Ancient Art Meets Modern Science: American Medicine Investigates Acupuncture, 1970–1980

in Asian Review of World Histories
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Abstract

In the early 1970s, the so-called “acupuncture craze” swept America, introducing many Americans for the first time to this supposedly ancient therapy. Acupuncture was advertised as a cure-all, effective for everything from arthritis to smoking cessation, much to the dismay of the American Medical Association and other professional organizations. By April 1973, Nevada had passed a bill that legalized the use of acupuncture and established a State Board for Chinese Medicine, independent of its State Board for Medicine. In response, American physicians pursued two courses of action: they initiated biomedical studies that aimed at proving either a physiological or psychological effect generated by acupuncture, and they advocated for state-level regulations that restricted the use of acupuncture as an experimental therapy. Building on the work of historians of alternative medicine—including Anne Harrington and James Whorton—this paper contributes to our understanding of the position of alternative therapies within American medical practice.

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