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A quick reminder to anyone considering our Cosmetic Acupuncture Day that we will be running again on 8th August in Bath. This is open to acupuncture students and practitioners who wish to add this extra skill to their repertoire.

Theory: How Cosmetic Acupuncture forms part of your practice and draws on the underlying principles of holistic medicine.

Show and discuss: Tools and equipment including electro-acupuncture machines, derma rollers, oils etc.

Demonstration: The full procedure on a patient including use of specialised equipment and Tui-Na face massage.

Practical: Students practice on one another.

Certificate: of attendance.

Cost: £125.

Do you want to join an acupuncture course that will include Cosmetic Acupuncture? Click here to download our guide to training and sign up for future mailings.



Water is very special and in fact, its hard to overemphasise how special it is. Without water, there would be no life because life was born out of water and water forms the matrix to sustain life. Our body contains more water than anything else and this is why everyone knows about the importance of hydration now. Some people say that almost all headaches are either directly due to dehydration or that it is a significant contributory factor. But it has also become clear that in some cases even when people do drink enough water they are still not hydrated properly, why not?

Well, it may due to the body’s ability to hydrate using the water you drink and that may depend upon the water itself. If you are interested in energy (Qi) and energetic imprinting just give a moments thought to where water comes from. Down miles of pipes, through pumping stations, past electricity cables, through storage tanks etc. Then it has chlorine added and of course, it also contains all kinds of impurities including hormones and heavy metals. Compare that to the water our distant ancestors drank and remember that in terms of evolution our bodies have not really changed that much in the last few hundred thousand years. We evolved drinking clean, pure, energised water, not this stuff coming out of our taps now.

Although science thinks it knows all about water it does not, which explains why it can’t understand or accept the efficacy of homoeopathy. Water has many mysterious, wonderful and unique qualities including the ability to take on human emotion and feelings and to remember them. So unless your water is coming fresh down a mountain in a stream from the clouds and the rain it may well contain the energetic or emotional imprint of other humans.

I know this may sound a bit far-fetched or “out there’  for some but I’m giving this consideration. I think that people who find themselves very sensitive to emotion and energy generally should try “structured water”. This comes either from a natural source up a mountain (not if it has been put in a plastic bottle though, water picks from up everything it is contained in) or by putting the water through a process to change its structure. Devices to do this are available, we have ordered one and I’ll report on my experience with it another time.

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Some people say acupuncture is a placebo but actually placebo is part of almost every kind of medical or therapeutic treatment dynamic. So we know it is an important factor for effective acupuncture just as we know it is important in a GP’s surgery or hospital.

Although I would contend that acupuncture is not only a placebo there are still many different views about how and why it actually works. Some people might even say that you don’t need to know and the fact that it does is enough. But a discussion can potentially help us to understand our own role in the process and thereby improve our effectiveness. The purpose of all the stories and observations I quote in my blog is to emphasize the diversity and range of acupuncture practice. What these very different experiences and styles show is that all the practitioners have something in common, that they are committed to their chosen method. It is this commitment that gives them the confidence to be acupuncturists.

So it seems that the type of acupuncture is unimportant, it’s the practitioner that makes the difference.

