A rare set of early 19th-century acupuncture needles fashioned by the English physician Edward Jukes; first described and illustrated in James Churchill’s 1821 publication, A Treatise of Acupuncturation.
Acupuncture was first introduced to Europe in 1679 by Willem ten Rhijne, a medical officer of the Dutch East India Company after witnessing its practice in Japan. The adoption of this therapy was initially received with much skepticism; the first published application in England taking place nearly 150 years later in an account by James Churchill who describes the operation:
“The handle of the needle being held between the thumb and forefinger, and its point brought into contact with the skin, it is pressed gently, whilst a rotary motion is given it by the finger and thumb, which gradually insinuates it into the part, and by continuing this rolling, the needle penetrates to any depth with facility and ease. The operator should now and then stop to ask if the patient be relieved; and the needle should always be allowed to remain five or six minutes before it is withdrawn. This mode of introducing the needle, neither produces pain (or at least very little) to the patient (Churchill. 1821, p. 80).”
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing practice and key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine that employs the use of fine needles through the skin into strategic body points known as acupuncture points. These acupoints are linked together through a series of pathways known as meridians that run longitudinally along the surface of the body to corresponding limbs and organ systems. Imbalance or disruption of these pathways is believed to be associated with illness or disease. Needles inserted at specific acupoints are thought to restore the communication and flow of meridian Qi (energy) resulting in a variety of therapeutic responses, returning harmony and balance to blood and Qi, mind and body.
In modern medicine, clinical evidence supports acupuncture therapy as an alternative treatment for a variety of disease processes, working by stimulating the body to balance itself through the activation of neural pathways and secretion of neurotransmitters for local effects, somato-autonomic reflex, and systemic effects.
A similar and higher-end example of these antique acupuncture needles can be found within the collection of the Wood Library Museum.
Churchill, J. M. (1821). A treatise on acupuncturation: being a description of a surgical operation originally peculiar to the Japonese and Chinese, and by them denominated zin-king, now introduced into European practice with directions for its performance, and cases illustrating its success (p. 80). London: Simpkin and Marshall.
- From the Lusignan collection