Evolution of Acupuncture Needles


Acupuncture is a healing modality that has brought health and well-being to people around the world for thousands of years. It originates from ancient China and has impacted the global medical paradigm. According to the text Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion (CAM 2003), the first known origins of acupuncture was with the use of stone needles by Fu Xi, a Chinese mythological being thought to have lived during the mid 29th century BCE. This is one of the first known legends about the needles therapeutic qualities. Even though the exact beginnings of the use of acupuncture needles is unknown, there are written references to their usage as far back as two thousand years ago. Herbal medicine was the predominant modality of healing at this time but documentation shows that the use of needles for things such as draining abscesses and blood-letting were also beginning to develop. (Unschuld, 1985) This was long before the methods of metal casting was discovered, predating the slender steel needles known today.


So what was being used instead?

Stone needles

Crystal formations

The needles originally used were made of stone or bone, known as “Bian stone” tools. Stones have been a historically important component of Chinese Medicine, their characteristics outlined in numerous historic texts. The ancient Classics of Chinese medicine such as Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals, Fu Qian , Quan Yuanqi also have referenced the use of stone needles. (Liangyue, 2003)

The Bian-stone needles referenced in ancient texts are not usually attributed to specific types of stones, but knowing the intuitive and highly sophisticated nature of Chinese culture, one can make the assumption that various stones were used for various conditions.

Stones and Gems have been recognized throughout history for their beauty and worth. These precious minerals are known throughout the world to have specific qualities and characteristics that depend on their creation and formation, as well as environmental and chemical makeup. These minerals are ancient pieces of the earth that have evolved with their own energetic blueprint. Humans have developed to make great use of her resources to progress in areas such as art, technology, and medicine. For example, the usage of Quartz crystals to help keep computers running and clocks stay timely. These “crystal oscillators” are known to create and stabilize frequencies providing a very precise measurement. The crystal is producing an electric field that generates a voltage. This same thought process can be applied to working with Qi in the human body.

Various healers and medicine people throughout the ages have used the guidance of gemstones to help assist them in the process of helping others heal. Homeopathic remedies, which have also been used for generations, use minerals and stones within the remedies due to their innate healing characteristics. From Bian-Stones in ancient China to new-age crystal healers, our understanding of the health care paradigm is constantly evolving. We are learning how to adapt ancient modalities to be more effective for the modern day.

Stones each have their own unique structure and resonance which can be utilized to stimulate the body natural healing mechanism and address balance of mind-body and spirit. Stones work very well on the energetic dimension of the human being, correlating this modality with the inner workings of Qi. Stone needles can also be used on people that are needle sensitive, Qi deficient, elderly, children, or any others that would rather not participate in acupunctures' slightly invasive techniques. Stone needles can also be used in conjunction with regular acupuncture needles to help accelerate the healing process. Learning the specific characteristics of minerals in conjunction with acupressure points, can lead to an in-depth understanding of the bodies natural ability to heal.

When using various stones or minerals, the term needles is used lightly, usually referring to a slender tapered rod with a blunt end. These probes are used in conjunction with acupuncture points to help bring the bodies Qi more in alignment. Jade is one of the most honored stones in China, known for it healing properties, sense of calm beauty and intrinsic wealth. The metaphysical properties of Jade are known to “help accelerate the healing process thru tranquility and helping to remove negativity.” Jades' medicinal properties are known for “curing calculus stone and disorders of the kidneys and bladder.” Jade naturally occurs in a variety of colors and each specific color tends to have its own characteristics. (Hall 2003) Jade “needles” can be used to help assist a person heal by placing the stone upon acu-points that correspond with the ailment or pattern.

Characteristics of Jade

Black Jade-Emanates strong, protective energies to ward off negative assault, physical or psychological, including self limitation.

Blue Jade- Calms the mind, encouraging peace and reflection, and is valuable in promoting visions and dreams.

Brown Jade- Grounding. It connects to the earth and provides comfort and reliability.

Orange Jade- Brings joy and teaches the interconnectedness of all beings. It is energetic and quietly stimulating.

Purple jade- Encourages mirth and happiness, and purifies one's aura. It dispels the negative and increases one's level of discernment.

Red Jade- A stone of life-force energy, dispelling fear that holds one back, and urges one to action.

White Jade- Filters distractions, pulls in relevant, constructive information and aids in decision making.

Green Jade- Powerful cleansing stone, enhancing the body's filtration and elimination organs. It is excellent for treating the kidneys, spleen and supra-adrenal glands, removing toxins and balancing the fluids and water-salt/acid-alkaline ratios in the body.

Jeffrey Yuen, a modern day Acupuncturist and Taoist master, is well-known for his usage and in-depth understanding of crystals.  (Jade Purity School)  He often holds seminars and lectures about their individual characteristics and specific healing properties.

Jeffrey Yuen, a modern day Acupuncturist and Taoist master, is well-known for his usage and in-depth understanding of crystals. (Jade Purity School) He often holds seminars and lectures about their individual characteristics and specific healing properties.

 Stone Facts

-Stones with a line directed toward the tip are very good to use on acupuncture points directly

-Clouds in them are good for raising Yang Qi as they are warming

-Clear stones are good for nourishing Yin

-Stones that are clear at the top and bubble at the bottom can be equated to water above fire below and can treat applicable pathologies

-Wands that are wrapped in copper coil are good for treating Wei Qi

-Wands that have a straight rod are good for conducting blood, yin, or Qi

-Stones that contain water deposits are beneficial for personal meditation

Metal Needles

Above all, the invention of stainless steel revolutionized the art and science of acupuncture. As a natural process of evolution, people began to gain more mastery over environmental resources and more progressive tools began to be developed. Metal casting was a huge advancement for many facets of human life, as well as medicine. Soon after gold, silver and copper were able to be manipulated, they were formed into acupuncture needles, each which their own specific characteristics.

  • Gold- considered to be tonifying and neutral, used in acupuncture for it ability to “not be contaminated and allows the receiver to interact with the stone as it can capture ones essence.”

  • Silver- known in Chinese medicine to be “cold, slightly toxic if taken internally, and used for heat, palpitations, to calm Shen, dispersing, can clear away inflammation that causes confusion, works on a blood level for stagnation, and helps cultivate knowledge.” Copper is known to help mend broken bones and stabilize loose teeth. (Yuen. 2006)

  • Stainless Steel- the material that most modern acupuncture needles are made from. These sterile single uses needles are considered to be lightweight and highly conductive and allow for precise placement. Moxa and electro-stimulation is easy to perform with these needles. Nickel is mixed in with these needles, and the cheaper the grade the more nickel, this is important to note if the patient has a nickel allergy.


  • Liangyue, D., Yijun, G., Shushui, H., Xiaoping, J., Yang, L., Rufen, W., Wenjing, W., & Xuetai , W. (2003). Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. (4th ed.). Bejing China: Foreign Language Press.

  • Unschuld, P. (1985). Medicine in China, a History of ideas. Berkeley California: University of California Press.

  • Yuen, J. (May 2006). Using stones in acupuncture. Retrieved from http://catstcmnotes.com/pages/Clinic/Protocols/Using Stones in Acupuncture.pdf

  • Hall, Judy (2003) The crystal Bible. Cincinnati, Ohio: Walking Stick Press.