the realm of metaphysics. It has been known for some time that energy production within the cells involves oxidation of glucose to convert ADP to ATP which then fuels cellular processes. The energy-meridian misconceptions need to be replaced with physiologically correct understanding to best serve public interests and to provide a solid basis for valid research.

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... Historically, the acupuncture profession has argued that its exclusion from mainstream medicine was, in part, due to a lack of public awareness as well as resistance from the medical associations (Devitt, 2006). We argue that the greatest barriers to integration, however, originate with acupuncture training programs based on European metaphysical ideas (Kendall, 2008) and therefore do not ensure graduates have a sufficient understanding of quality biomedical knowledge, competent evaluation of research (Hammerschlag, 2006), and mainstream medicine, including primary care. Without adequate knowledge or exposure to mainstream medicine, graduates are unprepared to (a) function effectively on an integrative health care team, (b) provide competent primary care to patients, or (c) make appropriate referrals to physicians and other mainstream providers. ...
... The community of Chinese medicine authors and researchers that are widely published but rarely referenced must be recognized as a branch of legitimate acupuncture scholarship. The unpopular topics they represent include the (a) lack of evidence for the existence of qi and meridians (Kavoussi, 2007;Kendall, 2008); (b) origins of needling therapy outside China (Kendall, 2002;Schnorrenberger, 2008;Unschuld, 2003;); (c) the importance of placebo controls in acupuncture research (Bausell, 2007); and (d) research suggesting that pinpoint placement of needles is irrelevant (Moffet, 2008). The arguments presented by these skeptics merit discussion. ...
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Full-text available
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Summary The Chinese called it ‘needle therapy’ which the West later interpreted as ‘acupuncture’ based on impossible ideas of energy and blood circulation via invisible meridians introduced in the late 1930s. Lack of understanding the original Chinese discoveries, which made needling a useful therapeutic approach, has made it difficult to correct these misconceptions. Willem ten Rhyne provided the first clues in 1683 that Chinese concepts involved continuous blood circulation and nerves. The oldest Chinese texts on blood vessel theory date to ca. 168–150 BC while needle therapy was introduced in the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic (ca. 200–100 BC), along with a description of nerves. It introduced the ideas of longitudinal body organization along with segmental dominance that is fundamental to all vertebrates. The Chinese divided the body into 12 longitudinal regions on each side that contained the skeletal muscles, blood vessels, and neurovascular nodal pathway. Muscular distributions and nodal pathways were mapped out by observation of propagated sensation in sensitive responders to needling. Discovery of organ-referred pain led to understanding the role of spinal segmental dominance. Use of these features allowed development of repeatable treatment protocols using the concept of local and adjacent (segmental dominance), proximal, and distal nodes (longitudinal effects).
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