At around 5:50 onwards in the NHK World documentary How Acupuncture Helps Heal a Quake-Stricken Nepal, it's claimed that the World Health Organization recognises the effectiveness of acupuncture in providing anaesthetic effects and treating many ailments.

Does the WHO recognise the effectiveness of acupuncture, either in providing anaesthetic effects or in any other manner?

Related question on whether acupuncture actually does work, as opposed to statements by the WHO: Is acupuncture an effective treatment?

1 Answer 1


Within a huge global organisation as the WHO, there is a lot of lobbying between groups promoting evidence based medicine and promoters of traditionally and complementary treatments, as described here.

The book Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial by Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh devotes a lot of attention to the WHO's policy

This list of people, organizations and entities responsible for the unwarranted growth of ineffective and sometimes dangerous alternative medicine has been in no particular order, except that the World Health Organization (WHO) has been deliberately chosen to complete the list as it holds a special position. No organization has done more to improve health around the world, such as the eradication of smallpox, and yet the WHO has acted shamefully in its attitude and actions towards alternative medicine. We would have expected it to provide clear and accurate guidance about the value of each popular alternative therapy, yet in 2003 the WHO muddied the waters by publishing a highly misleading document on the value of acupuncture. Entitled Acupuncture: Review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials, the report based its conclusions on several unreliable clinical trials and thus endorsed acupuncture as a treatment for over 100 conditions. Of course, the evidence from high-quality reliable clinical trials paints a very different picture. In reality, acupuncture might possibly (though it looks less possible as each year passes) be effective in treating some types of pain and nausea, but it offers no proven benefit for any other conditions. Naturally, ever since its publication, acupuncturists have cited the WHO report as the most authoritative evaluation of their mode of healing. And, not surprisingly, prospective patients have been persuaded that acupuncture must be effective for a whole range of conditions, because, after all, it has the blessing of the WHO. However, the WHO report was a shoddy piece of work that was never rigorously scrutinized and which should never have seen the light of day. The WHO could repair its reputation if it were prepared to re evaluate acupuncture fairly and publish a new report that reflected the evidence from the latest and most reliable trials. In this way, it could make a huge contribution to the public’s understanding of what acupuncture can and, more often, cannot treat. Unfortunately, there is no sign that this is likely to happen.

The WHO's strategy on traditional medicine strategy: 2014-2023 is like committee work rather vague on this issue.

  • 2
    So, yes? I'm sorry, but are you answering the question or posing arguments against acupuncture and the WHO's reliability?
    – user11643
    Aug 7, 2016 at 1:35
  • 4
    @fredsbend Harald has said both that the WHO has recognised acupuncture (which is what I asked) and that that the WHO should not have done so (which isn't required, but is an added bonus).
    – Golden Cuy
    Aug 8, 2016 at 9:04
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    @Andrew I can read. But there's an obvious bias in this answer that's misplaced. If Harald would like to answer whether acupuncture is effective, that's a different question that already exists.
    – user11643
    Aug 8, 2016 at 15:17

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