There appears to be no real verifiable evidence that any acupuncture system works better than another and you will always find exceptions to any rule or standard you try and establish. It also seems that many of the assumptions people make are open to question. We assume for example that extensive training followed by many years in practice will make you a better acupuncturist. I have seen lots of evidence to confirm this but I have also seen evidence to flatly contradict it. I remember one occasion when a student practitioner took on a patient who had previously been treated by someone well known and with a big reputation. Despite their lack of experience and status the patient preferred the student and got better results with them. This suggests that the patient/practitioner dynamic is critical for acupuncture. I have observed similar situations many times and have even seen students get their points in the wrong place and needle them with nothing approaching the correct technique, only to have the patient declare that its been the best and most effective treatment they have ever had. This probably also explains why a recent report on employment prospects said that therapists are less likely than most to lose their jobs to technology. I’m convinced that what makes acupuncture effective is the therapeutic relationship, confidence in the theory, the sensing of Qi and above all the practice. Acupuncture is a way of being first and a learnt system with skills to practice second and I believe that to some extent you could say the same about many other medical practices. This is not to suggest that what we are taught and what we can learn from the experience of others is invalid but that we need to put it into context. Its purpose is as a catalyst or a tool to allow us to bridge the gap between ourselves and the people we think are separate from us. My observations also suggest to me that methods that work well and resonate for some people do not work so well for others, just as some people like one practitioner or style of needling and others like another. Unfortunately since acupuncturists are trained to believe the theory is real they can tend to think that their particular brand or style is superior and therefore produces more effective treatment. Occasionally this can even lead to almost cult like behaviour if people are susceptible and needy of that. The acupuncture still works but such thoughts can take practitioners out of the moment where they are in practice and into the ego. Consequently acupuncturists have a reputation for being opinionated and there is even an account of someone being murdered for speaking his mind in China. Through the years I have heard many people including some very good practitioners make all kinds of ridiculous statements, here are some examples:

“You cannot treat gynaecological conditions without using herbs”.

“Only five element acupuncture is able to treat emotion”.

“It takes one month of treatment to regress for every year an illness has existed”.

“You cannot be safe and effective with acupuncture unless you study for three years”.

Self-limiting beliefs like these get in the way and I discourage my students from accepting any of them. We need to strike a balance between the things we need to believe and when to let them go. If people wish to make statements like these they should be expressed in first person to reflect their own reality i.e. “I use herbs to treat gynaecological conditions”. If there is one thing I have learnt in 25+ years around acupuncture it is that as soon as you are certain about anything it will be contradicted. Although all beliefs are ultimately just thoughts that we use to control our doubts and fears they are still powerful stimulants to energy. If you think that acupuncture can cause or promote cancer then for goodness sake don’t do any. But if on the other hand you think you can help people with cancer then there should not be a problem. I’m intending to argue that ultimately all beliefs and good intentions are actually limitations. But it is a bit difficult to practice acupuncture in the usual way without them, so I suggest we just bear this in mind for now.

Spiritual teacher Adyashanti says that a person who is truly enlightened is one who really “knows that they don’t know” what is real. In fact none of us do but we have been indoctrinated into believing that a uniform and shared reality exists outside of ourselves. To be enlightened would be to end that illusion and the dream of a life where we are separate from anything. To be truly in a state of not knowing would be to have no concerns over thoughts of past or future. This would be to be free of a time bound reality involving a life and death and even taxes. We go through life thinking that we know things but what do we really know without question? Most of us think and believe with absolute conviction that we are the product of an evolutionary process on a planet spinning around a Sun. But we are basing most of that conviction on what we have been told rather than our own experience and is our reality not only as real as our conviction that our beliefs about a world of any kind are real? Such strong convictions become especially difficult to question when shared by many others or when they form part of our culture or religion. Take for example the strongly held and collective belief of most of the scientific community that homeopathy cannot possibly work and is a load of rubbish. When you ask for justification for this assertion you get a lot of stuff about the placebo, double blind trials, known criteria and sub molecular solutions. They really think they “do know” and they are not in the least bit interested in what people who use homeopathy actually say. Wikipedia calls homeopathy pseudoscience because it does not adhere to scientific method. But scientific method is still only another belief that exists in the minds of scientists. What the scientific case ultimately boils down to is that since lots of people share the same story about the nature of reality it must be true. When you point out that religion does this too they deny any similarity and will come up with all kinds of reasons why science is not a faith or a belief system. They just don’t understand that reality is personal and that it is a product of our own creation. You can’t get them to contemplate the absurdity of the view that it can exist without us or the impossibility of ever proving it. No one knows any reality other than their own so how are you ever going to prove to someone else that the world you perceive is the same as theirs? Such a world simply does not exist! This means any “fact” is only a statement of opinion advanced from a position of separation. There is nothing wrong with that and it may be a valid opinion and one that makes sense to others, but it is still based upon only one level of perception. If anyone wishes to make any judgement of this kind they need to ask themselves how real their underlying assumptions actually are. Homeopathy does work because people say that it works for them and their children and this also applies to acupuncture. If we wish to argue against that we are doing so from a position of arrogance, as if saying we are the only one to know God.

