Acupuncture first shows up in Korea during the Chinese Han Dynasty, when the book Huang Di Nei Jing (Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor) achieved circulation some 2000 years ago. Initial tools used at this time were stone 'needles,' evidence of which has been uncovered by archaeologists. During the Silla Dynasty, Korean acupuncture techniques became known in Japan. Specifically, in the 9th year of King Seon Duk, a Japanese man named Ki Ha Byun Nam Ma is said to have studied acupuncture in Silla before returning to Japan to disseminate his knowledge. During the Geryeo Dynasty, acupuncture was part of the civil service examination. Therefore all students of Confucianism had to learn acupuncture, either from travel to Nanjing, or through study of the Neijing. During the Joseon Dynasty, acupuncture achieved a new height of popularity. Heo Jun, Royal Court Physician to King Seonjo of the Joseon Dynasty authored the Dongeui Bogam, widely considered to be the defining text of traditional Korean medicine. This was significant because it was written in Hangul, and was therefore accessible to commoners. Heo Jun discovered and wrote about many herbal medicines in this work, which resulted in a significant increase in the general health of the peasantry.

Heo Jun

Acupuncture gave rise to the Meridian concept, the practice of taking pulse as a diagnostic method, and of course the discovered of acupoints for treatment.

Acupuncture, one of the Oriental medical therapeutic techniques that can be traced back at least 2500 years, is growing in popularity all over the world. Korea has continued to develop its own unique tradition of medicine throughout its long history, and has formed different types of acupuncture methods. The purpose of this review is to summarize clinical case studies in acupuncture and related therapies, such as acupressure, electric acupuncture, auricular acupuncture and moxibustion in Korea. A survey of Korean journals revealed that a total of 124 studies were published from 1983 to 2001. Results obtained from the survey showed that most clinical studies using acupuncture, electric acupuncture, moxibustion and other traditional therapies could alleviate a relatively broad range of medical problems. However, it should be emphasized that almost all clinical case studies published in various local journals did not follow the ‘good clinical practice’ with respect to regulatory aspects. Since they were not conducted using the randomized double-blinded controls with a large sample size, all the results should be considered as therapeutic indications. This review is an attempt to show the scope of acupuncture in our country and the kind of diseases, after many years of clinical experience, that were deemed valid targets for clinical trials.


Clinical studies of acupuncture treatment in Korea, based on reports in the Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, published by the Oxford University Press, demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture, electric acupuncture, moxibustion, and auricular acupuncture in the following areas:

  • Headache
  • facial pain (temporomandibular joint disease)
  • Cervical pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Lower Back Pain
  • Knee Joint Pain
  • Other Painful Diseases
    • Acute Gout
    • Tennis Elbow
    • Arthritis
    • Ankle Sprain
    • Postthoracotomy pain
  • Stroke
  • Poststroke Diseases
  • Facial Palsy
  • Eye Disease (Opthalopathy)
  • Nose Disease (Rhinopathy)
  • Ear Disease (Otopathy)
  • Skin Disease (Dermatology)
  • Hypertension
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Peripheral blood circulation disturbance
  • Impotence

One interesting study of the change of hormone and energy metabolism during weight control of Taekwondo players showed auricular acupuncture effective at increasing levels of Na+, cortisol, and epinephrine, while also decreasing levels of lectin, which produces ob-gene. These clinical trials demonstrated repeatedly the effectiveness of acupuncture in affecting cerebral blood flow, mean blood flow velocity, systolic blood flow velocity, pulsatility index, blood pressure, and surface skin temperatures.

See AlsoEdit

The Practice of Korean Medicine: An Overview of Clinical Trials in Acupuncture

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