The first known British acupuncturist was John Churchill who, in 1821, published a series of results on the treatment of tympany [ear infections or deafness] and rheumatism with acupuncture.
Acupuncture has become increasingly popular since the early 1970s when travel restrictions between the east and west were eased.
It is hard to estimate the number of acupuncturists in Britain as the practise is unregulated. The British Acupuncture Council, the UK's largest body of professional acupuncturists, has about 3,000 members.
The NHS offers limited acupuncture and most patients pay for private treatment. Currently, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) only recommends acupuncture as a treatment option for lower back pain.
Conclusive evidence of its effectiveness has proved hard to establish. Some studies suggested that acupuncture can slightly improve the chances of a woman become pregnant during IVF treatment. But others found it made no difference.
There have been similarly mixed results on the affects of acupuncture on arthritis. Two studies on osteoarthritis of the knee found that the procedure helped, but more recent research found there wasn't much difference between people having acupuncture or sham (placebo) acupuncture.
Trials on treatment for headaches took into account the placebo effect by comparing authentic acupuncture to a sham procedure. Overall traditional acupuncture produced slightly better results.