So I can see what Adyshanti is saying when he says we don’t know anything we just think we do. We think things and through that thinking and our experience we create a reality that we call our life. But it is actually a self-created dream or a story born of our thoughts and our individual experiences. We may think that we know who we are but true authenticity only starts when we stop thinking. We are so habitually addicted to this thinking that we assume we can’t stop. But it is possible to change or even suspend our thoughts and to try that sometimes might free things up a bit. For example, you might like to consider the suggestion that all theories and traditions about anything, including Chinese Medicine are in fact part of the dream as well. We are making it up as we go along just as people have always done. Ultimately nothing is certain except the moment now and it’s as well to remember that when you are poised with a needle effecting an acupuncture treatment. This applies if you have 30 years experience and it applies in the same way if you graduated last week. Acupuncture is focused on the moment because putting a needle into a point does give that clarity. The real purpose of acupuncture theory and training must be to bring you to a point where you can come to a stop. In that moment there is no intention or desire, no dreaming, no thinking and you can “be” in what is sometimes referred to as the “hologram of consciousness”.


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There is a saying from one of classic Chinese Medicine texts “all pain comes from the heart” and this probably alludes to the fact that the heart as “supreme controller” reaches everywhere within our lives. Since from a CM perspective the spirit resides in the heart it is from there that we relate to consciousness and the totality of the moment that is.

Heart math acknowledges this but in its own way and using its own language. It tells us that not only are the heartbeats and heart rate important but the subtle differences in the beats and how well coordinated they are.

We have found that using a heart math device over a period of time is very helpful. You have to make a full commitment to use it regularly but after some time it does have a great calming effect and also seems to have more subtle positive effects in other areas, Ill keep you posted with developments.


Massage therapists know how effective massage can be and also that most people are quick to express a desire to be massaged. It has all kinds of thereputic effects including muscle & mind relaxation and improved flow of blood and lymph. But there are times when every therapy has its limitations. Times when something else would be more effective at that time and for that patient. So although massage may well be helping someone with depression or bone degeneration its likely that something else used alongside the massage would make it much more effective. One possability is acupuncture, it often complements massage very well because it works primarally on a persons “energy” or Qi and massage works primarally on their physical body. The theory behind acupuncture is very interesting and inspiring and it helps you to understand yourself and others better. Put it together with massage you just might have a winning formula.

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Cosmetic Acupuncture has been around for a few years in the UK and I first ran a class on it back in 2003. I remember that some established practitioners were quite sniffy about it at the time but now lots of people use it and it is well established. The first thing to note is that all acupuncture is potentially good cosmetically because if we ask what makes a person attractive then it’s health that is attractive. A person who is healthy and well balanced physically, emotionally and spiritually will radiate that for all to see, no matter what their age or genetics. Their health will be reflected in their skin, their body, their general demeanor and especially in their eyes. It’s interesting to note that most of the things that make us attractive to other people physically are things that reflect good strength and reproductive health like lips, skin, hair, muscle tone, body shape and posture. Things that make us attractive mentally/emotionally are things like self-esteem, humility, the ability to laugh and smile, empathy and self-confidence. And it’s through the eyes that we can convey an inner brightness or spirit that says more than words ever can no matter what condition we are in, actually even if we are not in perfect health. We have all met “good looking” people who are unattractive and those who are less obviously so but still have a sparkle in the eye haven’t we? So the good news is that acupuncture can help with all these things because it has an holistic approach to health and beauty. It will consider your physical health, your mental health and ultimately through those your spiritual health as well. This is achieved by looking at the totality of you as a person and then using acupuncture needles to adjust the balance of your Qi (energy). Add to this whatever lifestyle advice we can recommend and the first part of cosmetic acupuncture which is ultimately the most important part has been achieved. The other part addresses the physical, we have techniques to improve the blood flow to the face, tonify and invigorate the face muscles, soften lines and wrinkles, and restore a healthy glow. A Cosmetic Acupuncture treatment usually involves needles to the body and face as well as massage and other techniques. It is initially stimulating and then deeply relaxing. I find that even those people who do not “need” Cosmetic Acupuncture still really enjoy and benefit from the experience. This is why we still include a day specifically on Cosmetic Acupuncture on our one year course, for more details about the course click on this link.


