Acuherb Clinic

The American Institute of Acupuncture

A Brief History of Traditional Chinese Medicine

1 Ideological Foundation & Influences (Confucianism & Taoism in Early Eastern Culture)

2 The Birth & Growth of Acupuncture (Origins, Evolution, & Westward Expansion)

3 The Literature of Chinese Medicine (Classic Works of Internal & External Medicine)

Ideological Foundation & Influences

Confucianism & Taoism in Early Eastern Culture

Early eastern culture founded the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) with considerable influence from the principles of Confucian and Taoist ideology. Confucianism dominated every aspect of eastern society, from everyday customs to the social hierarchy of China. It elevated the emperor to divine status and established a feudal and totalitarian system of government. While less influential on society than Confuciansim, however, the principles of Taoism impacted the growth of TCM even more than Confucianism did.

Confucian ideology emphasizes the need to preserve the wholeness of the body throughout life and death. Hence, it condemns the study of anatomy and surgical practices. Instead, alternative forms of medicine — chiefly, acupuncture and herbal medicines — became the mainstream modes of medical treatment. Because such methods treat illnesses without mutilating the structure of the body, they were exalted by society as the ideal approach to medicine.

Taoist ideology describes the universe as a collection of interdependent yet polar natural forces, a fundamental principle represented by the symbol of Yin and Yang. Man, therefore, can only achieve ideal health through perfect harmony with the natural forces surrounding him. All principles of TCM were founded and developed according to this central belief. Furthermore, Taoism promoted the art of detailed observation, inspiring rapid progress in the understanding of bodily organs, acupuncture channels, herbal medicine, and much more.

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The Birth & Growth of Acupuncture

Origins, Evolution, & Westward Expansion

Archaeological discoveries of stone needles several thousand years old have placed the origins of acupuncture in the Neolithic era (c. 8,000 BCE - 2,000 BCE), the New Stone Age. The exact circumstances surrounding the conception of acupuncture, however, remain uncertain. Scholars have speculated that man may have first attempted to relieve pain by pressing down on the local area of pain. Finding his fist or palm inadequate for the task, he may have then experimented with heavier, jagged objects such as rocks. Eventually he would learn to refine rocks into stone instruments and, with experience, also come to realize that certain points on the body respond better to pressure than other points do.

Even though the system of Qi channels in the body had yet to be mapped out, Neolithic acupuncture performed with stone needles demonstrated surprising effectiveness. For several thousand years stone needles would endure as the traditional instrument of acupuncture. While excavations have unearthed bronze needles from the Shang dynasty, stone needles had remained the standard instrument in that era. Only by the Warring States period (475 BCE - 221 BCE) did gold and silver needles eventually replace those made of stone. Meanwhile, famous works such as Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Canon on Internal Medicine) and Nan Jing (The Book of Difficult Questions) reflected on ideas such as the circulation of Qi along the channels of the body and the methods of manipulating Qi circulation with acupuncture. Collectively, the knowledge imparted in these influential works describe the system of acupunctural channels and points.

The growing appeal of traditional Chinese medicine in the West began with the arrival of acupuncture in France in the early twentieth century. By the 1950s, acupuncture gained popularity throughout all of Europe, although America remained ignorant of acupuncture until Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. The number of practitioners in the United States, however, grew rapidly following the legalization of acupuncture practiced by non-medical doctors in Washington D.C. Twenty oriental doctors from New York were soon treating over 250 patients each day. Today, there are more than 3,000,000 acupuncturists worldwide.

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The Literature of Chinese Medicine

Classic Works of Internal & External Medicine

The earliest work to influence the philosophy of TCM may well be I-Ching (The Book of Change). An intricate philosophical work, I-Ching was speculated to have been written by a legendary emperor named Fu Xi (c. 2,850 BCE - 2,750 BCE), who also established the laws of humanity for his once anarchic subjects. According to legend, from his observations of nature Fu Xi conceived the eight trigrams and subsequently the sixty-four hexagrams that form the basis of I-Ching. The concepts of Yin and Yang and of the Five Elements in traditional Chinese medicine are all drawn from Fu Xu’s I-Ching.

Huang Di Nei Jing (Huang Di’s Canon on Internal Medicine) — considered to be the earliest and most celebrated masterpiece of TCM — documents the emperor Huang Di’s discourse with his distinguished physician Qi Bo. Through this discourse, the text illustrates the means to establish harmony with nature to achieve well-being throughout life. Although historical records confirm the existence of an emperor named Huang Di (c. 2,700 BCE - 2,600 BCE), scholars have discovered that the discourse recorded in Huang Di Nei Jing, actually written circa 300-200 BCE, may have been written by an anonymous group of physicians. Nevertheless, the wisdom conveyed by Huang Di Nei Jing remains an invaluable resource for practitioners of TCM.

Likewise found to be written by physicians yet an accurate and important reference nonetheless is Shen Nong Ben Ciao Jing (Shen Nong's Canon on Materia Medica). The legend accompanying this work tells of an herbalist and farmer named Shen Nong. To document the healing properties of wild herbs, he is said to have sampled nearly one hundred wild herbs daily, some medicinal and others poisonous. Shen Nong Ben Ciao Jing was composed in the Spring and Autumn period (c. 770 BCE - 476 BCE), and documents approximately 365 herbs.

Li Shi Zhen (1518 CE - 1593 CE), a historical figure of the Ming dynasty, may be described as the incarnation of the legend of Shen Nong. For twenty-seven years, from early 1552 to late 1578, he meticulously studied and documented detailed descriptions of wild herbs, often sampling them himself. He compiled the sum of his knowledge into the famous work known as Ben Cao Gan Mu (The Encyclopedia of Materia Medica). His masterpiece — fifty-two volumes in length with nearly 2,000 illustrations and 11,000 prescriptions — documents 1,892 herbs, detailing their every property and application in medicine.

The earliest and most valuable work on the techniques of treatment in traditional Chinese medicine may be Shang Han Lun (A Treatise on Febrile Diseases), written by a renowned herbalist named Zhang Zhong Jing (150 CE - 219 CE). His work serves as an essential reference on the practices of TCM (i.e. acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion, etc). The most significant contribution of Zhang Zhong Jing’s composition may be its classification of diseases into six “channels” by which all illnesses can be diagnosed. Shang Han Lun invaluably guides TCM practitioners in interpreting the patient’s pulse and determining the appropriate treatment of herbal prescription.

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Open Hours

Monday & Saturday 9:00a - 7:00p
Sunday 12:00a - 7:00p

Our Fees

Consultation only $35
Initial Office Visit $85
Additional Office Visits $65
Session treatment $55/one treatment

Our Location

The Acupuncture Clinic & wellness Center is located in the heart of Houston Clear Lake Area, close to NASA, behind Kroger at 16300 Sea Lark Rd. Houston TX 70062.

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About AIA

AIA is a nonprofit acupuncture institute, the mission of the Institute is to introduce Acupuncture treatment and Oriental medical theories to everybody who can benefit on it, and have a wellness daily life.
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