Celebrating the history of TCM in the US

Sip, Soak, Breathe Reading Celebrating the history of TCM in the US 3 minutes Next Traditional Medicine in Modern Chinese Communities

While TCM has been studied, practiced, and formally taught in China for over 4000 years, the integration of TCM has ebbed and flowed over the last 200 years in the United States. Acupuncture remained relatively foreign to the US until James Reston, New York Times Columnist, fell ill on his trip in 1971 with appendicitis. In Peking he was operated on, and received acupuncture during the procedure. Following his trip from China in 1972, President Nixon and his staff, returned to the states fascinated with acupuncture as a potential effective medical modality. That year Nixon’s Major General Walter R. Tkach and physician wrote an article in Reader’s Digest published that summer titled “I Watched Acupuncture Work”. 

Shortly after this piece went viral, large groups of US physicians traveled to China to study how surgical operations could forgo anesthesia as Nixon provided a testament in his piece about how Acupuncture allowed patients to stay fully conscious and responsive. This proved particularly useful in oral procedures, where surgeons could test if their procedure was going in the right direction, and by keeping a patient awake and conscious, they could continue or alter their course. These physicians were amazed by how patients were able to stay fully conscious and awake during surgery. And by 1997, the NIH officially declared acupuncture eligible for expanded use in our broader medical community. 


Prior to the 1900s however, many Chinese immigrants already brought their health practices as they settled in this new foreign land. They started small family businesses offering various modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine to local micro communities. Today, we’re thankful for our 10+ local New York City organizations that honor chinese culture, herbal medicine, and ancient traditions.


Traditional Chinese Medicine has made great strides in the last 50 years here in the US. Acupuncture is recognized in nearly every state and there are over 50+ accredited universities offering education for future practitioners. The New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) was the first acupuncture school founded in 1975. Now part of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University (MCPHS), they have been a leader in acupuncture education for over four decades.

Here at ORA, we want to educate our community not only about the healing powers of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but the Chinese traditions that are integral to this practice.