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Quite a lot of research has been done into acupuncture and it has concluded that it works. But of course this is something patients and practitioners could have told the researchers before they started. There has also been research into particular areas and protocols like the Paulus protocol[1] for fertility treatment. These help because they establish methods and point prescriptions that are shown to work in particular circumstances. But I am still not entirely convinced by research and try and keep an open mind about it for reasons I will try and explain. Research may benefit the researchers by re-enforcing their beliefs and those of others when they pass their findings on. But in order to benefit from that you have to join up in the collective belief that reality is shared and unchanging. I’m not saying we should never do that, but if we do we need to be aware of what is happening and how far we wish to go down that path. Another concern is that although you can argue that research may raise standards and help in specialised areas there are still questions about how it is funded. It costs money so who pays, who sets the criteria and what is their agenda? I would contend that a lot of research is so compromised by funding that it cannot really be trusted at all. Experiments can be set up to prove just about anything you like and I think acupunctures reputation has sometimes suffered as a result. Especially since most of the media seems to favour the sceptics view of alternative medicine. Research assumes that it can identify patterns that repeat themselves and through experimentation predict how effective a practice will be. This works well if you are engineering bridges, building computers or possibly even doing Liver function tests, but does it work for acupuncture? I know that we assume it does because there are multiple sources of acupuncture theory derived from research that most of us use. But can you really predict the behaviour of an intangible and mysterious energy like Qi or are we just concentrating on the bit of it that suits us? Researching what works is inherently part of our practice of course and we are doing it all the time. But to a practitioner of Modern Acupuncture its real value must be to show us that all the assumptions and beliefs we have are unreal. Remember too that all research (not only into acupuncture) relies upon researchers who are impressionable, unpredictable and uniquely individual human beings. The researchers bias and expectations will influence the experiments and this is a huge elephant in the room that is virtually always ignored. Funded research into acupuncture I have seen seems primarily concerned with trying to establish its validity on terms acceptable to people like Richard Dawkins.[2] But this runs the risk that we will dumb it down and end up with only Medical Acupuncture. No matter what we do we will never convince Professor Dawkins and his apologists of the existence of a wider consciousness. But we may be missing out on development of our Qi and our own conscious awareness if we allow ourselves to be constrained by their delusions.

Consequently you may have noticed that some research projects have concluded that “sham” acupuncture is just as effective or nearly as effective as “real” acupuncture. This could even be right, but what these projects do not include in their criteria are some of the things that matter the most. These are things such as a practitioners feel for Qi, their self-concept and with what level of conscious awareness they practice. We would also need to know what the expectations of the patients and the researchers are because this almost certainly has a huge impact on the outcomes. Anyone who says that it does not would need to show how we would eliminate that possibility. Acupuncture is about the energy and dynamics created between patient and practitioner but there is not much research done into that. It is very difficult to research anyway because since energy follows thought just thinking about doing anything will alter the outcomes. It is impossible to replicate a moment of existence or the exact energetic dynamic created in one treatment for comparison with another. Every person is unique, every moment is unique and now is always now and cannot be again. This renders acupuncture research to be of limited value even when the outcome is positive. What is past is past, it no longer exists and fixating on the idea that it will predict a future that does not exist either is distracting. In fact it is worse than that because it tends to close our minds to what is outside the parameters set by a scientific or evidence based approach. It puts in place a belief about what acupuncture can and cannot do that is actually completely meaningless. Please don’t let other peoples research saying that acupuncture does not work for a certain disease or condition stop you from treating it. These are just some of the problems you can have when you try and assess one view of the world using beliefs and assumptions formulated according to another. After all, there is a really simple way to know if your acupuncture works, ask the patients!


