Zhenjiu, or acupuncture and moxibustion treatment, is one of the treatment methods of traditional Chinese medicine. The term is created by combining a syllable from the bisyllabic name of each practice: acupuncture (zhenci) and moxibustion (aijiu).
The ability to deftly manipulate acupuncture needles is a fundamental skill of zhenjiu treatment. Generally, it refers to all needle techniques, and specifically it refers to the insertion, manipulation, and then removal of the needle. Needle insertion is a basic technique. Needle manipulation and removal are tonification and sedation techniques (also known as supplementation and drainage, the terms refer to whether the qi needs to be supplemented because there is not enough or if it needs to be reduced, because there is too much); other tonification and sedation needling techniques include the “quick and slow,” the “respiratory,” the “directional,” and the “opening and closing” methods.
In zhenjiu theory, moxibustion methods are generally divided into two major types—those which incorporate the plant Artemesia and those that do not. Artemisia moxibustion delivery methods include cone, stick, warm-needle, and moxa-box, among others. Non-Artemisia moxibustion can refer to certain modalities; the most common ones are rush pith (or juncus, the inner pith of the herb Juncus effusus; using juncus for moxibustion is also called juncibustion.) moxibustion and heavenly moxibustion (direct application of certain herbs to the body, done without the use of fire).
Zhenjiu treatment uses acupuncture and moxibustion methods, either separately or combined, to stimulate the meridians and collaterals, and the acupuncture points of the body in order to prevent disease. It does this by promoting and unblocking the meridians and collaterals, qi and blood, and regulating and balancing the yin and yang of internal organs. A basic tenet of zhenjiu treatment is summed up in the saying: “support the right and dispel the malicious.” “Right” refers to the body’s harmony, its defenses, and adaptive functions, and “malicious” refers to obstacles to the body’s normal development that lead to disease. Therefore, the concept of “support the right and dispel the malicious,” along with harmonizing the yin and yang, and dredging the meridians and collaterals forms the foundation of zhenjiu treatment.
The basis for determining treatment in zhenjiu is called pattern identification. Pattern refers to a group of related symptoms of varying degrees that show the cause of the disease, its location, severity, and other factors. The doctor begins by using the four methods of examination (observation, listening and smelling, inquiry, and palpation) to collect the clinical information of a disease. Then, by analyzing the eight principles and the meridians and collaterals, the physician decides the nature of the disease: whether it is yang or yin, whether it is cold or hot, and whether it is a deficiency or an excess. The practitioner then discerns the location of the disease: is it located on the surface or internally, is it in the viscera or in the hollow organs, and in which meridians and collaterals is it located? Only after pattern differentiation is the treatment discussed. Zhenjiu treatment includes five aspects consisting of principles, methods, meridians, acupuncture points, and techniques, to soothe the channels and adjust qi and blood so as to balance yin and yang, harmonize the organs, and replenish qi and blood.
Several thousands of years have seen acupuncture needles develop from their beginnings when they were fashioned from stone, until the stainless steel needles now commonly used in clinical settings.
The culture of zhenjiu has a several thousand-year history, from which have emerged many famous practitioners and texts. In legendary times, there were Fuxi (reportedly the first Chinese ruler), Shennong (Divine Husbandman or Flaming Emperor), and Xuanyuan (Yellow Emperor); in the Eastern Zhou (770–256 BCE), there was Bian Que (407–310 BCE); in the period of the Qin, Han, and the Three States, there were the Venerable Cang (ca. 205–150 BCE), Hua Tuo (ca. 140–208), Cao Xi (d. 242), Lü Guang (ca. 239), and others; in the time of the Wei, Jin, and the Northern and the Southern Dynasties, there were Huangfu Mi (215–282), Ge Hong (283–343), Bao Gu (ca. 309-363), and Wang Shuhe (ca. 210–285); and in the Ming and Qing period, there were Huang Can (1850–1917), Yang Jizhou (1573–1619), and others. There are a tremendous number of writings related to zhenjiu with the most representative one being the Huangdi nei jing (Yellow Emperor’s internal canon).
Currently the World Health Organization cites sixty-four major illnesses treated by zhenjiu, but Chinese scholars conclude that there are more than six hundred zhenjiu treatments for disease adaptation.
It is estimated that there are about 100,000 acupuncturists in the world (this number includes the 70,000 members, in forty-six countries, of The World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies).