Acupuncture for Skeptics

Recently, I started thinking about how much I dislike myself sounding like a complete heretic when I explain the theories of acupuncture in English – Yin and Yang, channel theories, and so forth. Granted that English is my second language and I might not be able to explain myself fully at times; it still sounds funny to me. One reason is that the Taoist philosophy that is behind acupuncture has no relevance for most people in this industrial world. I mean, who cares about Yin and Yang, really?

With that in mind, I wish to reach out to people who think acupuncture is total nonsense. I have made up a mock Q&A based on the actual questions I have been asked in the four years of my practice in Portland.

Q: Why would needling in the skin cure organ dysfunctions? I don’t see any relationship between the two.

A: The most recent understanding of the function of the skin is that the skin is a sensory organ. It is derived from the same embryonic layer as that from which the brain stems. It is natural to think that those two still communicate in an adult human body. In fact, the information from the skin’s surface (temperature, touch, or pain) is transmitted to the brain via the nervous system, and the brain reacts simultaneously to the information received from the skin.

Acupuncture textbooks tell you that there are areas on the skin that have a direct relationship to the organs, but none of the books I have read explain how they came to be organized into acupuncture theory. My wild guess is that people were more susceptible to the physical functions three thousand years ago with much less distractions and a lot more time. Let’s say, for example, that many people said that certain parts of the legs always hurt when they had an upset stomach. One wise person realized that pressing on those points relieved the upset stomach. Many other scholars joined in and gathered other information about different points and their impact on the human body. They tried many probing devises, and they had, oh, about two thousand years to categorize those points and test them on actual human bodies.