At the moment, the only evidence accepted by orthodox medicine is that which satisfies a double blind placebo controlled trial. These are nearly impossible for an acupuncture treatment.
There is a growing trend among acupuncturists and herbalists to regard outcome results as equally valid. The examples given below, (the first two being from my own personal experience) are illustrative.
The hospital where I studied in China was conducting research on the expulsion of gall stones using acupuncture. In a chest lining one wall of the research room were some 2000 little drawers, each containing gall stones that had been expelled by this method.
What the research showed was that after about 40 minutes electrical stimulation of the relevant points, there was a huge contraction of the gall bladder, and the stones were expelled into the duodenum, and so passed out of the body. They also found that the procedure was completely safe, as stones which were too large to be passed never entered the gall duct, and so there was no problem over them being stuck.
This sort of dramtic result could surely not have happened as a ‘placebo’ effect!
Again when I was in China, I contracted bacterial pneumonia. I had a fever of 400C, with a fierce pain in my chest. The doctors who came to visit me strongly advised antibiotics, but I persuaded one of my colleagues to treat me with acupuncture. It was an extraordinary sensation, as though clear, cool, limpid water was being poured into my chest to soothe the fierce pain. Three hours later the fever had gone down, and I was able to walk again.
Recovery after stroke
A study in Norway compared acupuncture with physiotherapy and massage for stroke rehabilitation. Patients were divided into three groups. Each group had three treatments each week, one group having acupuncture, one physiotherapy and one massage for an hour. The measure they used to compare rehabilitation was whether the patients could pass their driving test.
At the end of one year they found that about 80% of those who had received acupuncture had obtained their driving licence, compared with about 20% for both physiotherapy and massage.