[1] A well-known study into the effects of acupuncture during the time of embryo transfer in IVF treatment.

[2] Author of “The selfish gene” and “The god delusion” a known critic of alternative medicine.


Why does it take 3 years and £30k to study acupuncture Acupuncture courses have always been 3 years in length since I first became aware of them 30 years ago. I don’t know exactly who made the original decision that they should be or exactly why. But I would assume that it was considered a reasonable timescale because it was in accordance with the norm for degree courses.  It is really very difficult to say how much time it takes to become proficient at anything and particularly something like acupuncture. If we were making televisions it would probably be a bit easier but you would still find it difficult to find an exact time because some people would learn quickly and others slowly. You would end up choosing a timescale that seems reasonable and during which most people seem able to learn how to make a TV. But we are not making televisions we are dealing with something far more “fluid” and that is people. Both students and patients vary enormously in their approach and receptiveness to different things. They also have moods and good and bad days, changing circumstances etc etc. Some may understand concepts quickly, others struggle until they can apply them in a practical way. Some may work brilliantly with patients who love their company and their energy but need to be helped to make a diagnosis, and so on.

Further to that, I have another question, assuming that everyone believes in good health and safety, beyond that how do you define an acupuncturist? Is it to do with how much they know about Chinese Medicine, or 5 Elements Acupuncture, or Japanese Acupuncture? is it about their level of practical skills, or their bedside manner, or their counseling skills, or the little massage they include with their treatments. Or is it that they must be Chinese or must have a white coat or must have a good website or the right letters after their name. Do they have to be successful, expensive, or busy, or is it more important that they are caring and compassionate or that they specialize in your condition or helped your friend?

Well, it could be all of the above but I think you would find very difficult to find an acupuncturist if it were. Acupuncturists vary enormously and how they work depends on them and their training, their knowledge, their experience (including life experience) their approach, skills and attitudes. People come to acupuncture from all age groups, backgrounds and orientations, these are their unique features. This is what defines an acupuncturist, what makes them special and different. Different acupuncturists will suit different patients just as different courses and learning styles will suit different students of acupuncture.

How could they possibly all take exactly the same amount of time to train and all be perfectly suited to the same kind of course?

Conclusions: What really matters is that acupuncturists help people. There are lots of good acupuncture courses and you can look around and find one that suits your style, time, location or other preferences. To read more about our course you can click on the links above including the FAQ’s page.


The first thing to say about this is that it is obviously a subject to bring out deeply felt emotions, attitudes, and opinions. Couples who want children but find they cannot conceive are often worried and vulnerable. If ever the phrase “you can prove anything you like with statistics” could be applied to something then I think “fertility” qualifies. We have all kinds of claims being made by all kinds of people and they usually quote statistics in order to justify themselves. There are the IVF clinics, many (or possibly all) of whom are not honest about the way in which they select their candidates and report their results. Then there are the vested interests of drug companies, researchers, and of course the specialist (often highly paid & high status) medical personnel. There is a prevailing view amongst some (not all) professionals in the NHS and outside that they are the experts and that nobody else either knows anything or has anything to contribute. Their cheerleader being someone who claims to be an expert in alternative medicine despite denying most of its key principles, one Edzard Ernst. 

This is not to say that specialist clinics and procedures such as IVF are all wrong or do not have a role to play but that I would strongly advise anyone to research other options first. Acupuncture and other alternative therapies do help and speaking to people who have been helped by them proves this. We don’t have “statistics” we just have happy people who never needed to go any further than having acupuncture and taking their practitioners advice. There are also many who have been assisted by acupuncture while going through IVF or other procedures. Others who have unfortunately had to accept that they cannot have children have been supported through that. The blunt truth is that fertility treatments (of any kind) do not always work and we must avoid giving false hope.

