ASA have now agreed that the WHO list of conditions amenable to acupuncture treatment can now be made known to the general public.  This is a great step forward and means that more people can be made aware of the treatment options open to them. The article below will be updated in due course.

ASA Prevents Access to Alternative Views of Health

The new rules, by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which comes into effect on 1st March 2011, on what alternative medicine can say on websites amounts to ideological hegemony: there is no other valid view of health and illness except that sanctioned by the most conservative members of the orthodox medical profession.

From now on acupuncturists are not allowed to use the word ‘treat’ at all in any written form (to include letters to patients, leaflets, websites or on blogs) except in relation to dental pain, osteoarthritis and nausea and vomiting!  Acupuncturists, along with all other alternative and complementary practitioners, are to make no mention of any other medical condition, or any proven physiological modes of action.  This is despite the support that the World Health Organisation gives to using acupuncture for a wide range of conditions.

Despite the fact that acupuncture developed approximately 2,200 years ago in China and despite the fact that it classifies all symptoms and functions of the body systematically according to ancient holistic principles and therefore has a completely alternative view of health and illness, it is backed by numerous modern research papers.  Tens of thousands of research studies in the past 50 years have discovered numerous pathways by which acupuncture takes effect.  These include neurological pathways, alteration of neurotransmitter levels, hormonal pathways, and improvement of blood circulation, increasing white and red blood cells, improved perfusion and oxygenation to the skin and target organs, increased peristaltic action and many more.

This has led to:

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) to sanction the use of acupuncture to treat many medical conditions, both acute and long term chronic conditions.
  • The British Government to announce that it wants to integrate acupuncture into the health care system, especially for conditions such as back pain and other conditions.  It is already used widely in physiotherapy departments for muscle strain and sports injuries, in pain clinics, and is recommended by fertility specialists and specialists in recurrent miscarriage.
  • The Swiss government have ruled that acupuncture should be paid for by medical insurance as part of the general health care system in Switzerland.
  • In China many hospital departments use acupuncture routinely for a wide range of illness.
  • Cuba integrating acupuncture into its health care system.

Elsewhere patients avail themselves of private acupuncture treatment because, although they have to pay for it, they know it works.  Their friends and relatives recommend it and so they try it too.

However, the ASA (advertising standards authority) say that they disagree with the WHO’s interpretation of data from research.

They disagree with the interpretation given by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Effectiveness) on the usefulness of acupuncture in the treatment of back ache (although they are now reconsidering their position), and with research published in the British Medical Journal on its usefulness in treating gynaecological problems, as well as papers published elsewhere that are used as a basis for treatment by specialists around the country.  However, medical doctors with little training in acupuncture are not prevented from promoting the use of acupuncture in their clinic.

The following are some of the other restrictions that are now in place:-

We are

  • not allowed to add a link to the World Health Organisation website from our own.  The WHO has a list of conditions that it considers acupuncture a suitably effective treatment for.  However, ASA rules that any link would therefore imply that we treat the conditions listed; see  htto://   Here you will see the comprehensive nature of acupuncture as a medical system in its own right.
  • not allowed to make reference to our training if it implies that we are trained to treat any specific condition (which of course our training covered);
  • not allowed to make reference to more general effects of acupuncture, such as temperature regulation, hormone regulation, nor blood circulation, even though these are very well documented effects of acupuncture treatment;
  • not allowed to put in links to any research that supports the use of acupuncture (bar the three anomalous conditions – e.g. dental pain!);
  • not allowed to put in links to foreign, e.g. USA sites, such as the Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles (one of the most prestigious medical centres in America), that support the use of acupuncture and provides a lot of research on a wide range of applications of acupuncture;
  • not allowed to put links to, e.g. the BBC or other media websites when they have stories about the effectiveness of acupuncture;
  • not allowed to inform patients by letter of conditions that we treat.  For example, we can not inform you if we do a further course that supports our efforts in treating some specific conditions, or refer to the many conferences that we attend on specific conditions;
  • not allowed to use testimonials from patients if the patient refers to a specific condition that they were treated for;
  • not allowed to mention any types of conditions that people may choose to come to see us for;
  • not allowed to publish audits of our treatments or clinic results (because these are not done under the same conditions as randomised control studies);
  • not allowed to use the word ‘treat’ despite the fact that acupuncture is a comprehensive holistic medical system in existence for more than 2,000 years, except in relation to dental pain, nausea and vomiting, and osteoarthritis.
  • not allowed to say that we are ‘different from Western medicine’.  Naturally, we cannot say that we are ‘the same as Western medicine.’

From now on it will be very difficult to find any complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information.  As far as health matters are concerned, the ASA accept no view other than the orthodox medical view – and so you must also accept these restrictions.  It will no longer be possible to research alternative treatments for your specific condition.

By the way, none of this is a safety issue.  In a recent study in Britain of over 34,000 acupuncture treatments, there were zero reports of any serious adverse events. (There were some reports of minor bruising around some points, as well as tiredness after treatment and other minor effects.)  Acupuncture has been proven to be an extremely safe treatment.


If you want freedom of information on health matters, or if you are concerned at all by the hegemonic regulations enforced by ASA (hegemony is the ideological or cultural power exerted by a dominant group over others) then write to them.

The ASA are supposed to safeguard consumers!  What they are safeguarding here is a dominant medical establishment and a dominant (but very limited) view of health matters.  If this matters to you, then contact them at either write, email or telephone, and address concerns to Lord Smith of Finsbury, the ASA Chairman.  You could also address copies to members of the ASA Council who are listed at

And write, email or telephone your local MP.

The only action on this issue that the ASA are likely to heed is that taken by the consumer. That’s you. This is one time when you can’t leave it to others to take action. It is your voice that counts and only your voice!

Do pass on a link to this page to any person who may feel that their right to access to alternative viewpoints is important.


Sometimes so called skeptics are just people with little breadth of vision, who are too full of self-doubt to explore beyond the conventional ‘wisdom’ with an open mind. Maybe, one day when they need help with their health, they will allow themselves the freedom to try the wonderful healing provided by acupuncture and other non-conventional therapies.  I hope so.

ATTENTION ACUPUNCTURISTS and all other CAM professionals – I have been asked if it is okay to copy the content of this article for use on many other sites.  While I am happy that you take and use some of this article or freely base your article on the issues raised by this article, I do ask that if you are going to use a large part of this article then it is much better for all concerned if you simply provide a link to this page on your site.  Thank you.