Modified and translated by CFJA
Since the 21st century, many countries have been practicing acumoxa therapy and yet, it seems that its history is not so well known. We have the impression that many do not seem to know what kind of therapy it actually is. As a matter of fact, even the medical workers who practice acumoxa therapy, they themselves do not seem to fully understand their medical practice. Dr. Seino states that he has been researching for years to seek the reality and the truth of acumoxa which began from the realization of how little he knows about it. He is writing this blog to provide the readers with the truth about acumoxa therapy.
There is a theory that acupuncture therapy has existed in Japan since ancient times and was later transmitted to China. In the kojiki 古事記 (Records of Ancient Matters) – the oldest existing record of Japanese history, blended with a collection of Japanese mythology – records of medical practices similar to those in China and Korea are found. Dr. Yu Fujikawa, a leading expert in medical history in Japan, states that acupuncture therapy already existed in ancient times. Although it is certain that later in Japan, medical techniques and systems were brought from China, the origin of acumoxa therapy is yet to be concluded.
It is thought that human’s action of utilizing their wisdom to deal with an illness was similar in any region; it gradually developed throughout the cultural interactions of different regions. Compared to the knowledge and medical techniques that were brought from the other continents, the fact that medical techniques developed by adapting well to the environment in Japan is historically clear.
The first health care system in Japan is called ishitsuryo 医疾令, stated in taiho ritsuryo 大宝律令, established in 701 CE during the Asuka period (592 – 710 CE). Although it imitated the Chinese medical system, ishinpo『醫心方』edited by Tanba Yasuyori in 984 CE is the first text to show a clear indication of japanization. It shows that Japanese medical techniques, which had been carried out since ancient times, fused with Chinese medical techniques.
In the Nara period (710 – 794 CE), the pharmaceutical department in the Ministry of the Imperial Household was managing and educating medical practitioners. According to the shiki inryo 職員令, doctors were responsible for diagnosing and treating various diseases. They had provided treatments such as tairyo 体療 (internal medicine), soshu 創腫 (surgery), shosho 少小 (pediatrics), me 目 (ophthalmologist), ha 歯 (dentistry), kakuho 角法 (phlebotomy/bloodletting), etc. Kakuho 角法 is a treatment that removes blood stasis. Nowadays, it is referred to as oketsu chiryo 瘀血治療 which includes bloodletting (one of the acupuncture therapy), oketsu-kyuatsu therapy 瘀血吸圧治療, cupping therapy 抜缶治療, leech therapy 蛭治療, etc. The role of the acupuncturist is to treat soshu 創腫, referred to sosho 瘡腫 (ulcer) in the Tang Dynasty, which is considered surgery. Article 6 in ishitsuryo 医疾令 states, “One should learn combined methods of acupuncture and moxibustion.” Hence, acupuncturists studied both acupuncture and moxibustion, and practiced surgical treatment.
Doctors had been responsible for all types of patients, nonetheless it is thought that their main medical practice was drug therapy. This was later called hondo 本道 and is the equivalent of today’s internal medicine treatment. To phrase it in a modern fashion, they are a general doctor, otherwise stated, a physician. It is presumed that they would refer patients to surgeons, namely the acupuncturist 針師, who were later called the acupuncture doctor 鍼医 and moxibustion doctor 灸医 or during the Meiji period, acumoxa therapist 鍼灸師, or in the modern times, acupuncturist はり師 and moxibustionist きゅう師.