Irresponsible and uninformed reports on acupuncture

I recently came across a headline on a health website that read, “Finally, Acupuncture Proven to Reduce Pain.”


We’ve known about the pain-relief benefits of acupuncture for no less than 2,000 years. Chinese physicians carefully recorded these observations on millions of patients. Heck, even the U.S. government’s own scientists know acupuncture works for pain.

In fact, in 1996, the FDA reclassified the acupuncture needle from an “experimental” medical device to a “therapeutic” device. The FDA based this important reclassification partially on the data I provided from my journal publications.

But, apparently, in 2015, we have “finally” arrived at this wonderful watershed, at least in the mind of another breathless but clueless “expert” on the internet.

Unfortunately, this internet article contained no new information about acupuncture. But if it were the first story you happened to pick up, you might think this expert was the first person to conclude acupuncture actually works!

This kind of reporting of old findings by uninformed sources happens all the time. And I do my best to warn you about it.

But I still have readers come to me with concerns about conflicting information they get on the internet, from an acquaintance, or from another source. Often, the reader will say some “natural-know-it-all” guru or “Johnny-come-lately” mainstream physician has wonderful things to say about some new, miracle supplement, or other treatment.

Of course, the first step you should always take when you come across conflicting information is to “consider the source.”

For the past 20 years, I have written and edited the basic textbook on natural medicine for the health professions, Fundamentals of Complementary & Alternative Medicine. It just went into its 5th consecutive edition in December 2015. And the early numbers look like we are reaching double the number of health professionals as we ever did before.

Anyway–the extensive years of background I have compiled in my textbook always tempers my reading and reporting of big health “news” in the media. Truly radical or revolutionary findings are rare.

In fact, as I see it, findings tend to fit certain patterns–especially the patterns of Nature. When health approaches agree with Nature, they tend to work. When they do not, they often result in the old admonition by the 17th century British philosopher and scientist, Sir Francis Bacon, “the cure is worse than the disease.”

My views are always “well-seasoned,” whether I’m writing about a spice, a drug, an herbal remedy, or any other topic. Plus, much of the mainstream “news” reports on old findings we’ve known about for decades or even centuries, as in this case.

This story on the internet actually cited a 2014 article on acupuncture written my colleagues Andrew Vickers and Klaus Linde, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

But even that 2014 JAMA article was rather old news.

Back in November 1997, JAMA devoted an entire special issue to complementary/alternative medicine, which included acupuncture. Now–that issue was truly groundbreaking.

You see, I had encouraged Dr. George Lundberg, the editor of JAMA at the time, to address increasing interest and concern in the medical community about complementary/alternative medicine by compiling an entire issue of evidence-based research. I provided artwork for the cover of that special issue from the Historical Archives at the College of Physicians in Philadelphia. We wanted to emphasize the antiquity of acupuncture and similar time-honored healing practices covered in the issue.

The fact is, acupuncture works effectively for far more than just pain.

For example, the 1997 JAMA issue included confirmation of the ancient finding that stimulating an acupuncture point on the bladder meridian on the toe will reverse a dangerous breech presentation during labor over 80 percent of the time–without drugs or surgery.

Chinese physicians have known about this incredible tool for 2,000 years. But western medicine could never understand acupuncture’s “mechanism of action.” In other words, they couldn’t understand “how it works.”

But as this breech presentation finding shows, you can’t shoehorn natural approaches into the rigid modern medicine paradigm. It works because it works.

Another reason the FDA approved acupuncture almost 20 years ago was because study after study showed it can help with asthma and lung diseases. At the time, the inhalant drugs used to treat asthma were a disaster. They were killing many young adolescents. The FDA, for once, followed the science and discovered acupuncture is not only effective for lung diseases, it’s also far safer than drugs.

So, while many “experts” try to keep alive the “debate” about the effectiveness of acupuncture–you know better. You can use it for many different health problems, including pain and respiratory illnesses. Plus, it’s far safer than any drugs or surgery.

For more safe, effective, and time-honored options for controlling pain, see my special report called The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Pill-Free Pain Cures.


  1. “Finally, Acupuncture Proven To Reduce Pain,” Healthcare Medicine Institute ( 3/16/2014
  1. “Acupuncture for Chronic Pain,” Journal of the American Medical Association 2014; 311 (9): 955-956