Cover image for Acupuncture: From Symbol to Clinical Practice
314 pages, 7" x 10"
Smyth-sewn softcover
ISBN: 0-939616-79-3

Acupuncture: From Symbol to Clinical Practice

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Every practitioner of acupuncture is confronted with the same problem: how do I choose points to treat a particular patient at a particular time? For the complex conditions most often seen in Western clinics, rote prescriptions are rarely effective. Through his decades-long experience as a practitioner, Dr. Jean-Marc Kespi has returned to the ancient roots of acupuncture and developed an approach to choosing the best points for a given situation.

Dr. Kespi’s engagement with Chinese medicine led him to understand that traditional symbols, reflected in the names of points and descriptions of physiological processes, act as intermediaries between the formal rules of medicine and their manifestations in the human body. Thus his approach proceeds from symbol to a specific diagnosis and therapeutic action, and onto the insertion of a needle in a precise point on the body. In this manner he shows the practitioner how to see beyond the symptoms and address the whole person, thereby providing more effective treatments. With keen insight into the meanings of individual points, Dr. Kespi typically uses only one to three needles to treat the disequilibrium found at the root level.

In addition to laying out his ideas on the foundations of acupuncture, Dr. Kespi shares his wide experience in this book through over one-hundred case histories, which give the reader the opportunity to see how this approach actually works in the clinic. 

“This is the work of a seasoned practitioner and teacher writing in his mature years, confident in his knowledge and the accuracy of his approach. … [Dr. Kespi] honors his fundamental principle throughout: to respond to the body’s needs without preconception or anticipation, searching rationally and intuitively for the best points at the moment of each treatment session.”

—Joseph Helms, M.D., from the Foreword

Read an excerpt (PDF)


  • Indispensable Preliminaries 
  • Introductions 
  • Pathophysiology and Therapy 
  • Maintenance of Life: Nutrition and Transmission 
  • Channels 
  • Acupuncture Points 
  • Humans in the Cosmos: the Four Seasons and the Human Body 
  • Symbolic Language of Chinese Medicine 
  • Diagnosis and Treatment 
  • Summary: Ignore the Symptoms and Treat the Person 
  • Appendix One: Point Functions 
  • Appendix Two: Channel Illustrations 
  • Bibliography 
  • Points Index 
  • General Index


"The book weaves basic concepts such as yin-yang with more complex symbolic medical concepts. Both the novice and seasoned practitioners are left with many possibilities for blending and applying the presented material. Dr. Kespi maintains throughout the book that the most effective approach is to ‘always treat the person and not the symptoms.’ The abundance of cases makes this book especially handy for practitioners interested in embracing Kespi’s unique way of doing this."
—Meridians: The Journal of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

"If you have ever wondered why acupuncture texts sometimes describe strange and bizarre point indications, this may be the book for you. Jean-Marc Kespi combines his 50-plus years of experience with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of point indications to provide elegant point choices for addressing practical clinical problems. He performs this apparently magical feat by moving his focus from the more superficial or anatomical protocols to the deeper symbolic meaning of the points.

[A]s a rich fount of ideas, knowledge and experience, it might be better suited for more seasoned practitioners interested in refining their techniques and taking acupuncture to a deeper level. There is no doubt that I, for one, will be opening this book repeatedly for the next little while."
—Michael Greenwood, Medical Acupuncture