The Neurochemical Basis of Pain Relief by Acupuncture (Vol. 2)
Jisheng Han Hubei Science and Technology Press, PRC Hardback, 783 pages, £59.95
(Reviewed by David Mayor, EJOM Vol. 4 No. 1)
Early on in treatment, my patients often ask two questions: ‘How did you get involved in acupuncture originally?’ and ‘How does acupuncture work?’ My response varies, depending on the patient, but I generally answer the first by saying that I was doing massage before, and wanted to find something that exercised my mind as well as my hands and intuition. The second question I find more difficult, because of course we do not know how anything works, only how we think it works. And so I usually give them two versions - the TCM and the neurophysiological/neurochemical.
For anyone who wants both to exercise their minds and find out ‘how acupuncture works’ (particularly electroacupuncture, EA), according to the foremost Chinese neuroscientist currently engaged in acupuncture research, this book is an extraordinary gift. Most acupuncture books are derivative, based on generations of clinical experience and a long lineage of canonical texts. This one, heftier than most clinical textbooks, is original and altogether unique (except for the first volume with the same title, published in 1987 by Beijing Medical University).
This volume contains English language reprints or abstracts of over 140 studies charting the development of Professor Han’s work since 1987, in many areas. As such, it is not a memoir, a précis, or a popularisation, but allows us the privilege of sharing in the richness, excitement and frustration of scientific exploration, right at the cutting edge.
The book is divided into nine main sections: (1) frequency dependence of EA-induced opioid analgesia, (2) the CNS pathways for low - and high - frequency EA-induced analgesia, (3) the meso-limbic loop of analgesia, (4) central CCK-8 and its role in determining the efficacy of EA analgesia (EAA), (5) anti-opioid peptides other than CCK-8, (6) dynorphin: analgesic versus paralytic effect, (7) Han’s acupoint nerve stimulator (HANS) for pain control and for the treatment of heroin addiction, (8) opioid modulation of cardiovascular activities, and (9) summary.
Nowhere else will you find such a vast collection of high quality research papers on acupuncture in one place, whether clinical or experimental, from the West or the Far East. The only other one that comes to mind is Chifuyu Takeshige’s Synaptic Transmission in Acupuncture Analgesia1 In the western acupuncture community, it has become a comfortable cliché that Chinese research is poorly conducted, poorly reported, and poorly translated. This book shows us how very wrong we are, at least where experimental acupuncture research is concerned.
Whether you love science or hate it, whether you know little or think you know everything there is to know about acupuncture, whether you abhor or condone animal experimentation, this is a book that will broaden your horizons. It is readable by anyone with a modicum of scientific background and motivation, and will nourish not only the mind but clinical practice as well.
Professor Han’s group at Beijing Medical University’s Neuroscience Research Institute has been investigating the mechanisms of acupuncture tirelessly for nearly 50 years. I wish him long life and good health, and look forward in a few years time to a third volume in this monumental contribution to the integration of oriental medicine with western science.
Reference 1. Takeshige, C. (1992). Synaptic Transmission in Acupuncture Analgesia. Dept of Physiology, Showa University School of Medicine, Tokyo.
David F Mayor David F Mayor is a traditionally trained acupuncturist working in Hertfordshire, England. He has a particular interest in the neurophysiology of acupuncture, and is currently preparing a textbook on Electroacupuncture (EA) for the publishers Churchill Livingstone.