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Shermer Tests Acupuncture

One of the oldest forms of so-called alternative or complementary medicine is the ancient Chinese art of acupuncture, now claimed by many to be a science. Michael Shermer goes in search of what is behind acupuncture through interviews and getting himself poked!

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Full of Holes

The curious case of acupuncture
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John Marino was the most driven man I ever met, a monomaniac on a mission to break the U.S. transcontinental cycling record — which he did in 1980, covering the 3,000 miles in 12 days, three hours. I wanted to be like John, so that year I took up serious cycling. In addition to pedaling hundreds of miles a week with him, I followed his training regimen of vegetarian meals, megavitamin dosing, fasting, colonics, mud baths, iridology (iris reading), negative ions, chiropractic, massage and acupuncture.

Although most of the nostrums I tried were useless, I noted with interest (because he beat me) that Jonathan Boyer, the winner of the 1985 Race Across America (co-founded by Marino and me), had a Chinese acupuncturist on his support crew. Given the successes of Marino and Boyer, it seemed possible that there might be a biomedical connection.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that a life energy called Qi (“chee”) flows through meridians in the body; each of the 12 main meridians represents a major organ system. On these 12 meridians are 365 acupuncture points, one for each day of the year. When yin and yang are out of balance, Qi can become blocked, leading to illness. Inserting needles at blocked points — believed to number about 1,000 — supposedly stimulates healing and health. (continue reading…)

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