There are of course a few charlatans in this field offering all kinds of things including alternative or more conventional treatments but I have seen no evidence that they are acupuncturists.

Infertility can actually have many, many causes including some that most specialists and even most acupuncturists never consider. Here is a list of possibles and even this may not be 100% comprehensive:

All drugs/medication/long-term use of contraceptives, Age of parents (effecting eggs or sperm), Genetic weaknes or lack of development, Low sperm count, Poor physiological compatibility of partners, Poor Diet, Obesity, Malnutrition, Over-exercising, Overwork, Emotion (a very big one that is often ignored), Hormonal problems, Minerals, Fats & Acids (part of diet really), Heavy metal toxicity, Household toxins and molds, Other pollutants such as air pollution, Climate & lifestyle, Stress.

Most acupuncturists who do a lot of work with fertility find that they have to become quite knowledgeable about not only the CM (Chinese Medicine) perspective but also about gynecology and WM (Western Medicine). In fact, I know some acupuncturists who know so much about these things they could easily work in a hospital or as a GP specialist. Since patients often tend to seek the help of IVF first and then come for acupuncture this knowledge is necessary in order to help them as effectively and safely as possible. It is possible to treat people for fertility using basic acupuncture techniques but you would not be advised to do so in these more advanced cases. This is why we include two full days of our post-graduate part of the course (during the final 3 months of the year) with our specialist on this, Richard. He has extensive knowledge and experience in treating women for fertility and during pregnancy and childbirth. This key knowledge and guidance to additional resources will ensure that you are safe and confident to treat people for fertility.

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At first glance, it would appear that there are enough acupuncturists touting for patients already. Bristol is quite near where I live and its a direct train ride to one of the biggest acupuncture colleges in the country in Reading. Many of their newly qualified acupuncturists are very tech savvy with websites and fancy Facebook profiles, etc. All this competition means that it is difficult for some new graduates to get started doesn’t it? Well, that depends because not everyone advertises online. In fact some of the busiest acupuncturists I know never advertise and don’t even have an internet presence. This is because everyone is different and some work through networking or a process of osmosis over time to generate new patients. Some, of course, don’t make it and they go away and do something else after acupuncture because they are not suited to building a practice even when they are good practitioners. All this poses questions and I’m going to put forward a couple of points in order to explain why, despite this, I think we do need more acupuncturists and people training in acupuncture.

First, in practical terms can we really continue with health services as they are. Can we continue with a system where half the population either do not take their health seriously or do not know how to (especially when up against all kinds of vested interests who benefit financially from their disease)? When these people get ill they end up at their doctors, on medication and then at the hospital. As money gets ever tighter (because an elite few super-rich people have most of it as the global monetary/fiscal system is broken) more skilled people leave the service and it deteriorates further and further. In view of this we should remember that acupuncture is an holistic practice, it encourages people to look at all aspects of their lives and to take personal responsibility. A good consultation includes a conversation about diet, lifestyle, environment (toxins/ molds etc) and emotional balance. Much of what we do is to help people become aware of things they may not know are important for their health.
Next, in spiritual terms. Global consciousness is real and we are all tied to it and inexorably linked to it whether we acknowledge that or not. Human beings do not exist in isolation they are part of oneness, wholeness, Dao or God (you choose which language best suits you). Let’s face it this planet and life upon it is not looking too healthy at the moment, the planet has cancer and its called humanity. By making people aware of holism, of Qi, of personal responsibility and of the emotional and spiritual aspects of their lives we are working to rebalance this. Everyone who trains in acupuncture or who has acupuncture or even meets someone else who is doing so is potentially lifted by this. We should never forget that the ultimate level of healing is spiritual/conscious and that acupuncture is a great medium to take us in that direction.
So yes, more awareness of acupuncture, more people training in acupuncture, more people thinking about holism, personal responsibility, and consciousness, even if it’s only in a small way it makes for a better world.