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Nov 19, 2021 8:00:00 AM | By: Danielle Pureifory

Acupuncture & Ötzi?

I have two more exams to go and then I will complete the second round of exams for this trimester. I feel quite tired, so I decided to take a much-needed break and write my blog entry for this week. Earlier in the week I was speaking with a fellow student in the Whole Health Center at NUHS, he brought up Ötzi the Iceman and his connection to acupuncture. In 1991, a pair of tourists discovered Ötzi while hiking in the Alps, his body was buried in the frozen glacier and incredibly well preserved. Due to the cold temperatures in the Alps, Ötzi’s bones, skin and even organs were well-maintained. As the team of European researchers began to analyze Ötzi’s body, they noted that he had many tattoos, and his body was encircled with plants and herbal medicines1.



A spokesperson from the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology describes his skin markings:


“Scientists are still puzzled about the significance of the tattoos. They were located in places that would have been covered by clothing most of the time, so they don’t seem to have been made for adornment. Today, it is assumed that the tattoos served therapeutic purposes. They are all located at sites on the body with considerable wear and tear that were probably painful. It is therefore believed that the tattoos were made in a bid to soothe pain. This theory is supported by the location of the tattoos on acupuncture lines that are still used today2.”




Scientists believe that Ötzi lived around 5,300 years ago, and these skin markings certainly give greater implications to the complexity of the medical care available during that time. Some of the tattoos on his back correspond to Acupuncture points: UB21, UB22, UB23, UB24 and UB253. These points certainly can be used to treat back pain, but they also have the ability to address other ailments. UB21 can be used for abdominal pain and stomach disharmony, UB22 can address digestion and fluid metabolism. UB23 is a frequently used point in the clinic, and can be used to tonify the kidneys, strengthen yang, and also regulate fluid metabolism. UB24 & 25 can both be used for back pain in the lumbar region, plus UB25 can also be used to treat dysfunction of the large intestine4. I left the link below if you’d like to read more about Ötzi. Until next time, I have a bit more studying to do!

  1. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/what-otzi-icemans-tattoos-reveal-about-copper-age-medical-practices-180970244/
  2. https://www.iceman.it/en/the-mummy/#death
  3. https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=27608
  4. Deadman, P., Baker, K., & Al-Khafaji, M. A. (2007). Manual of Acupuncture (2nd ed.). Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications. ISBN 978-0951054659.

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