In May, Kristin Wiig returned to Saturday Night Live, this time as a host. In one skit, she played an acupuncturist administering treatment to a first time patient. Her therapy began benignly enough: incense was lit, a needle was inserted, then another. But when a third needle was inserted, that's when everything went horrifyingly wrong.
Just to be clear, this scene, resembling the prom bloodbath from Carrie, won't happen in real life. But not much else will either.
Acupuncturists extol the ancient Chinese technique as a treatment of autism, schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy, erectile dysfunction, and a host of other conditions. In reality, scientific examination has only shown acupuncture to be effective in alleviating certain types of chronic pain as well as postoperative nausea and vomiting, and only marginally so.
But in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, Professor David Colquhoun of the University College London and Dr. Steven Novella of Yale University argue that acupuncture is "little or no more than a theatrical placebo."
"The benefits of acupuncture are likely nonexistent, or at best are too small and too transient to be of any clinical significance," they contend.
Chief among the tenets of acupuncture is that disease results from disharmony between the human body and the natural environment. When visiting a certified acupuncturist, he or she may diagnose you by examining the shape, coating, and color of your tongue, the color of your face, and the rhythm of your pulse. Such analysis will supposedly reveal any imbalance in your life energy or "Qi." If that sounds a tad kooky, that's because it probably is. To date, scientists have been unable to uncover (PDF) any evidence that Qi actually exists.