An NIH Consensus Development Conference in 1997 reported that acupuncture is widely practiced for pain relief and various health conditions. It was found to have clinical potential for issues like nausea, dental pain, and certain pain disorders, among others. Although preclinical studies have shown the effects of acupuncture, the exact mechanisms within the Western medical framework are not fully understood.
Acupuncture is believed to work by accelerating the conduction of electromagnetic signals, enhancing the activity of pain-killing biochemicals like endorphins and immune system cells at specific body sites. It may also influence brain chemistry by altering neurotransmitter release and affecting the central nervous system related to sensation, involuntary body functions, and immune responses.
Chinese Materia Medica
Chinese Materia Medica is a comprehensive reference on medicinal substances used in Chinese herbal medicine. Herbs and botanicals typically contain numerous bioactive compounds, and factors like geographic location, harvest season, and processing can impact their composition. Herbal combinations, often used in TCM formulas, make standardization challenging.
Research efforts have focused on the effects of single herbs and herb combinations used in classic TCM formulas:
- Artemisia annua, known to control fevers, led to the discovery of artemisinin, used in malaria treatment.
- Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (Chinese Thunder God vine) has shown promise for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, although some toxicities have been observed.
TCM has a long history of treating asthma, and acupuncture has been recognized for its benefits. The World Health Organization listed various diseases, including respiratory tract conditions like asthma and bronchitis, that can benefit from acupuncture in 1979.