Acupuncture is not considered effective in diseases where irreversible damage to the organs already has taken place. Cancer, tuberculosis, or extrauterine pregnancy fall into this category. The very philosophy that inspired it declares that medicine should seek to restore health by rendering the organism capable of ridding itself of disease. Thus, in the Nei Ching (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic•of Internal Medicine, 2500 B.C.?), in which the
practice of acupuncture was first codified, there is this disclaimer:
“This is the way of acupuncture. If a man’s vitality and energy do not propel his own will, his disease cannot be cured.”
Reducing pain is seemingly the simplest task in acupuncture. But it can go much further, for it is claimed that it acts directly upon the parts of the body and the organs that the practitioner wishes to reach. All functional difficulties not accompanied by organic lesions fall within the domain of acupuncture. Thus, very serious diseases are treated by acupuncture, for instance, heart disease verified by electrocardiogram, stomach ulcers, liver complaints, stubborn constipa- tion, sexual difficulties capable of causing impotence, skin diseases, respiratory diseases, and, in a general way, conditions affecting the organs of sense, e.g., buzzing in the ear or inflammation of the eye.
Acupuncture also is claimed to be useful as an auxiliary in the treatment of infectious diseases. It would be foolish to ignore the progress achieved in this field by Western medicine, especially in the discovery and application of antibiotics. However, in the case of very serious infections, the action of acupuncture is claimed to increase the patient’s powers of resistance, and may become a useful supplement to antibiotic treatment. Proof of such a benefit still is to be determined, though.